He is the one quarterback on the Washington roster who didn’t come in with a can’t-miss recruiting profile.
He doesn’t have Jacob Eason’s all-world arm strength. Doesn’t possess Jacob Sirmon’s impressive stature. Doesn’t have Colson Yankoff’s quick-twitch mobility.
What Jake Haener does have are the type of quarterback qualities that are not always apparent at first blush — qualities that coaches and teammates have quickly embraced, and qualities that have all but assured Haener the job as Jake Browning’s backup going into the Sept. 1 season opener against Auburn.
“It’s just so tried and true: You can’t fake having an edge. You just can’t,” said Bush Hamdan, UW’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“And that’s one guy, every day he shows up here he sees all these big, beautiful 6-4 guys around him who can do this and do that — when really, they haven’t done anything yet — and he sits there and says, ‘OK, bring it on.’ I think that shows in how he plays the game and how throws the ball and in the decisions he makes and how into it he is.”
Haener, a redshirt freshman, has been one of the Huskies’ most pleasant surprises of the spring, and that continued Saturday during the spring preview inside Husky Stadium. His first throw during a team competition period was a well-placed 25-yard strike to Jordan Chin near the left pylon for a touchdown.
Later, during the live scrimmage portion of the practice, Haener had one of the highlights of the day when he hit walk-on receiver Max Richmond perfectly in stride on a crossing route, and Richmond raced free for an 83-yard touchdown against the No. 2 defense.
Haener finished the scrimmage completing 9-of-15 passes for 139 yards and the one touchdown.
Coming into the spring, much of the excitement and curiosity centered on the three new quarterbacks on the roster: the 6-foot-6 Eason, a Georgia transfer and former five-star recruit from Lake Stevens; Sirmon, the 6-foot-5 top-100 recruit from Bothell; and Yankoff, a 6-4 dual-threat top-100 recruit from Coeur d’Alene.
Haener was a three-star recruit out from Danville, Calif. He is listed, perhaps a bit generously, at 6-feet tall and 196 pounds. Standing on the sideline next to those “big, beautiful” quarterbacks, Haener could easily be mistaken for a walk-on kicker.
But he has kindred spirits in two of his coaches, Hamdan and Chris Petersen, who themselves were a bit undersized as college quarterbacks. Petersen said Haener has had a “tremendous” spring, and Browning has been impressed, too.
“He’s done some really good things,” the senior QB said. “With all the young guys, there’s always going to be couple plays here and there (where things don’t go well). But he’s shown some flashes where he can do some special things.”