SEATTLE -- As if there weren’t enough changes at Washington this offseason between the Steve Sarkisian era ending and the Chris Petersen era beginning, the team graduated three-year starter Keith Price and then began spring football without his heir apparent Cyler Miles, who was being investigated for a post-Super Bowl incident.
Last week it was decided that Miles wouldn’t be charged in the incident. However, he still wasn’t back practicing with the team and Petersen wouldn’t give a timeline or ultimate decision on when -- or if -- Miles will return to the team.
“We haven’t really decided on that whole situation,” Petersen said. “It’s kind of one day, one week at a time and there’s no reason to rush anything. We’re always going to do the right thing. … We have to do the right thing by the school, this program and by the kids as well.”
Without Miles as a part of the equation the Huskies are running spring practice with just two quarterbacks, sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams. Between the two, Lindquist is the only one with game experience, though he has only appeared in three games. Miles, on the other hand, appeared in eight games last season for the Huskies, completing 37 of 61 pass attempts for four touchdowns, 418 yards and two interceptions.
Not having Miles this spring puts the Huskies at a disadvantage for next season. But it’s not just the fact that they’re missing their best QB this spring -- they’re also missing any kind of veteran player in the quarterback meeting room, which is a first for offensive coordinator and QB coach Jonathan Smith. It adds yet another wrinkle in the challenges Smith is facing as a coordinator installing a new offense with the Huskies.
“How young we are, and especially you add in the piece of a new offense, so that’s new to us,” Smith said.
But the youth isn’t a complete bad situation for Washington. With younger players it’s easier to mold them into the type of players who better fit into a newer offense and that’s what’s happening with Lindquist and Williams this spring.
“In some ways they might not be as ingrained in what [Sarkisian had] done,” Smith said. “But I would definitely take a veteran, though, a guy who has seen a lot of plays.”
So far the Huskies have split first-team reps equally with Lindquist and Williams.
Lindquist said that because everything is so new and because both players are inexperienced, this spring has been less about the competition between the two and more about trying to help one another with the offense and playbook.
“Obviously, we’re competing against each other,” Lindquist said. “But I think right now for the two of us it’s more about getting a good grasp of the concepts and how to operate the offense.”
Creating a learning environment with competition between Lindquist and Williams will be crucial for the Huskies whether or not Miles comes back next week, next fall or not at all.
Like every coach, Petersen will rely heavily on his QB, but he’s accustomed to a lot of production out of that position. He’s coming off a season with terrific quarterback play at Boise State. The Broncos finished the 2013-14 season second in QB completion percentage (70.6) while averaging 36 pass attempts per game as opposed to Washington, which attempted only 32 passes per game.
Through 10 practices Petersen has been relatively happy with what he has seen out of his young quarterbacks. Certainly they’re not close to where they want to be, but all things considered -- a coaching change, the quarterback graduation and suspension, new verbiage, new wrinkles -- the transition is running fairly smooth in Seattle.
“I think both guys are making progress, I really do,” Petersen said. “I think both guys are truly improving.”