By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Jeff Lindquist climbed a padded wall behind the sidelines to visit with fans and family members. He bent to reach a kid and sign a purple, Washington 17 jersey of the quarterback he hopes to succeed this fall.
To that end, Saturday’s final spring practice at rainy Husky Stadium was like the 14 ones before it.
Lindquist threw four touchdown passes in red-zone and full-field situations, primarily against the second-team defense in a scrimmage limited by depth issues from nagging injuries. Troy Williams, the redshirt freshman passer with whom Lindquist split all of the Huskies’ spring plays, looked more sluggish while mostly facing the first-team defense. Williams then said he needs to work on staying in the pocket longer.
And Chris Petersen said after his first set of spring practices as Washington’s coach ended that his decision on who will replace graduated record setter Keith Price this fall may not come until immediately before – if not through – the opening game Aug. 30 at Hawai’i.
“Absolutely, that’s possible. Yeah, we could go to game nine, if it hasn’t been decided,” Petersen said. “We’ll take this one day at a time. One day, one game. I know it sounds cliché, but it really will be.”
Warren Moon spoke for most UW fans at the final spring practice on Saturday. While standing on the north sideline for an interview on Pac-12 Networks, the Hall of Fame and UW Rose Bowl-winning QB spoke of his optimism for the Petersen era before adding: “Of course, we’d like to know who the starting quarterback is.”
But that determination wasn’t going to come during a spring Petersen and his new staff spent installing a new system and a new culture. And not with a suspension that left the Huskies with just two quarterbacks in the program.
Plus, hey, it’s only April.
“I mean, it’s all nice to have a starting quarterback, but that guy graduated in December,” Petersen said of Price – and who may replace Washington’s starter for the last three seasons.
“And so, we are at square one. Until one guy establishes himself, we don’t have a guy.”
Petersen reiterated that by the time the coaches are allowed to get back on the field with the players again, at the start of August for fall camp, he will have made a determination on if and when quarterback Cyler Miles will rejoin the team. Miles was the presumed heir to Price -- until Petersen suspended him for all of spring practice following an alleged assault near campus in February.
Earlier Saturday, Washington Director of Athletics said on Seattle's KJR 950 AM from Husky Stadium that both Miles and wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow -- who this week in King County district court pleaded guilty to assault and third-degree malicious mischief -- are still going through the UW campus system for discipline of students. Woodward said he expects both Miles and Stringfellow to return to the team this fall and be better for their experience.
By August, the Huskies will welcome a fourth competitor to their quarterback derby for 2014: incoming freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, a U.S. Army All-American Bowl quarterback. He signed with UW following his starring as a senior at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, Calif.
Asked if he sees what everyone else does about this QB competition, that it is wide open, Williams said: “Oh, yeah. No doubt.”
“With K.J. coming in, Cyler, Jeff, me, it’s all wide open,” Williams said. “I don’t think anyone has the lead right now. We all have great skills, great talent. It’s going to be fun in the fall.”
Lindquist, who played late in three blowouts last season and has yet to throw a pass in a college game, this week called Saturday “a dream come true” to lead his hometown team inside Husky Stadium. He then threw four touchdown passes on four consecutive drives, three in red-zone situations and the last in 11-on-11 scrimmaging on drives that began from the offense’s own 25.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Lindquist looked comfortable throwing passes off zone-option reads like those he ran at Mercer Island High School, across Lake Washington from UW. His second TD throw was off a read option, 22 yards to wide-open Jaydon Mickens near the sidelines against blown coverage. Lindquist showed some bonding with his offensive line while celebrating that score when he shared a leaping chest and hip bump with blocker Ross Dolbec.
Lindquist looked composed while scrambling and continuing to look for receivers when some of his pass protection broke down. That’s how he threw a short TD pass to Marvin Hall, after rolling to his left.
His first scoring throw was on a quick, first read, a low pass over the middle to emerging tight end Darrell Daniels. The converted wide receiver made a lunging scoop on the run in the middle of the end zone.
Lindquist would have a fifth touchdown pass, but John Ross outran his underthrown, long pass into the end zone. Nick Zelle intercepted that tipped ball.
Williams spent much of the scrimmage running away from the Huskies’ starting defensive line or getting sacked by end Hau’oli Kikaha. Washington’s leader with 13 sacks last season, second-most in school history, had three more of Williams on Saturday. Kikaha sped past the mostly reserve offensive line on edge rushes.
Most of Williams’ approximately dozen completions were on passes shorter than 10 yards. One went through Daniels’ hands. The former Los Angeles City Section record-setter at Narbonne High School showed good patience rolling right and waiting before completing a pass at the sideline to DiAndre Campbell for 4 yards and a first down.
One his few deep was a 50-yard dart on a line to Mickens, after the wide receiver broke free down the hashmarks. But the ball sailed inches past Mickens’ out-stretched hands for an incomplete pass instead of a signature play.
“I think I’ve progressed a lot, especially with the new reads and new progressions (in Petersen’s offense),” Williams said.
Asked what he needed to work on this summer, Williams said, “My pocket presence. Sometimes I get a little antsy and ran out of the pocket. … I want to be a throw-first guy. I don’t want to be known as an athlete that can throw the ball.
The Huskies’ search to replace running back Bishop Sankey, the owner of eight UW rushing records and its third-leading career rusher now preparing for next month’s NFL draft, also remains inconclusive. Deontae Cooper completed his first spring since before three reconstructive knee surgeries in three years by carrying about a dozen times unofficially for 68 yards.
Asked if he ran worried about making cuts and injuring the knee yet again, Cooper smiled and said, “If I did, I didn’t notice it.”
He alternated with Lavon Coleman. The 6-foot, 215-pound redshirt freshman ran this month with physicality.
Jesse Callier, Dwayne Washington and Ryan McDaniel, three returning running backs who have run the ball in games spelling Sankey, all sat out Saturday with injuries.
Daniels had an impressive spring in his bid to replace national Mackey Award-winner and NFL early-entrant Austin Seferian-Jenkins as UW’s primary pass-catching tight end. Redshirt senior Michael Hartvigson and Josh Perkins, another converted wide receiver, are also in the running.
“I hope I left a good impression,” Daniels said. “Every day, I keep working to improve my game and help my team.”
As for the starting-quarterback situation, Daniels smiled and shrugged his broad shoulders.
“It’s fun to watch them compete right now,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting to see who starts in the fall.”
He’s already caught the vibe Petersen is giving off about this QB competition.
“It will happen,” Daniels said, “when it happens.”
INSIDE THE DAWGS: The Huskies got an encouraging sign 20 minutes before the practice began: WR Kasen Williams jogging through agility drills and catching passes while wearing his gold helmet and white, No. 2 game jersey over black sweat pants. Less than six months ago, Williams broke his fibula and sustained displaced foot ligaments while landing on the same Husky Stadium turf on a reception attempt Oct. 26 against California. … LB Shaq Thompson went through drills on defense while wearing a yellow, no-contact jersey – then almost intercepted one of Williams’ first passes, on a wide-receiver curl route near the sideline. He did not appear at running back, where he had been for many of the previous 14 spring practices. Petersen has said he can’t wait to see all that Thompson may be able to do on both sides of the ball – and on special teams returning kicks – this fall.
FUN WITH FANS
Five Husky fans came out of the stands 20 minutes into the practice to race the speedy Ross from the goal line through the 40-yard line. The fans had varying amounts of head-starts. One started 12 yards ahead of the sophomore from Long Beach Jordan, who had 16 catches and one touchdown as a receiver and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score while playing in every game as a true freshman last fall.
Ross zoomed past everyone, coasted over the final 15 yards and won his “race” with the fans by at least 10 yards.
Seconds later, on the field, Ross laughed and stated: “I AM the fastest Husky.”
Later, offensive and defensive linemen took turns with fans catching punts near their own goal line. Mike Criste and Danny Shelton caught theirs. But when James Atoe muffed a tricky punt that sliced through the rain, the fans won the competition – and the offensive and defense had to run sideline-to-sideline sprints.
In a sled-pushing competition, the offense and defense raced by each pushing side-by-side blocking from the 50 to the goal line. At alternating 10 yards the players yielded each sled to a pair of fans. The defense was winning for 20 yards – until two fans pushed their sled way left and off course. The offense won that and the defense ran sprints.