Having played with Cyler Miles before as a starting QB before — he was in charge when Washington beat Oregon State 67-29 last season with 692 yards of total offense — and having practiced with him for two seasons, the least surprised people in the college football nation at the change at quarterback were the Washington Huskies.
WR Jaydon Mickens didn’t have to hear an announcement from coach Chris Petersen to know what was going down. He joined Miles as first ones in the film room at 8 a.m. Sunday after a game in Hawaii that was won 17-16 despite a mere 10 completed passes. Bo Schembechler was a zygote the last time that happened in college ball.
“Our chemistry is dialed in,” Mickens said cheerily after practice Wedneday. “He knows where (receivers) are headed even if he was blindfolded.”
Miles’ advancement to the starting job, succeeding the graduating Keith Price, was presumed for most of 2013 until Miles, a Colorado native, engaged in a brainlock of epic proportions, wearing a Broncos beanie into a spontaneous bunch of campus revelers celebrating the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win Feb. 2.
By now, you probably have read the story since the knucklehead moment, which drew no criminal charges but did provoke coach Chris Petersen to suspend him from February until the morning after the Hawaii game.
In Miles’ stead for the season opener was sophomore Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island, whom no one wanted to disparage. It was his first start as a collegian, and he had accomplices in misdeed, including Mickens and most of the offense. But he wasn’t ready for the task.
The production, which included five three-and-outs in the second half, was so grim that Petersen probably would have selected Miles to start the home opener against Eastern Washington at noon Saturday in Husky Stadium if he was wearing orange coveralls.
Another offensive teammate, Kasen Williams, also understood that QB change was mandatory.
“Cyler has game experience,” Williams said. “He’s been on the road before. He knows what to do. And we’re back home. We’re going to put on a show.”
Showtime, it would seem, has to include Williams. The three-year letterman senior from Skyline in Sammamish caught three passes against Hawaii, but for a mere 11 yards. He was Washington’s most spectacular pass catcher last year until a gruesome leg and foot injury against Cal ended his season at eight games and 29 catches.
Williams is obviously well enough to play, but he isn’t quite ready to star, although he thinks the time draws near.
“At the level of a game (not practice), I’m thinking about how I can help the team, not about the foot,” he said. “I felt more comfortable as the game went on.
“It was my first (long rehab) injury, and it did kind of take a toll on me. It’s not physical, it’s all mental. I had to learn to not think about my foot. I had to experience that in camp, to practice not thinking about it.”
Williams figures his recovery will be helped by the return of Miles, who throws a ball that he likes.
“Jeff’s ball is a lot harder and tighter,” he said. “Cyler’s ball is a little slower and stays up in the air. He throws with some anticipation that allows us to see the ball and go get it.”
The Huskies’ biggest receiver at 6-3 and 217 pounds and a former state prep high jump and long jump champion, Williams’ game is all about the ups.
“Last year, Cyler gave (receivers) a chance to go up and get the ball,” he said. “If he can put the ball up there, we can go get it. We don’t have to be open.
“Just get it there and worry about the details later.”
That kind of play was featured last season as part of the free-flowing athleticism under former coach Steve Sarkisian. Petersen wants to emulate at least some of that kind of play, but with new coaches, a new system and, for a game, a new quarterback, it wasn’t going to happen in Hawaii.
There’s no guarantee it will happen against Eastern, which despite being a notch below the big schools in the FCS division, gave Washington a most sincere scare in 2011 before losing at Husky Stadium 30-27.
But with Miles in charge and at home, it might be possible to persuade the detail-oriented Petersen to go along with Williams’ suggestion to sweat the details later, then go high and go deep.