With eight days separating the Washington Huskies from the start of the 2014 college football season, they finally have their quarterback: Jeff Lindquist.
First-year Huskies head coach Chris Petersen announced Friday that the sophomore from Mercer Island will start at Hawaii next Saturday, giving him the nod over redshirt freshman Troy Williams after a particularly competitive battle that raged through both spring and fall camps.
"(Lindquist has) done a great job from spring through now. I will say this: Troy Williams has done a really nice job too and I think we're splitting hairs trying to figure this out," Petersen said. "Both have different skillsets they bring to the table, but I think at this point we just feel like we're gonna give Jeff the nod, let him roll, let him get some things done and go from there."
Lindquist made brief appearances in three games last season for Washington, but he has yet to attempt a pass and has just two carries in his career. Despite his lack of experience, he showed a sure-handedness in camp to get the edge.
"When we were in scrimmage-type situations, there might have been a few less critical errors out of him," Petersen said. "I do think he's thrown the ball a little more accurate. I think he knows where to go with the ball. He's done a good job not forcing the ball, making too many critical errors."
Petersen added that while Lindquist will get a chance to find his footing, the competition won't necessarily die down. That's especially true since sophomore Cyler Miles, who played in eight games and started one in 2013, will be in the mix after serving a one-game suspension vs. Hawaii.
"This will be a constant battle, a constant competition, and they gotta just keep improving and progressing," Petersen said. "I will say this: Cyler definitely factors into it, and Troy will factor into it. This is that fine line that we spoke about probably weeks and months ago, that, hey, Jeff's gonna go and he's gonna have a good opportunity to go, we don't want anybody looking over their shoulder, but a guy's gotta go produce.
"After the first game we'll kinda reevaluate and see where we are and go from there, and they all know that."
Return depth a focus
As expected, speedy sophomore John Ross will be the Huskies' main kick returner, but the second return man is still to be determined.
"We have a handful of guys we can put back there, so we're kinda sorting some things out as we go there. We gotta develop depth there," Petersen said. "If you've got two guys that are kinda equal, I think it's great. Kick to either one of them. We want to put another guy back there so that if they kick to the other guy he can get something done as well. I think John Ross has some exceptional speed, so we get him back there and see if they kick it to him."
As for punts, junior Jaydon Mickens will get the first crack at returning after impressing the coaching staff in camp.
"Jaydon has had a really, really good fall camp. Not just as a punt returner but as a wide receiver," Petersen said. "He's been very consistent, has not missed a beat. His energy and focus has been great day in and day out."
Running with four backs
The plan is in place for the combination of sophomore Dwayne Washington, freshman Lavon Coleman, and seniors Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper to share carries at running back, but if one player separates himself from the rest of the pack in game action, Petersen won't be afraid to start calling his number more.
"Like I said a couple weeks ago, who is producing and who is breaking tackles? Not those big old wide holes that I can run through, if we have any of those," he said. "It's like, who is getting hit in the backfield, spinning out and making something happen? I don't make that decision, but I'll be down there on the running back coach going, ‘Can we get him the ball a little bit more?' "