The answers for a University of Washington football team seemingly clueless in generating meaningful offense this season sit right there in front of these Huskies as they sidle up to Arkansas State Saturday (1:15 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Just do what the Red Wolves do: Tag-team the quarterback position.
What can it hurt? UW football fans are so disgusted by what they’ve seen in two outings from an under-performing UW offense, they’re ready to tear down Husky Stadium and toss it all in the Montlake Cut.
The Huskies need to borrow from the Arkansas State playbook. It’s recommended reading. The main premise involves rotating a pair of quarterbacks, continuously seeking and finding the hot hand. What a novel concept from the Ozarks.
The Red Wolves opened the season with Florida State transfer James Blackman calling the signals before his helmet came free against Central Arkansas. By rule, he had to leave the game for at least one play. Blackman watched incredulously as his replacement, Layne Hatcher, an Alabama transfer, threw four touchdown passes.
A week later, Hatcher was rewarded with the start against Memphis. He was swapped out for Blackman, who threw four scoring passes of his own while working in relief.
Dylan Morris and Sam Huard should be so lucky to be that productive behind center for the Huskies. If properly utilized, this solution could serve to jump-start the UW offense and maybe even prevent embattled offensive coordinator John Donovan from losing his job.
Donovan has been criticized for lacking imagination. The QB rotation could give him a new football identity. By throwing change-ups, this ultra-conservative guy develop into a mastermind.
The catch, of course, is the home team would have to tear away the protective packaging on Huard. He’s a true freshman, a former five-star recruit, a UW legacy quarterback because of dad Damon and uncle Brock — someone being handled with great care.
The Huskies, however, need to go bold. Playing Huard provides multiple instant benefits. First, it redirects the fan conversation from hysteria to curiosity with the unveiling of a new quarterback. Second, he has the best arm on the team and the ability to go downfield, which Morris almost never does. Third, the debut will go more easily against an underdog (17 points) nonconference foe.
Huard made noticeable strides through spring and fall camps, going from overwhelmed new college student to a broken-in player demonstrating ample cool and a delicate touch.
Cautious onlookers suggest he should continue to be coddled, if not redshirted. He might get hurt, considering how ineffective the Husky offensive line has been.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Great players don’t redshirt, a process seemingly outdated by the advent of the transfer portal. The NCAA-mandated extra year because of the pandemic likely will keep NFL-caliber players swimming in unneeded eligibility.
Huard is better than Jake Browning, a four-year starter for the Huskies who took over without waiting for any initiation. Plus, Huard has participated in more than 50 practices. How much more preparation does the kid need?
As for the injury concern, hey, football is a big-boy game. There’s never a time that a player can insulate himself from getting hurt in a violent sport. As for the line play, Huard might be a positive influence simply as the alternate guy – again, see Arkansas State’s substitution patterns – and provide a little more leadership juice.
Perhaps more of a factor for playing the precocious lefty now is the increasing chatter among former UW players that the Huard camp, which is like a poor man’s Manning quarterback clan, might be disenchanted with the direction of the offense and its early failures.
It’s time to play — maybe even start — Huard. Let the Husky offense evolve around him rather than make him try to fit its demands. That might quell the family’s supposed concerns, which haven’t been made public.
It also might make Morris a better player, pushed by a threat to his minutes. The Huskies might even put points on the board and yards on the stat sheet. An opening win in three tries is paramount for this season.
With Husky Stadium only two-thirds full for the opening-game Montana loss presumably because of the pandemic surge and/or a second-tier FCS opponent, appeasing the fan base with something positive such as a Huard debut is a way forward.
Should UW use Huard as well as Morris, not everything is guaranteed to fall into place as it has for the visiting Sun Belt Conference team. Problems exist beyond the QB spot. Not to mention the wind and rain forecast this weekend, an extra challenge for QBs on both sides.
Local knowledge reminds us that no one, no matter the family pedigree, arm strength or inspired line play, is going to throw four TDs in such conditions. But two would be an improvement.
Former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Dan Raley’s latest work can be found at Husky Maven at si.com