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Sports >  NCAA football

UW Huskies land Indiana transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 14, 2021

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) looks to pass against Penn State during their NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 02, 2021.  (Associated Press)
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) looks to pass against Penn State during their NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 02, 2021. (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

At the quarterback position, help is coming from the Hoosier State.

Michael Penix Jr. – a redshirt junior from the University of Indiana – will transfer to Washington, he announced via an Instagram post on Tuesday. He has two seasons of remaining eligibility.

In four seasons and 20 career games at Indiana, Penix Jr. – a 6-foot-3, 218-pound lefty from Tampa, Fla. – completed 59.4% of his passes, throwing for 4,197 yards with 35 total touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He has a tangible connection to the new-look UW coaching staff, excelling in Husky head coach Kalen DeBoer’s lone season as the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2019.

Under DeBoer’s watch, Penix Jr. completed 68.8% of his passes – a program record – and threw for 1,394 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, before a right sternoclavicular joint injury ended his season after just six games.

Therein lies the inherent risk associated with Penix Jr.’s addition. Though undeniably talented, the former three-star recruit from Tampa Bay Tech High School has never lasted more than six games in a season. Besides the aforementioned sternoclavicular joint (connecting the clavicle to the sternum) injury in 2019, Penix Jr. suffered season-ending ACL tears in 2018 and 2020 and an AC joint shoulder injury that cut his campaign short in 2021.

When he plays, the results have been impressive for the two-time team captain and 2020 second-team All-Big Ten performer.

But will he be healthy enough to play, and produce, for the Huskies this fall?

And will he beat out redshirt sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard for the starting job at all?

It seems to be an acceptable risk for DeBoer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Grubb, especially considering UW’s existing situation under center. The Huskies have just two scholarship quarterbacks – Morris and Huard – on the current roster, and three-star 2022 recruit Jackson Stratton exited UW’s class last week as well. Former UW quarterback Jake Haener – who excelled under DeBoer and Grubb in 2019 and 2020 – also entered the transfer portal last month, before ultimately opting to return to Fresno State.

In 11 starts last fall, Morris completed 60.6% of his passes and threw for 2,458 yards with 17 total touchdowns and a conference-worst 12 interceptions. Huard – a former five-star recruit and the most prolific prep passer in the history of the state – played in four games and lost his only start against Washington State, completing 22 of 42 passes (52.4%) for 241 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.

When DeBoer arrived last month, there was talent under center.

But not nearly enough.

“Attacking and explosive is what I’d like to really think we’re going to be on both sides of the ball, but in particular offense. Just fun to watch,” DeBoer said in his introductory press conference on Nov. 30. “But it’s utilizing personnel. It’s having an offense that has the ability to adjust to who we have and what our strengths are.

“Of course we’ll always be quarterback-driven. I think for any offense, that’s important. As far as the quarterback can take you, that’s really a big piece of what you’re going to be.”

It’s unclear just how far Penix, or Huard, or Morris, can take the gradually transforming Huskies in 2022. A returning receiving corps that features Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Taj Davis, Giles Jackson and Jabez Tinae, plus incoming freshmen Germie Bernard and Denzel Boston, should certainly help.

Given the precarious lack of scholarship passers in Seattle, DeBoer may not be done attempting to solidify his most important position.

But less than 24 hours before early national signing day, Penix Jr.’s addition serves as necessary offseason splash.

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