SEATTLE – “Is Dylan Morris still the starting quarterback?”
Junior Adams was asked that question on Monday afternoon, sitting beside acting head coach Bob Gregory in a surreal scene at Husky Stadium. Hours earlier, UW head coach Jimmy Lake was issued a one-week suspension for physically contacting linebacker Ruperake Fuavai during Saturday’s rivalry loss to Oregon. And less than 24 hours prior, offensive coordinator John Donovan was fired after just 13 games with Washington.
So they sat there, an interim offensive coordinator and an acting head coach, addressing the myriad issues facing a program in flux.
And as for the Huskies’ starting quarterback?
Adams didn’t hesitate to answer.
But it’s what he didn’t say that might make news.
“We’re going through game-planning right now and we’re going to see where we’re at with that,” Adams replied. “But Dylan … we’re going to put him in the best position that he can be in for him to be successful.”
Which doesn’t necessarily mean Morris will be UW’s starter for its final three games, or that he won’t share snaps with five-star freshman Sam Huard – who has appeared sparingly in just two games this season.
But while personnel changes are certainly possible, don’t expect UW to adopt an entirely new offense with an interim OC.
“I mean, for the most part we’re going to keep the schemes consistent, of what we’ve been doing,” Adams said. “We’re going to do what we’re good at. We’re going to try to get the guys the ball that need the football, that are going to put us in the best position to be explosive and win this football game.
“(The current offensive scheme) is what we know right now, and it’s too late in the season to go and reinvent the wheel. Right? Us going in there and trying to reinvent the wheel is not giving our players … not setting them up for success. We’re just going to go back and look at the things that we did this season that gave us success and we’re going to try to build on that.”
Unfortunately, instances of success aren’t easy to find. Through nine games, the 4-5 Huskies rank 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring (22 points per game), 10th in total offense (332.1 yards per game), 10th in yards per pass attempt (6.8), 10th in completion percentage (59.9%), 11th in rushing (115.33) and 11th in yards per carry (3.48).
The numbers are down despite touting an impressive collection of capable playmakers – including running backs Sean McGrew, Kamari Pleasant and Cameron Davis, wide receivers Terrell Bynum, Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Taj Davis, and tight end Cade Otton.
That’s why Donovan was (finally) shown the door. Not that a new play-caller should be expected to produce an instant turnaround.
“I’m going to be me, and the players know that, and we’re going to do what’s best for those guys that are on the offense and those guys that are in the locker room and for this team,” Adams said. “We’re going to try to bring some juice, like coach Gregory said.
“These guys, they’re still fired up. They’re still excited to get on the field tomorrow and start practice. We know what we’ve got ahead of us as far as Arizona State, and what they pose for us. And we’re just excited to do that. We’re just going to come out here and have some juice, create some good energy and try to create some explosive plays.”
The latter is easier said than done – and Adams understands that better than most. Prior to joining Chris Petersen’s staff as UW’s wide receivers coach in 2019, he served as the offensive coordinator under Mike Sanford Jr. at Western Kentucky for two seasons, until Sanford was fired and his staff was disbanded. In 2018, when Western Kentucky went 3-9, the Hilltoppers ranked just 104th nationally in rushing offense (136.83 yards per game), 105th in yards per carry (3.74), 107th in pass efficiency rating (118.82), 118th in scoring offense (21.1 points per game) and 124th in plays of 30 yards or more (16).
On that last point, UW has managed just 12 plays of 30 yards or more in nine games this season – sitting 111th out of 129 teams in the nation.
Adams faces a tall task at 4 p.m. on Saturday against Arizona State.
And though he relishes the opportunity, he also understands the cost.
“I don’t wish that on anybody, and it’s unfortunate that that happened,” Adams said of Donovan’s firing. “I mean, JD is a good friend of mine. I enjoyed working with JD. JD is smart. I learned a lot of good football from him. We all know that we’re in this profession and what happens if we don’t do the job and get things done, and it’s just unfortunate that he was sitting in that seat and that’s what happened. I love JD.
“I’m excited to be in this role. I am very fortunate to be in this role and I’m thankful for that. So, I’m just ready to get out on the field and practice, when I’m done here (with the press conference) get back to game-planning and see what we can do.”
Faith in Lake?
During Monday’s news conference, Gregory and Adams were asked if they still have faith that Lake is the right man for the job at UW.
“Well, I think he’s a great football coach,” Gregory said. “He’s a colleague and friend of mine. I think he’s done some really … I’ve learned a lot of football from him and I hope everything works out for the best.”
Added Adams: “I can echo that. I worked with Jimmy first in 2005 at Montana State. Jimmy’s a very smart football coach and I’ve learned a lot of good football from him. Ever since 2005 he’s always been a guy that has been a big part of my coaching circle and my coaching tree. It’s just unfortunate what took place.”
Gregory returns to familiar role
This is not Gregory’s first experience as an interim head coach.
Strangely enough, he also filled that role as Boise State’s linebackers coach in 2013, after Petersen left the Broncos to take the reins at UW. In Gregory’s only game at the helm, Boise State fell to Oregon State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, 38-23.
“Thanks for reminding me of that. That’s a positive question there,” Gregory said of that subject with a chuckle on Monday. “Well, that was a long time ago. It was a completely different team. I think this is a different team and really a different situation. I think our guys are highly competitive, playing against a really good opponent. And we’re not in Hawaii, so that helps too.”
When asked if he has sought advice from Petersen this time around, Gregory added: “I have not talked to coach Pete this week but he is always a good mentor and friend and has good advice. Probably at some point this week I’ll give him a holler.”
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