Analysis: Assessing Jaden Rashada and UW’s future options at quarterback
Jan. 26, 2023 Updated Thu., Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:44 p.m.
SEATTLE – You know what they say: If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.
And if you only have two, you don’t have enough.
Such is the predicament hoisted upon the Huskies, after four-star commit Lincoln Kienholz flipped to Ohio State in December and redshirt sophomore Sam Huard entered the transfer portal earlier this month. That leaves Washington with two scholarship signal callers – sixth-year senior Michael Penix Jr. and fifth-year junior Dylan Morris.
Granted, Penix enters his final season as a Heisman Trophy favorite – with a program record for passing yards stashed in his pocket and a Pac-12 title square in his sights.
But what of 2024? What of the future? What of the program and position Penix leaves behind?
In the plainest language possible, UW must add a QB this offseason, whether via the transfer portal … or a plunge into its past.
This time last year, Jaden Rashada – a five-star recruit from Pittsburg (California) High – took an unofficial visit to Washington for the program’s junior day. The 6-foot-4, 175-pounder later told 247Sports: “They want to win national titles, not just Pac-12 titles. The Pac-12 title is something you have to win to have a chance to win a national title, but the conference title isn’t the end of it. They also don’t want you to develop just as a player, but they want you to grow up and develop as a person, too. It’s the whole package with them.”
In the months that followed, other programs offered more compelling packages. Rashada initially committed to Miami, before flipping to Florida in November. The Orlando Sentinel, ESPN and The Athletic all reported that Rashada agreed to a four-year, $13 million name, image and likeness deal with the Gator Collective, a donor-funded group technically unaffiliated with the University of Florida. But when the deal’s funding fell through, Rashada was released from his National Letter of Intent, allowing him to abruptly restart his recruitment.
So, suddenly, a highly touted West Coast quarterback with Washington ties and four years of eligibility is available. 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman told The Seattle Times on Tuesday that “UW absolutely wants to pursue him, because, A, he’s a talent, B, he was the top quarterback on their board a year ago at this time – ahead of Lincoln Kienholz, ahead of (four-star Tacoma QB and Missouri signee Gabarri Johnson), and, C, they absolutely need young arms in that locker room. They’re going into spring with two scholarship quarterbacks. And as great as Penix was in 2022, there still is the reality that he has only finished one season in five years (due to injuries). So just from a depth standpoint, you need another arm.”
But it won’t be easy.
ESPN and 247Sports have both listed UW, Arizona State, Colorado, Cal and TCU as possible options for Rashada. He took an unofficial visit to ASU – where his father, Harlen, played – last weekend and is set to visit TCU this week.
“I think (Rashada’s commitment timeline) is very fluid,” Huffman said. “I don’t think it’s going to be rushed. If he goes to a quarter school, he’s got two months to make a decision (to enroll for spring practice). If he goes to a semester school he’s got five months to make a decision (to enroll in the summer).
“Whether he visits Washington remains to be seen. I don’t think it’s on the immediate docket right now. But he only has until the end of the weekend to come up; otherwise he’ll have to wait until March (due to a recruiting dead period). He’s been to Washington a couple times, so there’s enough familiarity.”
UW clearly covets Rashada’s skill set, considering he’s ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 6 quarterback in the 2023 class by 247Sports. It’s unclear, however, whether the Huskies – or their unaffiliated collective, Montlake Futures – are willing to provide an NIL package comparable to their competitors.
While none of Rashada’s existing suitors will likely approach the $13 million deal that reportedly dissolved at Florida, Blake Lawrence (CEO of NIL marketplace Opendorse) told The Times in November, “When it comes to the premier quarterbacks – five-stars or All-Americans – you’re looking at high six figures, low seven figures in annual NIL compensation at Power Five schools.”
It’s apparent that UW has cultivated compelling NIL resources – given that NFL draft candidates Penix, Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Bralen Trice, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Troy Fautanu and Tuli Letuligasenoa each opted to return in 2023. But are those opportunities also being extended to high school recruits?
Kienholz told local television affiliate Midco Sports last month that “Washington had better NIL than Ohio State. I think I can go to Washington and get money, or I can go to Ohio State and get developed, and then potentially reach my goal of going to the NFL.”
Take that for what it’s worth – a clipped sound bite from a high school recruit with precious little context.
But if UW really wants Rashada, it may have to show how much.
Regardless, the Huskies must add a quarterback this offseason – and it also doesn’t end there. Despite owning a commitment from three-star 2024 Garfield (Seattle) High quarterback EJ Caminong, UW also hosted four-star 2024 Folsom (California) QB Austin Mack last weekend. In the days since, Huffman and others have predicted Mack will end up on Montlake.
The 6-6, 210-pounder – who hails from Jake Browning’s alma mater – is ranked as the No. 7 quarterback and the No. 53 overall recruit in the 2024 class by 247Sports.
It’s easy to see why.
“He can make all the throws – short, intermediate, deep throws,” Huffman said. “He can change arm angles. Really, the only thing he’s lacking is a lot of (playing time). Folsom is a wait-your-turn program. He started one game as a sophomore when the starter hurt his collarbone and was back playing JV football most of the year. This was his first year as a starter and he had a big season. He lit up the scoreboard against good opponents.
“He fits in really well in that he can make all the throws on the route tree, and I think he’s a guy that’s going to continue to get better. He’s one of those rare 16-year-old quarterbacks that’s a junior in high school.”
In 14 games last fall, the pro-style passer completed 70.4% of his throws for 3,498 yards with 42 touchdowns and five interceptions. His upside is obvious. But is it worth unsettling Caminong – a local commit and possible catalyst in another critical in-state cycle – by taking a second quarterback in the 2024 class?
“The inherent risk is that you can only have one starting quarterback, and the last time Washington did that where they brought in two quarterbacks in the same class they both went into the portal,” Huffman said, referring to Jacob Sirmon and Coeur d’Alene’s Colson Yankoff in 2018. “It’s not as common in this day and age, where quarterbacks want to play, and they want to play now.
“This year, UCLA signed two quarterbacks – Dante Moore, who’s probably an early playing time guy, and Luke Duncan, who probably understands he’s more of a developmental guy. So if you can get one of the quarterbacks to understand you might be more of a long-term play rather than an immediate play, then it’s great.”
Regardless of the method of recruitment, UW needs numbers – and two quarterbacks isn’t nearly enough.
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