What does the future hold for UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr.?
An incredible regular season for Michael Penix Jr. and his UW Huskies was capped off in a big way Saturday night with a resounding 51-33 win over WSU in Pullman in the Apple Cup.
It was another monster game for Penix and the Washington offense, compiling over 700 yards with the quarterback throwing for 484 yards and scoring five total touchdowns.
What’s next for the 10-2 Huskies isn’t totally clear as they could wind up in the Rose Bowl, a different New Year’s Six Bowl or a different bowl game altogether.
Regardless of what the next game is for Washington, the big question with the program is whether Penix will stick around once that bowl game is over.
Penix, a fifth-year junior in his first year with the Huskies, leads the nation in passing yards with 4,354 yards and is tied for 11th in touchdown passes. He’s gone from an oft-injured QB who never played more than six games in a season at Indiana due to knee and shoulder injuries to one of the best passers in the nation. Additionally, he’s firmly on the NFL radar.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) November 28, 2022
So should he return to Montlake for one more year with Kalen DeBoer and Co. or should he ride the hot season into an NFL Draft announcement? Former UW Huskies quarterback Brock Huard and his Brock and Salk co-host Mike Salk had very different opinions on that topic, which was hashed out during Monday’s show on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
First, both heaped praise onto the lefty gunslinger.
“Penix, he’s fantastic. And he really has been throughout the entirety of the season. I mean, he’s just been an incredible story for UW,” Salk said.
Huard rattled off Penix’s great numbers and said the most impressive thing is that he’s been sacked just five times all year long.
“That is stupidly ridiculous, man. That just doesn’t happen,” Huard said. ” … That is a guy that understands the game. He understands where to burn the ball, he understands where his outlets are, he knows the system inside and out. He’s got a tremendous offensive line, he’s got enough of a run game to balance them out. But the dude plays from the neck up, not just with his cannon arm.”
Penix is no longer “running for his life” like he was at Indiana, Huard said, but realized he needed to be better inside the pocket and get the ball out quick and often in order to be an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Salk thinks Penix’s draft stock is incredibly high right now.
“I’ve watched him over the course of the season. He’s a pro. I think he’s gonna be a good pro. I would absolutely draft him if my team needed a quarterback. I would feel very comfortable drafting him,” he said. “Probably not in the first five or 10 picks or the first round – the injury concerns are probably going to crop up, right? I mean, isn’t the second round where you generally get first-round talent with concerns, question marks, etc.?”
“He looks to me like an early second-rounder,” Salk added. “Probably not a first-round guy, but if somebody falls in love with him and needed a quarterback, it wouldn’t shock me … I don’t think he’s a third- or fourth-round pick. I think he’s a second-round pick to a team that says, ‘Yeah, I’ll take a chance on that and give up a second-round pick and see if I can develop him.’ … Why wouldn’t you want him in the second round?”
Whether or not Penix potentially goes that high is dependent on what he wants to do, Huard said.
“Does Michael Penix want to leave school now? Or does he want to come back and (see) if (star receiver) Rome Odunze is back with (fellow star receiver) Jalen McMillan, and this offensive line (can be elite again),” he said.
The UW Huskies will lose anywhere from one to three starters up front, Huard said, but that line should be a strength once again.
Salk couldn’t get on board with Huard saying Penix may return to Montlake in 2023.
“I’m sorry. I agree with everything you’re saying, I get it,” Salk said. “If you’ve had four major injuries in the course of his career, and he has the possibility of maybe even being a late first-rounder or certainly a second-round pick, you’ve got to go. And I’m not trying to take anything away from what he might be able to do with another year. Maybe he can bounce himself into the top five.”
Huard doesn’t think Penix’s decision is as simple and clear-cut as Salk is making it out to be.
“Hold on a second. OK, let me play it out. This year you have (Alabama’s) Bryce Young, (Ohio State’s) C.J. Stroud, (Kentucky’s) Will Levis, the wheels came off a little bit (but) finished strong and NFL dudes still like him,” Huard said of the top end of the 2023 NFL Draft’s quarterback class. ” … So you have those guys ahead of you. And do you say, ‘Hey, man, this was a build over the course of the season and it built really late and my stock started to rise at the end of the year. What if I come back to school?'”
Huard also noted that Penix didn’t partake in Senior Day festivities when the Huskies played Colorado the other week, which may be “a little bit of a tell first and foremost.”
“What if he says, ‘You know what, man? I got all these dudes back, this game at this level comes easy to me, I get to play in the Rose Bowl and if we win that Rose Bowl, I’m going to have more hype than ever. It’s going to be me and (USC quarterback and current Heisman favorite) Caleb Williams going into next year, it’s going to be me through the conversation the whole offseason, it’s going to be me in the Heisman conversation going into next year, it’s going to be me putting together another 12-game body of work to flush that idea (of being injury prone),'” Huard said.
Replied Salk: “Here’s why you can’t (return to college) if you’re him. And if I were in his family or advising him, I would tell him, ‘Don’t be crazy.’ If he gets hurt again, his NFL stock is toast.”
Injuries don’t always derail NFL Draft stock or even NFL free agents, Salk said, but Penix has had four serious injuries in his college career and could see his currently high draft stock fall considerably if he returns to UW and gets hurt again in 2023.
“If he gets hurt again, he’s toast. He’s not only not a first- or second-round pick, he’s maybe at that point a late-round flier and more likely desperately trying to jump on somewhere as an undrafted free agent,” Salk said. ” … If I’m Michael Penix or I’m talking to him, this isn’t even a question.”
Listen to the conversation in the podcast of the full third hour of Monday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.