2020 Outlook: Handicapping Washington's Impending QB Battle

Mike Martin

Hopefully, footballs will begin flying soon so the University of Washington can open its starting quarterback competition in earnest for the Sept. 5 season opener against Michigan. The Huskies have five QBs on the roster (3 scholarship and 2 walk-ons). New offensive coordinator John Donovan is tasked with finding Jacob Eason's replacement.

None of these quarterback candidates has thrown a touchdown pass in a game. Here's how inexperienced the UW QB room is: consider that sophomore running back Richard Newton is the only player on the roster to throw a Husky scoring pass.

When Donovan begins establishing a pecking order, it will be interesting to see how everything plays out. The following is an in-depth look at who's in the running for the job:

Jacob Sirmon, redshirt sophomore 

Sirmon is the front-runner. He has excellent size and a strong arm and enters his third year in the program.

Size: Physically, Sirmon is well suited to be a pocket passer.  Listed at 6-foot-5, he can see the field and can go through his progressions without needing to roll out.  He's also listed at 235 pounds, giving him the size to shake off arm tackles. Jacob Eason was a shade under 6-6 and weighed 231 pounds.  

Experience: Sirmon is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience at this level, though transfer Jaden Scheffey has played in small-college games. 

Vision:  Sirmon saw extremely limited action for the Huskies, but piled up considerable passing yards at Bothell High School.  

Touch: The Bothell native has a powerful enough arm to throw the ball 70 yards. He can deliver the ball with velocity to all zones on the field.  

Mobility:  Sirmon wasn't asked to run as a QB but with his frame, he could absorb hits and be elusive enough to deliver strikes downfield.

Biggest Strength: Sirmon has the physical size and arm strength that's built for success at the collegiate level, as well as in the NFL.  

Intangibles:  As a pocket passer, he has the physical size to win championships. He committed early on in his recruiting cycle and put together one of the better skill-position classes in the conference with Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne, Trey Lowe, Richard Newton, and Devin Culp, though Lowe transferred to Oregon State.

Back Story:  Sirmon entered the transfer portal only to pull himself out of it. He grew up wanting to be the starter for his hometown college team. He entered the portal after the prospect arose that Eason might be a two-year Husky starter.

Scoutlook: Jacob Sirmon has the most natural talent of any quarterback on the roster. He is the most familiar with the speed of the game while competing against the best secondary in the Pac-12 every day in practice. -- Trevor Mueller

Dan Raley went more in-depth 

Ethan Garbers, true freshman

Garbers is slightly ahead of Morris, in my view, despite never putting on a UW uniform. I have him second because I feel he's the wild card for many of the reasons stated below.

Size:  He's 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds. He grew an inch during his senior year while taking Corona del Mar High to a California state title.

Experience: None. However, to gain valuable experience, Ethan enrolled early at Washington only to have spring football canceled. His final game at Corona del Mar ended with him hoisting a state championship trophy. His team finished 16-0. Of the five UW QBs, he's the one with recent live-action.  

Vision: Growing up behind his brother Chase, now the California starter, Ethan learned to be patient in the pocket. In his senior year, he threw for 55 TDs against 8 interceptions.  

Touch: He won't have the biggest arm on the team. He won't have the fastest 40-yard dash time. But he can make every throw to all zones, including during a scramble. He also can take some velocity off a throw to make a ball catchable.  

Mobility: When plays break down, he's not afraid to tuck the ball and run. He can also make pass rushers miss in space.

Biggest Strength:  Champion's mentality. That makes him the wild card here. He's won it all before.

Intangibles: Garbers is not afraid of contact. In fact, he's not hesitant at all to initiate a collision to get an extra yard or two for a first down. He takes losing personally. His will to win will get players to rally around him, reminiscent of Marques Tuiasosopo.

Back Story: Ethan's older brother Chase helped Cal knock off Washington in the lightening-delayed game at Husky Stadium last season. Chase was close to becoming a Husky once. Ethan can show him what he missed.

Scoutlook: Between his junior and senior year in high school, no quarterback in the nation improved the narrative around himself such as Garbers. The highly competitive signal-caller has the mindset to take advantage of every rep he is given. -- Trevor Mueller

Dylan Morris, redshirt freshman

Morris enters his second year at the UW.  I have him third in line to succeed Eason, only giving Garbers the edge by a whisker.

Size:  He's 6 feet and 193 pounds. His size would have scared off many teams in the '90s.  However, the success of many "undersized" quarterbacks at the collegiate and NFL levels has led teams to look more at QB tools than height.

Experience:  Scout-team quarterback in 2019. 

Vision: Morris is patient under pressure and keeps his eyes downfield looking for soft spots to throw to.

Touch: Although Morris doesn't have ideal size, he can make every throw. He can muscle a ball through a tight window or drop one over a cornerback. In high school, he demonstrated the ability to throw to all zones with touch.

Mobility: His ability to evading pressure and make throws is an above-average skill.

Biggest strength: He will keep plays alive and scan for "parallel motion" to flow as he escapes pressure. As a four-year starter in high school and MVP of the scout team, his leadership is unquestioned.  

Intangibles: Morris' confidence helped him see early playing time as a freshman in high school. He was a four-year starter in high school, appearing in the state playoffs all four years.  He finished his career ranked seventh all-time in state passing yards, just ahead of Jacob Sirmon.  

Back story: The Graham-Kapowsin native won the Bob Jarvis offensive scout squad MVP at the Huskies' postseason awards banquet. He helped the UW defense prepare for opposing offenses and was asked to make a variety of throws. 

Scoutlook: Comparisons to Jake Browning are not out of the question. Dylan Morris does not have the biggest arm, but the redshirt freshman has the ability to out-think defenders and make the right decision in every situation.  -- Trevor Mueller

Jaden Scheffey, junior transfer

Sheffey is a walk-on who has the mindset and experience to adjust to a Power 5 team. A dual-threat QB was the type of player that Donovan previously had the most success with at Vanderbilt.

Size:  6 feet and 180 pounds.

Experience: Played QB for two years at George Fox University, starting as a sophomore.  In his sophomore season, he completed 99 of 152 passes, threw 15 TDs and had just 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 6 scores.

Vision: Sheffey sees most of the field well and is accurate on intermediate routes.  

Touch:  Sheffey's touch on short- to mid-range passes is excellent. He doesn't have a cannon-like arm but delivers very catchable balls.

Mobility:  Sheffey is a dual-threat QB. While he looks to pass first, he is quick to react and scramble for a positive gain.

Biggest Strength: His football IQ. As a high schooler, he originally a defensive back. At that position, he expanded his knowledge of the game to help him move up to higher levels of play.

Intangibles: He understands the adjustments that are necessary.  He successfully made the move from a 1A high school team to a 4A powerhouse. He has moved from a Division III college team to Power 5.  He won't be outworked.

Scoutlook:  Of the five QBs, Sheffey has the most unique skill set. He's a true dual-threat that beat defenses with his feet or arm. -- Trevor Mueller

Jesse Martineau, sophomore walk-on

There's little to go on regarding the Mountlake Terrace High signal-caller in regards to his skill sets. The 6-1, 203-pounder had a very good schoolboy career by leading his Hawks to their first-ever league championship in school history. He graduated last year and will have four years of eligibility.

Final Analysis

Washington has a QB room that's flush with talent but short on experience.  The front runner is Sirmon.  However, Donovan has stated that each QB will have a clean slate and an equal chance.  Look for Garbers to make a run for the top spot, as will Morris. Sheffey's college experience, mental makeup and playmaking abilities will give Donovan something else to think about, It's a difficult choice to make.  

When it comes down to taking the first snap against Michigan, put your money on Sirmon.

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