The last time Washington Huskies fans watched Jeff Lindquist take extended, meaningful snaps at quarterback, he was slogging through an ugly, 17-16 victory over Hawaii in the 2014 season opener.
It was the first start of his career, and it went poorly enough to convince some that it might also have been his last.
So Lindquist spent the rest of last season behind starter Cyler Miles, who took over in Week 2 and never ceded the top spot on the depth chart. But with Miles gone from the team on a voluntary leave of absence, Lindquist appears to be taking advantage of a new opportunity to prove that he can, indeed, play quarterback at the University of Washington.
And maybe even start the Huskies’ Sept. 4 season opener at Boise State. Maybe.
This spring provided hope. And it ended on a relatively positive note, with Lindquist completing 13 of 16 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns and an interception during the live scrimmage portions of Saturday’s spring finale at Husky Stadium.
It’s too early to declare Lindquist the leader of UW’s three-man quarterback competition. He hasn’t been demonstrably better than redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels or true freshman Jake Browning, both of whom seemed to progress at an encouraging rate throughout the spring.
But if there’s one player from that trio who would seemingly have an inherent advantage heading into fall camp, it should be Lindquist. He’ll be a fourth-year junior. He’s 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds with a strong arm and some discernible skill as a runner. He’s actually played in a few college football games.
And while he looked a little overwhelmed while completing only 10 of 26 passes in that Hawaii game, coach Chris Petersen sees him as a better player now.
“I think he’s better with the ball in a couple different ways,” Petersen said. “… I think his accuracy has improved. Decision-making has improved. Both those things are good to see.”
He certainly looked sharp on Saturday, showing off his arm strength on a 71-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis and later dropping a 37-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Jaydon Mickens, who made an impressive catch amid tight coverage from a pair of defensive backs in the corner of the end zone.
“Sometimes Jeff, I felt like he didn’t always have to anticipate because he could throw it a little late, but really drive it in there,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “I think he’s playing with a little more anticipation and throwing the ball with some touch.”
And on target.
“A big piece for me was just accuracy,” said Lindquist, a Mercer Island native. “I think I’ve done a lot better this spring. Obviously there’s still room to improve, there’s throws today I could have thrown a little bit better, but that was kind of my big point of emphasis. I think I’ve come a long way there.”
Aside from a little more live scrimmaging than usual — they ran about 84 total plays in 11-on-11 periods — the Huskies’ so-called “spring preview” was little more than a normal practice.
They stretched, worked through positional drills, practiced punt returns. And aside from the scrimmaging — the highlight of which was a spectacular leaping one-handed catch by tight end David Ajamu on a pass thrown by Browning — there couldn’t have been much to captivate the Pac-12 Networks audience.
Although, a kid from Eugene — yes, he was booed — beat out a few other fans in a long-pass competition between drills. He threw the ball about 46 yards, though Lindquist snuck into the contest and flicked a pass 60-plus yards with relative ease.
But then, you already knew he could do that. It’s the nuances of the quarterback position — accuracy, as he said, as well as quick decision-making and better poise — that he must refine before August.
“I’ve had some good practices, but I’ve also had some not very good practices,” Lindquist said. “Again the spring for all of us is about learning and getting better, because we’re not playing any games yet. As we move forward into the summer and fall, that’s when we’ll tighten it up. Where I am right now, I’m pretty happy.”
Petersen was noncommittal afterward when asked about the health status of junior receiver John Ross, who has mostly sat out this spring following January knee surgery. He appeared to tweak his knee while doing some light running during a practice last Friday, and it sounds as if his status for fall camp and the upcoming season might be unclear. Petersen would say only that he’ll “get back to you when the doctors look at him again. Still looking at him.” … Sophomore cornerback Darren Gardenhire intercepted his ninth pass of the spring and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. … Sophomore defensive lineman Will Dissly capped a solid spring with four tackles, three for loss and two sacks. … Browning completed 11 of 18 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions. Carta-