Huard’s UW spring observations: Jake Browning ‘impressive’ but passing game still the challenge

Apr 10, 2018, 12:18 PM | Updated: 12:26 pm
Jake Browning and the Huskies could still use a big-time wide receiver. (AP)...
Jake Browning and the Huskies could still use a big-time wide receiver. (AP)

The Washington Huskies have a number of new quarterbacks in their program this spring, but soon-to-be senior quarterback Jake Browning is making it clear the offense is still his to lead.

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“I saw an impressive Jake Browning,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard said after watching one of the Huskies’ spring practices last week. “Not like a frame that’s grown leaps and bounds, not a body that’s changed, not fundamentals that are very different. Just a guy in total command of his game.

“There was no doubt who the duke was, who the general was on that field. There was no question that it was his team.”

Though Washington head coach Chris Petersen and new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan now have Jacob Eason, Jake Haener, Colton Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon all at the QB position to potentially push Browning, Huard doesn’t expect any of them to make a run for his starting job. The question remains whether Browning can take a step forward in his final season with the Huskies, though.

While Browning threw 43 touchdowns and had a 167.5 rating as a sophomore to help Washington make the four-team College Football Playoff, he slipped to 19 touchdowns and a 152.1 rating without the benefit of having the dynamic John Ross, who caught 17 of Browning’s TDs in 2016, as a target last season.

Even if Browning makes a big leap with his throwing in 2018, a lack of firepower from the wide receiver position may continue to hold back Washington’s offense.

“I think that will still be the challenge,” Huard said of the Huskies’ passing game. “They need just a big-time wide receiver. Ty Jones is a big athlete, he’s young, he’s just a true sophomore, but is there enough twitch there? Aaron Fuller’s had a very nice spring; he’s probably emerged the most out of that group at wide receiver. Unfortunately Chico (McClatcher) is still coming off a leg injury so they’re babying him and he’s not really taking part.

“That is the one piece that you would love to see really grow and emerge when they play the elite teams, is for Jake to have what he had his first year, and that’s a John Ross. Right now, that is still a work in progress.”

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Here are a few more observations from Huard’s visit to Huskies spring practice:

• Running back Myles Gaskin is a pro that happens to still play in college.

• Tight ends Hunter Bryant and Drew Sample could both be high enough on NFL depth charts to play regularly. UW has recruited and developed its TEs very well.

• The Huskies are one big wide receiver and two defensive linemen away from being playoff contenders.

• The Husky secondary is the best of the Petersen era and maybe the best in all of college football.

• New OC Hamdan, who previously was Petersen’s wide receivers coach and on Dan Quinn’s Atlanta Falcons staff, brings a lot more juice and energy to the table.

• Defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson is the most improved player on defense, and this Husky D is making this Husky O grow up fast.

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Huard’s UW spring observations: Jake Browning ‘impressive’ but passing game still the challenge