By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The time for Chris Petersen to make a decision is nearing.
And if the Washington head coach is to be believed, it’s not going to be an easy call. Each of the Huskies’ three competing quarterbacks — Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams — provide a useful skill set, Petersen says.
And, again, each was given nearly equal opportunity to make his case during the Huskies’ 130-or-so-play scrimmage at Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“You can make a case for all those guys,” Petersen said. “You really can. It’s probably going to be splitting hairs when it comes down to it, really.”
After an improved performance by the Huskies’ offense during Saturday’s scrimmage at Husky Stadium, Petersen and offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith each fielded a handful of questions about their timetable for naming a starting quarterback prior to UW’s Aug. 30 opener at Hawaii. Miles is suspended for that game, so even if he does end up winning the job, Petersen would still have to name another starter — either Lindquist or Williams — for the opener.
And if you’re looking for a “winner” of Saturday’s scrimmage among the quarterbacks, Miles and Lindquist might have to share the distinction.
UW didn’t distribute “official” scrimmage statistics, but Miles completed roughly 10 of his 16 pass attempts for about 139 yards, including a perfectly-thrown 26-yard pass that he dropped over the shoulder of junior receiver Jaydon Mickens, and a 31-yard strike up the right sideline to sophomore tight end Darrell Daniels.
Of course, Miles didn’t get the Huskies in the end zone, as a pair of promising drives stalled inside the 10-yard line. But the offense did score when Lindquist was under center. The third-year sophomore completed 7-of-14 through the air for about 87 yards, first guiding a 4-play, 65-yard touchdown drive capped by running back Dwayne Washington’s 22-yard score. Completions to tight David Ajamu and receiver Marvin Hall highlighted that possession.
Later, Lindquist commanded a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive, though most of those plays were rushes. Taken as a whole, offensive personnel suggested Saturday’s work was far superior to what they put on film Monday during a closed scrimmage that Petersen said the defense more or less controlled.
“Plays we should have made last week were made this week,” Lindquist said. “There were a couple plays we would like to have back today, anyway. But in terms of last week, plays that we missed, we made a lot of those today.”
It wasn’t as good of a day for Williams, a redshirt freshman. He completed 7-of-14 for about 33 yards, was sacked twice, was called for intentional grounding and threw the only interception of the day to linebacker Sean Constantine.
But Smith won’t judge the competition based solely on Saturday. Asked about what might separate the eventual starter from the rest of the pack, Smith and Lindquist emphasized consistency above all else.
“It’s just the daily approach,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any specifics. We’re still going through that process. If their approach stays the same like they’ve been doing, I think that’s fine. Their effort level. Nothing in particular.
“I think these guys have made it difficult. Again, each of them brings some different pieces to the table … we’ve got to get it right. We’ve put a lot of energy and time into it, and we’re going to get it right.”
Petersen emphasized ball-control as one of the defining characteristics of the player who will eventually win the job.
“I think the big thing is we’ve got to find a guy that, first and foremost, (doesn’t) hurt our team and our defense,” Petersen said. “We can’t turn the ball over. We might not be making a bunch of plays, but we can’t make those negative plays there first and foremost. And then we can see if we can get something going and get some guys making some plays back there. But that’s the main thing. You can’t hand the game to somebody because the quarterback can’t do what we need him to do.”
Only 11 days remain until the Huskies board their charter flight to Honolulu. When a decision is made, Petersen said, he won’t keep it a secret. Right now, he says he legitimately doesn’t know which quarterback to choose.
“Whoever’s going to be the guy is going to go, and he’s going to get his first opportunity and hopefully does some good things,” Petersen said, “and if he can’t get it done, we’ll try somebody else.”
If nothing else, he has options.