Washington Football: Sirmon a clear favorite in Huskies’ QB battle

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 07: Jacob Sirmon #11 of the Washington Huskies warms up before the game against the California Golden Bears the at Husky Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 07: Jacob Sirmon #11 of the Washington Huskies warms up before the game against the California Golden Bears the at Husky Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

In the first offseason of Jimmy Lake’s tenure with Washington football, he has a fortuitous quarterback battle on his hands.

Jacob Eason’s departure for the NFL Draft leaves an opening under center for Washington football with three potential starters entering the spring (or whenever football actually begins this year). And for Lake, who has been tasked with one tall order after another since Chris Petersen stepped down, this decision isn’t as clear as some might think.

Redshirt sophomore Jacob Sirmon, redshirt freshman Dylan Morris, and true freshman Ethan Garbers are all expected to compete for the spot. The amount of meaningful collegiate game experience between them? Zero. But that doesn’t mean that the competition won’t be just as heated as last year.

Some pundits threw around the idea of the Huskies adding a grad transfer at QB, but that seems a bit unwieldy and unnecessary considering the talent among these three. Why throw off the development of Sirmon and Morris further for the sake of an upgrade that is probably pretty minimal in nature? It seems that Lake has plenty to work with as of right now.

All three are highly-touted — give props to UW’s massive improvements in recruiting and development recently, especially under Lake.

There’s plenty of reward for whoever wins, too. A receiving corps that’s almost impossibly deep including seniors Ty Jones and Jordan Chin, junior Terrell Bynum, redshirt sophomores Marquis Spiker and Austin Osborne, sophomore Puka Nacua and true freshmen Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Sawyer Racanelli. Even with an offensive line without many holdovers, the amount of offensive weapons to choose from is dizzying.

But that doesn’t mean whoever gets the job isn’t going to have it easy. It’s a formative year for the Dawgs, and the starter will have to adjust to a new head coach in Lake, a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in John Donovan, and a whole new offensive system.

In wake of all those changes, it makes sense to set the tone for this year with the player who’s been around the longest. Petersen himself said that Sirmon “was right there” in last fall’s QB competition.

It’s doubtful he’ll strike out twice.

1. Jacob Sirmon

Sirmon’s time under Petersen has hardly been what he envisioned when he signed his letter of intent.

Originally, there was a clear succession plan in place: Sirmon was supposed to come in, sit out for a year behind Jake Browning, and then take the mantle. However, as we all are aware by now, Eason’s transfer altered that trajectory and left Sirmon’s career (along with that of Colson Yankoff’s) in limbo. Like Yankoff, he entered his name into the transfer portal, but decided to withdraw and stay with the Huskies.

It would seem the reason Sirmon stayed in Seattle is finally here. He’s been putting in time as the backup behind Eason and Browning for two years now, and it feels like his time is due given the amount of hype surrounding him in high school.

As a senior, Sirmon was rated as the nation’s No. 6 pro-style passer and 94th overall recruit by the 247 Sports Composite, as well as Washington state’s top overall recruit. He was a massive recruiting win that’s been a part of the program’s long-term plan for a while, and the Huskies are lucky that Eason’s appearance didn’t push him to leave.

He doesn’t necessarily have the cannon that Eason does, but it’s not too far off. He clearly has the strongest arm in the quarterback room by far as of right now, and his mechanics are unmatched.

He’s a top-notch talent in the same vein as Eason, with similar prototypical size (6’5”, 234 lbs) and a controlled and assertive presence in the pocket.

In high school, his arm strength was belied a bit by a lack of touch, but to be fair, the assessments that he had absolutely no touch were overblown. And if two years in the program as a backup didn’t fix that, nothing will.

Sirmon is also the only one out of the three who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level. He was 2 for 3 for 19 yards total, playing in five games last season. That sample size is infinitesimal, but it points to Petersen’s willingness to keep getting him game snaps.

Barring something unforeseen, Sirmon will be the one getting the first-team nod when training camp begins. The job is his to lose, and after waiting for so long for the opportunity, he’s likely loath to relinquish it.

If the vet does what’s expected of him, we’ll get a maximum of three years of him starting for some of the deepest Husky teams in recent memory. It’s as simple as that.

2. Dylan Morris

Speaking of sitting and waiting, Morris has done some of that himself as well. In his redshirt season last fall, his teammates voted him as the Offensive Scout Squad MVP last season, an honor that Eason himself won the previous year.

The redshirt freshman is smaller and more mobile than Sirmon, and scouts touted his decision making on the fly (although Sirmon’s ability to make plays outside of the pocket is tremendous as well). Petersen similarly praised his ability to “operate in a way most freshmen can’t with the reps he got” last year. As a leader and as a spirited competitor, Morris is hard to beat.

“Dylan was never really this big guy,” 247Sports national editor Brandon Huffman said when he signed with UW originally. “Didn’t have the physical tools Eason did, but really from a quarterback makeup standpoint had what you want. He was able to process things. He was able to read defenses.”

Either way, it would take a considerable jump in his second year for Morris to overtake Sirmon’s physicality. But he would raise the level of competition and brings a dynamic to the quarterback room that complements everyone’s game. There’s no doubting that.

3. Ethan Garbers

Garbers is the biggest unknown here. His upside is intriguing, and based on his high school career, he’s just as much of a threat to take Sirmon’s spot as Morris.

During his senior year, Garbers led Corona Del Mar High School to a perfect 16-0 record and a California state title with a 69.6% completion rate to go with 5,035 yards, 71 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for 573 yards and 12 touchdowns as well.

In fact, Garbers is one of only two prep quarterbacks to throw for more than 70 touchdowns in a season in California high school football history. The other? Jake Browning, who won the job as a true freshman.

“He didn’t flinch when Chris resigned. He didn’t flinch when Sam Huard committed,” Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth said of him. “I’m a big fan, and I think he’ll have a chance if Jacob [Eason] leaves to play as a true freshman there. He’s going to be the best passer in the meeting room.”

Garbers has had plenty of time to become familiar with the offense too, reportedly having a copy of the playbook since December. Whether Garbers is able to unseat his more experienced teammates will be a testament to his unflappability and level of immediate contribution.

If he does end up becoming the third-stringer, a redshirt foreshadows a pretty bright future in Seattle after Morris and Sirmon are gone.

Morris is a galvanizing leader and locker room guy and Garbers has immense upside, but their timelines are different from Sirmon’s — not to mention that Lake may be more hesitant than Petersen was to start someone with less experience. Donovan’s handling of the offense will also play a role, but hopefully not too big of one.

In short, even though it’ll likely be just as close as last year, Sirmon’s the man for the job. He took his name out of the transfer portal for this very reason, and his obvious talent stacked with more time put in than the other two combined will make him the presumptive starter until someone else proves he isn’t.