Washington coach Chris Petersen, reiterating postgame comments from the Huskies’ Cactus Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, said Tuesday the quarterback job is open heading into the 2015 season.
“I have no idea. No idea. You know, no idea,” Petersen said, when asked during an interview with KJR’s Dave “Softy” Mahler if Cyler Miles would be the starting quarterback heading into the season opener against Boise State next September. “But I don’t want to start this quarterback controversy like, ‘He’s out.’ Cyler can do some really good things. But, like anybody — ask me who the starting guards are going to be or the starting receivers. Everybody needs to get better. It really is — it’s wide open.”
Miles, based on his experience, is the favorite to retain his starting job going into the 2015 season.
“Obviously Cyler (got) off to a rough start with the (legal) stuff (after) we just get here. We don’t see him till basically summer. So that’s hard out of the gate. It’s all been hard,” Petersen said. “We knew we were going to sit him the other game so we were trying to figure out the other guys (during fall camp), so he doesn’t get quite the reps.
“The long and the short of it is, he did improve. He did get better. Did we play at a level that we need to play at to win like we want to? No, and I think he would admit that. When I look at the tapes, he did some really good things. And I think maybe a thing that’s encouraging is I saw things on there that to me are not complicated that we didn’t get done — that he can make some of these plays that are not complicated I saw him make a lot of hard plays. Now if we can take the things that we know you’ve got to be able to do and just become more consistent, his game will go to the next level — and it will go to the next level. And I’m excited about the quarterback competition. I really am. I think it’s going to be good for Cyler; I think it’s going to be good for this program and away we go.”
True freshman Jake Browning has already started classes at UW and Petersen isn’t ruling out the idea of a freshman starting at quarterback — something the coach has never done before. Petersen, however, again tried to temper expectations for Browning, whom Petersen described as a “football junkie.”
“Jake’s going to have the benefit of being here in the springtime, so it’s not like he’s just getting here in the fall and we’re just throwing it at him,” Petersen said. “So we’ll just see. We will rule out no options at this time for sure, and Jake’s going to get a great opportunity to come in and compete with these other guys. …
“We’re really excited about him. He’s obviously done some great things. The thing I do worry about is everybody sees his ridiculous stats; he played in an offense (at Folsom) that threw it a ton; unbelievable coaching staff down there; a system that (Browning) had been in forever. It was just a perfect storm and that’s how he broke national records doing that. So I don’t think it’s fair coming to (the Pac-12) and say he’s going to do these things right out of the gate. Expectations can get so out of whack and derail people. Now, do we have high standards, are we expecting great things from him and the rest of our quarterbacks? Hey, absolutely, but we’ve got to keep things in check here or it can sink people. …
“You never know until you get him with you and you just coach him. You just never know. Now, we’ve been around Jake for so long and recruited him for so long that we think we have a really good feel, but that’s going to be the beauty of this whole thing — get him in spring ball and see how fast he can pick things up and go from there. But, again, I’m excited for all these quarterbacks because that quarterback position has to get better, and it will.”
Petersen, as he did midway through the season, also came to the defense of Jonathan Smith, who remains under fire in some circles after his first season as a major-college offensive coordinator.
“Hey, I took heat, he took heat, we all took heat,” Petersen said. “And we’re all in this together. It’s never any one guy. I think if we put the tape on and showed what we were trying to get done, I think people would have a lot more appreciation and respect for why it was called and what we were trying to do and why it didn’t (work), what broke down. Was it perfect? No, no play-caller’s going to be perfect, but I think our kids got better as the season went on and we got banked reps … and they started getting in a groove. I think the bottom line is we’re all excited to get into Year 2 and make this system and this program better.”
Some other highlights from Mahler’s interview with Petersen:
(on “eye-opening” first season at UW) “We were at Boise for a long time and we had that process honed and had our guys believing in what we were all about. So one of the reasons I wanted to come here was to start from scratch and build something that was completely novel to a lot of people. And so that takes time. It can not come in and people just get it and away we go, as was exhibited this fall. So I don’t know if ‘eye-opening’ is the right word, but it’s hard work.”
(Are there one or two examples of the changes?) “It’s not anything special. It’s just how we lift weights — everybody lifts weights. But this is how we do it. This is our system that goes through Coach Socha. And it’s really good and our guys really enjoy it. That’s one thing they got. They really bought in to that weight room and how we run and how we condition, but that took us to the summer to figure that out and go, ‘OK, I see the benefits of this.’ And then how we go to class and how we prepare for a game and what our pregame Friday night is like and how we’re going to practice … It’s everything. It’s not this magic formula that we have. It’s just our way, our coaches have done for a long time and until the guys get it in their blood and believe it, then things will start to happen. … It’s hard when you come to a place that’s had some success because there’s automatically going to be, ‘Well, why are we doing it like that?’ Well, because this is the way we know works and this is our way, and I don’t even know the other way. So that’s just the way it is. Everybody has their way. …
“We talked to a lot of people and everybody said, ‘Hey, it’s 18 to 24 months to change things the way you want — culture. And when I first heard that I was like, ‘No way. That’s way too long.’ And hopefully that still is too long. But what we’ve been through — we’ve been here a year now — I think there’s a good foundation laid in terms of what our guys kind of know and we’re excited to build up on it and go and get better.”
Petersen said starting guard Dexter Charles, left home from the bowl game because of an academic issue, will be back with the team next season. He also didn’t rule out using safety Budda Baker on offense in some ways — “We’re going to highlight our playmakers” — but said using John Ross III as a full-time two-way player would be too demanding.