BY Art Thiel 05:34PM 08/26/2019

Thiel: A new kind of QB controversy for Petersen

Chris Petersen has lost two QBs in four months to the transfer portal. The backup to new starter Jacob Eason has never played in college. Not a good Huskies look.

Jacob Eason was named the Huskies starter Thursday. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It wasn’t possible to determine whether Chris Petersen was wearing burlap underwear. Just seemed like it.

“Timing is a little bit awkward,” he said quietly. “I think that was a bit surprising.”

Actually, it was the Huskies football coach who seemed awkward Monday, answering questions for the second time in four months about a quarterback wanting to leave his high-profile program to get more playing time elsewhere.

Friday, Jake Haener, told he had been beaten out by Jacob Eason to be the starter next Saturday when the Huskies host Eastern Washington in the season opener, told Petersen he wanted out.

“We just had some discussions about what would be the right thing to do, and that was kinda that,” said Petersen, who had promised playing time for Haener against Eastern.

The unfolding saga of Washington QBs has to be a black eye for the program.

If you follow the evolving circus of NCAA rules regarding transfers, you know that changes in the last few years have liberalized rules so that transfers, especially among QBs, have become a trendy thing, because most players are longer punished with a one-year sit-out before returning to play.

As a stand-alone episode, Haener’s decision is not unusual. But in context, it could hurt the program, making Petersen’s messy handling of the QB roster a perceived liability to be pounced upon by rival recruiters.

QB recruit: Coach, I like your program but I also like Washington.

Rival coach: They do a fine job there. The question is whether they like you, and what that means. Ask around. Just sayin’ . . .

Not only did Haener’s decision follow the April departure of redshirt freshman Colson Yankoff for the same reason, it happened just before the start of the season, meaning the falloff in experience and practice reps for the new No. 2, redshirt freshman Jacob Sirmon of Bothell High School, is steep.

Some observers around the UW program have suggested that Yankoff, a four-star recruit from Coeur d’Alene, ID, was better than classmate Sirmon.

After spring practice made clear that neither would advance past the heralded Eason, both stunned the program by entering their names simultaneously in the NCAA transfer portal.

Abruptly, Sirmon pulled his name back while Yankoff made his way to UCLA. It could be that Sirmon is no more ready to be an emergency replacement this season than was Haener last season for senior Jake Browning.

Struggling a bit against a good Cal defense, Browning was pulled for a series, TV cameras capturing his sideline shout to Petersen: “Why?” Haener threw an interception that went for a touchdown, the decisive play in the Bears’ 12-10 upset of Washington.

Turned out to be the last play of his Huskies career, which is really too bad since he chose to stay to compete against Eason, who at 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds is a near-certain high NFL draft pick good enough to have started and starred as a freshman with the SEC powerhouse Bulldogs.

Asked whether Sirmon was as ready as Haener would have been to step in if needed, Petersen said, “Sirmon made nice strides. It’s a little bit different.”

Interpreters of Pete-speak would suggest that means no.

So far, Haener, whose mother is a graduate of Bellarmine of Tacoma and UW, has said nothing publicly. His father, Ryan, told The Athletic that his son is taking the high road.

“He was extremely emotional about it, because he felt like he had won the job,” Ryan said. “It was a decision that was carefully thought of and talked about. I just want to say that the Haener family and Jake are thankful to the University of Washington for the opportunity, and have nothing but the utmost respect for Chris Petersen and Bush Hamdan and the entire staff and team at UW, and we wish them nothing but the best . . .”

Someone who isn’t wishing Petersen the best is UCLA coach Chip Kelly, who told reporters in Los Angeles earlier this month that the Huskies coach blocked Yankoff’s intraconference petition for immediate eligibility with the Bruins, meaning he has to sit for a second consecutive year.

“It’s unfortunate for Colson,” Kelly said. “ . . .Our hands are tied as far as that situation.

“I think everybody should be available. We don’t block anybody, that’s just our school and our (team) policy. So that’s a question for Washington, not us.”

Fortunately for the Huskies, they don’t play the Bruins until 2021, which by then Kelly perhaps will have blocked one or two of his players from transferring to Montlake.

In light of the unseemliness of the situation, in which the Huskies over-recruited the position by failing to stagger eligibility, I asked Petersen if he thought he should approach QB recruitment a different way.

“That’s something that’s always paid close attention to,” he said. “You see it across the country, right? This guy’s in, this guy’s out. It’s part of what’s going on right now. It would be naive of us to not pay attention to it. For all (player) groups.

“You can’t have one guy. There’s always going to be a handful of guys competing at that position. What the best order is, how that works —  that’s never going to be scripted out like that. That’s not how it works. Do we need to pay attention to it, and have a strategy? Absolutely. What that looks like is to be determined.”

Sounds like randomness will no longer a part of things. And while we await Petersen’s strategy to avert further embarrassment, there’s a couple of interim things that could prove helpful for his program.

Drop the resentment toward what amounts to college free agency and roll with the new NCAA reality, and make sure all option keepers, dives, roll-outs and bootlegs are stripped from Eason’s playbook. And nothing beyond a three-step dropback.


  • ReebHerb

    Why was four year starter and near assistant coach Jake Browning desperately trying to change throwing mechanics in a couple months between last college game and the pro combine? Didn’t the Bishop and his staff see flaws or were the results good enough?

    UW is a very good program but they need to head down field quicker. Slow developing deception fools lesser teams but the good players on the elite teams are also getting off their blocks in the extra time.

    • 1coolguy

      UW did very well the past 4 years, IN SPITE of Browning, who was not able to stretch the field with his weak arm. And YES, why weren’t his mechanics corrected while he was at UW??? CP and Hamdan are the problem there.

      • art thiel

        Browning’s limitations were why he wasn’t drafted, including his mechanics. Petersen should have done more.

        • Husky73

          ….and yet, he was the greatest QB in Husky history. Twenty years from now, folks will look at Browning’s and Gaston’s stats (including 39 wins, 2 Pac 12 championships and 4 Apple Cups) and say, “Wow, those were a couple of great players.”

          • art thiel

            Pickett and Price put up big QB numbers but weren’t great college QBs. Just good. Chris Polk is another guy who was good, not great.

          • Husky73

            There are people, including some in this room, that measure a college quarterback’s career on how they then did in the NFL. That’s wrong, and a separate issue. I really liked Chris Polk. He was a very determined runner, and deceptively fast. I thought he would be a durable NFL back. Rich Alexis and Bishop Sankey also come to mind as outstanding college RB’s that did not have successful pro careers.

    • art thiel

      Petersen admitted recently that they didn’t go deep enough, nor did they get the ball out quickly enough. My guess is part of it was Browning’s arm, and part was Petersen’s unhealthy fear of turnovers.

  • RadioGuy

    Making Yankoff wait a year to play for UCLA was not a good move because you can bet opposing coaches will be pointing that out to recruits, especially ones the UW are also going after. Very bad optic that WILL have some reverberations moving forward.

    Still, I’m not too concerned over the two transfers because, frankly, these kids are competitors, which is part of the personal makeup Petersen is looking for in players he brings to Washington…it’s what helps make them a vaunted OKG. Pretty much every recruit is going to be told they’ll get to play by college coaches during the process, so it had to be a blow to Haener and Yankoff (and Sirmon, too) when it was announced Eason was coming.

    Long-term, I think the UW will be fine because it’s still a good, nationally-ranked program and there are other kids in situations similar to Haener and Yankoff looking to transfer (like Eason himself), including grad transfers who want that one more year like Minshew did at Wazzu. You’re right, Art…teams shouldn’t over-recruit, especially at QB, but I can’t imagine Pete turning down a five-star guy who’d had success with a good SEC program.

    • Tian Biao

      but, why shouldn’t Yankoff have to sit out a year? Eason had to sit out a year. it should be the same for everyone, right?

      • art thiel

        The rules changed after Eason decided to transfer.

        • Tian Biao

          so, a player can enter the transfer portal, but a coach can block the transfer? also, the player has to prove hardship to the ncaa? I guess I’m a little unclear about the process here.

          • Husky73

            It’s a hardship to sit on the bench.

          • art thiel

            Can’t argue.

    • art thiel

      Sure, Petersen needed to pursue a talent like Eason’s. But offering and accepting both Yankoff and Sirmon in the same class was unneeded trouble.

      I don’t think the mess is a downfall for UW, but I do think his recruiting image takes s bruising, as I mentioned. It looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

  • 1coolguy

    The one failure, yes failure, CP has made concerns the QB position – and Browning’s being a UFA is clear proof of that. CP stuck with Jake and never staggered his recruiting, and now he finds himself in a mess. As you correctly point out Art, one big hit on Eason and the program is on life support.
    I disagree with not naming the starter until the week before the opener – the coaches know who was to be the starter months ago, so just call a spade a spade and get on with it – to keep the QB position unknown until the last minute is NOT good coaching.
    Reading between the lines, I also take Colson’s and Haener’s leaving as a CLEAR indictment of Hamdan, one of CP’s boys from Boise, who is not a top D1 OC. His horrible play calling last year and now 2 high recruits bailing on the program says it all. It may have happened before, but going back to the 1960’s I cannot recall a legit QB leaving the program. Off Hamdan, hire the right guy and problem solved.
    As to this year, we can only pray Eason doesn’t get injured.

    • art thiel

      Hamdan may not have been ready for the OC job, perhaps because he was too deferential to Petersen. Regarding transfers, it’s easier to do so now than at any time in CFB history, so players everywhere are taking advantage.

      Your point is well-taken about the false competition between Eason and Haener. Petersen was delaying the inevitable, hoping he could keep Haener because he doesn’t yet trust Sirmon. Mistake.

  • jafabian

    Watch. Eason will get a high ankle sprain in the opener.

    • art thiel

      Hello, Mr. Sunshine.

  • 3 Lions

    The UW blocking Yankoff’s eligibility at UCLA is petty & vindictive. That message won’t play well with athletes and it reflects poorly on the program. Very un DJ like.

    • art thiel

      That’s why I mentioned he has to get over himself and change with the changes.

      • Husky73

        “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Turn and face the strange.” (David Bowie)

    • Austin Ayers

      He transferred in conference and the rules state you must sit out a year why should coach Pete be the test dummy… even if he was given a waiver by Washington the NCAA still has to approve it. Bad take….

      • art thiel

        Petersen is playing by the rules, but there no rules when it comes to recruiters spreading trash. He risks diminishing his rep.

    • ll9956

      I don’t know all the inside details, but my gut feeling is that I couldn’t agree more. If something comes to light that convinces me that I am mistaken, I’ll gladly eat my words. Lacking that, this is the first time I can remember that Chris Petersen has taken an action that makes himself look like a complete jerk.

  • tor5

    So I take from all this that everyone is trying to figure out the implications of the new transfer rules and CP has maybe been a slow learner. On the other hand, this idea of staggering recruits seems like a bit of a pipe dream. It assumes that you can predict starters from a player’s high school reputation. I wonder what the actual correlation is? I’m skeptical that such “staggering” would do much to avoid these situations. And I’d still bet that a better overall strategy for success is to go after the best recruits at every position every year. And then not be a jerk when a player wants to transfer.

    • art thiel

      Over-recruiting isn’t as acute a problem at other positions because coaches have the option of switching positions, or going from offense to defense, and vice versa. The NCAA rules changes have given QBs unique leverage for their unique skills.

  • coug73

    Most head coaches have a closer relationship with the starting QB. Depth chart QB’s are waiting for reps/attention and the call Next Man Up.

  • Husky73

    Art– not to be the grammar police, but I believe you mean “no longer punished”…..

  • Austin Ayers

    Eason has played college football… started as a true freshman in the SEC… this is all opinion and uses very vague “sources”… horrible journalism this ain’t it chief… try again. You might want to start by making sure the second sentence in your article isn’t false. Lmao