By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The suspension is over, and so is the speculation.
Cyler Miles is the Washington Huskies’ starting quarterback.
Head coach Chris Petersen said at his Monday press conference that Miles, a third-year sophomore and the most experienced quarterback on UW’s roster, will start the Huskies’ home opener on Saturday against Eastern Washington.
Miles sat out UW’s season-opening victory at Hawaii, serving a one-game suspension for his involvement in an offseason altercation that prompted an assault investigation. He wasn’t charged — former teammate Damore’ea Stringfellow was, and subsequently transferred — but Petersen suspended him for all of UW’s spring practices and decided he wouldn’t play in their first game, either.
And after third-year sophomore Jeff Lindquist struggled in his starting debut (10-for-26, 172 yards and a touchdown), the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Miles will get a chance, as expected, to prove himself UW’s most capable quarterback.
The Huskies (1-0) were able to complete only three passes in the second half in Saturday’s 17-16 escape. Petersen hopes to see better efficiency with Miles under center, though he admits he still doesn’t quite know what to expect. As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Miles started one game, appeared in eight, and completed 37 of 61 passes for 418 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed 23 times for 200 yards.
“We’ll find out. That’s why we’re going to put him in there,” Petersen said. “I don’t really know. I think he commands the field pretty well. I think he has a really good feel for what’s going on. It always comes down, to me, to decision-making and accuracy. I hope that he takes a good step forward in that department for us.”
Lindquist will be Miles’ backup, with redshirt freshman Troy Williams listed at third-string.
Miles hasn’t been made available to the media since issuing a brief statement and taking only a few questions after a practice early last month. But Petersen has said a few times that he’s done “everything right” since being suspended in February amid the assault investigation, and had a few pretty strong practices during fall camp.
Petersen said before camp started that Miles would be behind the other quarterbacks because of how little of the offense he knew. But Petersen seems pleased with how quickly he’s picked it up.
“I think he’s got a pretty good football IQ,” Petersen said. “We’ll see how this thing goes, but him not being here in the spring and so many things that we’ve changed, he can recall it real rapidly and say, ‘oh yeah, we ran that against whoever, Oregon State. This was a third-down route for us.’ So he can put things together pretty quickly, football-wise. There’s a lot of that going on. So for him to get no reps in spring and just get fall with us, he’s very much in tune, as much as other quarterbacks are, and now we get him more reps and see what can happen.”
Sophomore receiver John Ross, who scored both of UW’s touchdowns against Hawaii — a 20-yard run on a reverse and a 91-yard catch from Lindquist — said Miles’ return to the field could provide better cohesion between quarterback and receiver, given his experience playing last season in place of injured starter Keith Price.
“It’s so different,” Ross said. “He filled in for Keith last year and he did a great job starting, so it’s like guys are used to playing with him more. That’s why I said we’ve got to get back to the whole chemistry thing.”
Take another look
After reviewing film of Saturday’s game, Petersen said he thinks the Huskies played harder than he originally believed.
“We need to be cleaner on our execution. It wasn’t a lack of not playing hard,” he said. “Our defense took a lot of snaps. And how we want them to play hard — we can talk about it all we want. Everybody thinks they play hard and I think there’s a fine line between playing at that next level in terms of effort. … We didn’t always do that but for the most part we did, and I think if we get more consistent there, it’ll help us.”
Petersen said senior right tackle Ben Riva was “ready to go, for the most part” against Hawaii, but he chose not to play him as he works through “an ailment.” Riva did suit up and went through pre-game warmups with a brace on his knee. Redshirt freshman Coleman Shelton, who started in Riva’s place on Saturday, will start again this week. … Petersen said junior receiver Jaydon Mickens will remain the team’s punt returner despite a shaky performance Saturday, but that freshman receiver Dante Pettis will be in the mix, too. … Junior Travis Feeney is listed as a starter at linebacker ahead of redshirt freshman Keishawn Bierria, who started the opener.