After losing the battle to be the starting quarterback, Washington announced Saturday that Jake Haener (9) left the football program. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

After losing the battle to be the starting quarterback, Washington announced Saturday that Jake Haener (9) left the football program. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Haener leaves Washington one week before season opener

The sophomore lost the starting quarterback battle to Lake Stevens alum Jacob Eason.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Chris Petersen announced on Friday that while junior Jacob Eason had won Washington’s starting quarterback job, sophomore Jake Haener would also play in the season opener against Eastern Washington.

“Jake Haener and Jacob Eason … obviously two really good quarterbacks,” Petersen said. “It was a tight competition, and you take it as long as you can and you’ve got to make a decision and roll with it. Jake Haener will play in that first game. He should, he deserves it and he will.”

No, he won’t.

Roughly 24 hours after Petersen delivered those words, Washington announced that Haener had left the program, effective immediately.

Haener — a 6-foot, 194-pound sophomore from Danville, Calif. — piled up 597 completions, 8,464 passing yards and 90 touchdown passes in a stellar prep career at Monte Vista High School. Still, according to 247Sports, he was offered scholarships by just five schools — Washington, Akron, Florida Atlantic, Hawaii, and, ironically, Eastern Washington.

He redshirted at UW in 2017, then completed 9-of-13 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown and one interception in four games as Jake Browning’s backup last season. That redshirt freshman campaign contained both highs and lows, as Haener completed all seven of his pass attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown in his first game action against North Dakota, then threw a 37-yard pick-six after relieving Browning in the second half of a 12-10 road loss at Cal.

“You try to take it in, but I try not to think about that game,” Haener said of the Cal loss last spring. “A lot of people probably think of that game as my defining moment, but you’ve got to let that go. People have to make mistakes. You’ve got to go through it, and you’ve got to understand the situations and everything and put it in perspective a little bit.

“So I definitely learned from it, but I don’t think about it a lot.”

This offseason, it was abundantly clear that Eason — a 6-6, 227-pound Georgia transfer from Lake Stevens — was the preferred starter for the majority of UW’s fan base, so much so that Haener opted to delete his Twitter account.

“Sometimes I use it as motivation,” Haener said of the widespread perception that he would inevitably lose the starting job. “You know what everyone’s kind of saying. It’s pretty obvious to understand what’s going on. But I just try to focus on what I can focus on and do what I do best.”

Apparently, Haener’s best this offseason wasn’t good enough. Even so, Petersen said on Friday that “you’ve got to let a guy go play and grow in games and all of those type of things. That’s why Jake Haener’s going to play some (against Eastern Washington on Saturday), because he deserves it. He doesn’t have much legitimate game time himself.

“I truly mean this: we’re excited about this QB position, and we’ll see.”

A day later, that QB position has been left precariously thin. Now UW’s undisputed starter, Eason threw for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, completing 55.1% of his passes, in 12 starts as a true freshman at Georgia in 2016. After injuring his knee during the first game of his sophomore season, he was permanently replaced by freshman Jake Fromm, prompting an eventual transfer to Washington.

Behind Eason, UW’s back up now appears to be redshirt freshman Jacob Sirmon, followed by true freshman Dylan Morris. Redshirt freshman Colson Yankoff transferred to UCLA following the conclusion of spring practice. Sirmon actually entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal on the same day as Yankoff, but eventually reconsidered.

Now, Sirmon is suddenly one snap away from becoming the Husky starter.

“I still want to go back and say how impressed I was with all of our guys, and I really mean that sincerely,” Petersen said of the QB competition on Friday. “If you want to talk about competition — raising the level of play in a room — it was all those guys.

“Jacob Sirmon did a tremendous job. He’s right there. And for Dylan Morris to be a freshman, he can go out there and operate (the offense), which most freshmen can’t do with the reps that he got. So it was awesome.”

Apparently, it wasn’t quite so awesome for Haener — whose mother and grandfather, by the way, both attended UW. Still, Petersen emphasized during his Friday press conference that Washington’s three other scholarship quarterbacks reacted respectfully to the news of Eason’s starting status.

“Those guys were all really great,” he said. “I would expect one guy (Eason) to be really great. You know, it’s going to be hard news for other guys. But they were really good — very professional.

“Nobody likes that. Nobody would like that. But, they’ve got to know their plan, accept their job and go to work.”

With less than a week until Washington storms the field inside Husky Stadium, Haener is suddenly looking for work someplace else.

And though the Huskies finally have their starter, one answer has yielded a cavalcade of questions.

“We’re good buddies,” Haener said of his relationship with Eason last spring. “There’s no drama or anything going on. It’s a quarterback competition. It’s football. So I work as hard as I can. He works as hard as he can. We’re both trying to grow off one another, so I think it’s good for us.”

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