SEATTLE — The reports started circulating on Thursday night. And come Friday morning, Washington head coach Chris Petersen was ready to confirm it: Jacob Eason is the Huskies’ starting quarterback.
Eason, a former Lake Stevens star and five-star recruit who transferred from Georgia, spent the spring and fall mainly competing with redshirt sophomore Jake Haener for the spot. Petersen waited until the end of camp — UW will open the season against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31 — to make the call.
“Obviously two really good quarterbacks, tight competition,” Petersen said. “You take it as long as you can. You got to make a decision and roll with it.”
Eason started for Georgia as a true freshman in 2016, competing 204-of-370 passes for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he was injured in the season opener the next year and never regained the starting job. The 2015 national and state Gatorade Player of the Year, Eason passed for 9,813 yards and 102 touchdowns during his four years at Lake Stevens.
He was considered by 247Sports to be No. 1 player in Washington and the No. 2 pro-style quarterback nationally in the Class of 2016. Eason’s offer list not only included Washington and Georgia but also Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan and Florida State.
While Eason will occupy the top spot on the depth chart when he makes his much-anticipated Husky debut, Haener won’t be spending all of his time on the sidelines. Petersen said Haener will also play against Eastern Washington because “he should” and “he deserves it.” Asked if Haener would continue to see time throughout the season, Petersen didn’t necessarily rule it out.
“You know us, we take this thing one day, one week at a time,” Petersen said. “We’ve set our plan moving forward and you’re always adapting and adjusting depending on how things go. We’ve got our guy. We’re not having anyone looking over their shoulder but we’ve got a plan for how we’re going to do this. It’s important to have a good thing. You have a plan and you adapt and adjust as the season goes. That’s just how it is.”
Haener played in four games last season, completing 9-of-13 passes for 107 yards, a touchdown and an interception. In his debut against North Dakota, Haener completed 7-of-7 passes for 110 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ty Jones. A three-star prospect coming out of high school, Haener was considered the No. 27 pro-style quarterback in the country by 247Sports.
After making the announcement, Petersen immediately praised all four quarterbacks on UW’s roster, a group that also includes redshirt freshman Jacob Sirmon and true freshman Dylan Morris. Sirmon put his name in the transfer portal earlier this summer but removed it after a conversation with Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.
“I still want to go back and say how impressed I was with all of our guys,” Petersen said. “I really do mean that sincerely. 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 Dylan Morris to be a freshman, to go out there and operate, which most freshmen can’t do, the reps that he got.”
Choosing Eason, Petersen said, was ultimately “a gut feeling.”
“I think sometimes it comes down to that,” Petersen said. “It was a little bit of a gut feeling when we … I can just go back to all the competitions that we’ve had that have been legitimate. It comes down to, you feel like you can win with a couple guys but you got to choose one and you got to roll.”