The first position a new University of Washington football coach will look at when he comes in is Husky quarterback.
Does the player or players fit his style?
Can he win with them?
Will he bring in his own guy?
This replacement coach for the fired Jimmy Lake might be more than a little confused when he looks at the video of the Huskies' final games against Colorado and Washington State — and sees four different guys were used behind center.
True freshmen Sam Huard and Cam Sirmon played against the Cougars at Husky Stadium, while redshirt freshman Dylan Morris and grad transfer Patrick O'Brien took snaps in the game at Boulder.
With the coaching staff, fans and media members all yearning for an Apple Cup quarterback change in hopes it might alter the course of a dismal season, all they got was a new body and the same result when Huard replaced Morris, started his first college game and struggled in Friday's 40-13 loss to Washington State.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Huard showed he can throw a deeper ball than Morris and move around in the pocket with considerable poise, but he tossed four interceptions, some his fault, some not. He finished with Apple Cup passing stats of 17 for 31 (52.4 percent), 190 yards and a TD; and season numbers slightly different at 22 for 42 for 241 yards, with the same number of scores and picks.
Interim coach Bob Gregory didn't think there would be any long-term negative effects for the young quarterback from Bellevue, Washington, who retained his redshirt status and four seasons of eligibility by appearing only four times.
"He's crushed not to win, but not crushed in terms of spirit and quarterback play and all that," Gregory said. "He's going to be a really good player for the U-Dub."
As he warmed up for his starting debut against WSU, Huard threw to walk-on freshman quarterback Teddy Purcell from Atherton, California, before Morris stepped in and became his partner.
After starting 15 consecutive games over two seasons, the 6-foot, 200-pound Morris from Puyallup, Washington, didn't stir from the sideline for the first time since Jacob Eason was the Huskies quarterback starter. He still has three seasons left to play at the UW.
Morris will be hard-pressed to recoup what he once had under the Lake regime after going 7-8 as the starter. He was the shortest starting Husky quarterback in four decades. He made a lot of mistakes this past season, in which he completed 220 of 360 passes (60.6 percent) for 2,458 yards and 14 scores, with his 12 interceptions leading the Pac-12 by a sizable margin.
He handled his demotion with decorum rather than sulk and be a problem, which was expected from him.
"He's a true competitor," Gregory said of Morris. "I couldn't be more proud of Dylan. He was [Huard's] biggest fan and cheerleader all week."
The biggest quarterback surprise of the Apple Cup came when the Huskies inserted Cam Sirmon into the game for one play early in the second quarter. Facing a second-and-1 situation at the UW 49, the 6-foot 200-pound freshman from Missoula, Montana, handed off to Kamari Pleasant for no gain and headed back to the sideline, passing Huard along the way.
In all of a few seconds, Sirmon made his college debut with the temporary Husky coaching staff hoping to use the fleet quarterback a little more against the Cougars but unable to make that happen.
"We had difficulty all year trying to tackle that guy when he was our scout team quarterback," Gregory said. "We wanted to give him more than we did, but it didn't work out."
Same as Morris, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound O'Brien from San Juan Capistrano, California, didn't play against the Cougars, instead serving as a spectator for his final college game. He appeared twice for the Huskies this season, completing 1 of 3 passes for a yard, after spending the majority of his career at Nebraska and Colorado State.
A new coach will be on board within a few weeks, and he might add another quarterback or even two for spring ball. Huard, in spite of his rough debut, will be a strong candidate to continue on as the starter.
It should be noted that Super Bowl quarterback Chris Chandler had similar credentials as a local guy with a big reputation for the UW and it took him awhile to get comfortable, while Huard's father and uncle, Damon and Brock, both redshirted and didn't play their first seasons at the UW before becoming long-term starters and NFL players.
Morris might be damaged goods, simply because of the way the program fell off with him running the huddle. He'll need to greatly improve his play or go elsewhere. He's shown he's been good in the clutch at times, throwing game-winning touchdown passes to beat Utah with 36 seconds left, Stanford with 21 seconds remaining and Arizona with just over six minutes to go.
But none of that will matter to the new coach, who will need someone to step up and play the position much more efficiently than it was handled over the past three months.
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