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UW Appears on the Verge of Becoming a Serious QB Destination

A year ago, signal-callers were fleeing the Huskies for opportunity, but that now appears to be reversed.

It took barely six hours after the University of Washington's new offensive-minded coach stood in front of an assembled gathering and was introduced inside the Husky Stadium administrative complex for his football program to qualify as a popular quarterback destination.

At this time a year ago, if you recall, Husky signal-callers couldn't turn in their scholarships and leave Seattle fast enough, with Ethan Garbers, Jacob Sirmon and Kevin Thomson all passing up remaining eligibility to go elsewhere.

Garbers, a freshman and now the heir apparent to become UCLA's next QB-1, didn't leave because of the competition. During this past season, the product of Newport Beach, California, stated very clearly that he exited the UW because of his desire for the more hands-on offensive guidance of coach Chip Kelly, something that wasn't readily available to him in Montlake. 

With the news of the pending return of Jake Haener to the Huskies — and when was the last time you've heard of a player transferring out of a football program and then transferring back into it? — the UW suddenly will have an embarrassing riches of quarterback talent.

Haener will bring the nation's eighth-ranked passer to the UW with 3,810 yards accumulated at Fresno State, which puts him in the illustrious company of Alabama's Bryce Young, now sixth with 3,901 yards, and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud, seventh with 3,862 yards, and 32 slots above the highest-rated Pac-12 passer in Washington State's Jayden de Laura with 2,751 yards.

Consider that if Haener re-enrolls as sources close to the situation promise he will, the Huskies will have three quarterbacks who collectively started 24 games this past season and threw 43 touchdowns passes. 

The UW will be able to offer proven quarterback development and future prospects that's been sorely lacking the past four seasons when offensive coordinators Bush Hamdan and John Donovan inspired no one during their brief stays.

Think Jacob Eason doesn't want to cash in his final season of college eligibility now and expand his quarterback knowledge?

This idea of adding Haener to the roster is such an easy process it borders on ridiculous. He spent 2017 and 2018 seasons in the UW program, redshirting and drawing four game appearances. 

Can he have his old locker and No. 13 jersey number back?

Jake Haener is shown passing against North Dakota in 2018.

Jake Haener delivers a pass against North Dakota in 2018.

Since heading up Kalen DeBoer's Fresno State team this season and last, Haener has made 18 starts and completed 453 of 681 passes for 5,831 yards and 46 touchdowns with 14 interceptions.

The former 3-star recruit from Danville, California, has shown the ability to compete fiercely at the Pac-12 level by leading the Bulldogs to a 40-37 last-second victory over UCLA at the Rose Bowl and by pressing Oregon all the way to the end in Eugene in a 31-24 defeat.

Yet DeBoer's coaching presence is not all about restoring Haener to the depth chart. He also should be able to fully develop Sam Huard, the 5-star recruit, and maybe even fix the game of a damaged Dylan Morris, the one-time 4-star recruit.

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While Haener becomes a sixth-year senior next fall, Huard still will be just a freshman in class standing while Morris will enter his sophomore season.

For those of you concerned about the impact of Haener's arrival on Huard, and further delay in the left-hander taking over, who's to say the 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-hander wouldn't have gone elsewhere to guarantee his QB development had DeBoer not taken the reins. 

Sam Huard looks for a receiver against WSU.

Sam Huard looks for a receiver against Washington State.

As Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News adroitly points out, and UW beat writers will verify, this was almost a wasted season for Huard with no firm plan laid out for his game usage and steady progress.

He drew the one start in the Apple Cup against Washington State, and had that 17-of-31, 190-yard, 1-TD and 4-interception outing, solely because everyone from the remaining coaching staff, the fan base and the media corps wanted the conversation to change from a plummeting program to something curious.

His baptism didn't hurt him. DeBoer should help him. In fact, the coach was grooming true freshman Logan Fife this season to be Haener's successor at Fresno State, a situation that will be escalated by someone else now.

Dylan Morris had two critical fumbles in the Colorado loss.

Dylan Morris made his final appearance of the season against Colorado.

That leaves the 6-foot, 200-pound Morris as a reclamation project. As he launched a Pac-12-leading 12 interceptions this season and failed to win consistently, the fan base quickly wanted to move away from him.

Husky followers forget he was only a redshirt freshman this past season. How many true freshmen or redshirt freshmen quarterbacks have shown themselves able to step in and perform at an acceptable level? Maybe Jake Browning and Jake Locker. Haener, in fact, drew that one fateful under-fire, relief assignment for Browning at California as a UW redshirt freshman in 2018 and threw a game-deciding pick-six in Berkeley.

Morris holds career passing stats of 287 completion in 473 attempts for 3,355 yards and 18 TDs, with 15 interceptions. He already has 15 starts. He beat Utah and Stanford with last-second scoring passes. He has three seasons of eligibility remaining. A lot can happen between now and then. Raised on Husky football, he's the guy least likely to enter the transfer portal.

While his playing time might be limited some this next season, Morris, too, might find the new coaching staff to his liking for the long run.

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