Chris Petersen often bemoaned the Washington Huskies’ inability to gain big chunks of yardage via their passing game last season. With a true freshman at quarterback and several first-year starters on the offensive line, that problem wasn’t all that surprising.
Part of the problem was that Jake Browning, UW’s now-sophomore quarterback, didn’t always connect with open receivers on deeper throws. And UW’s receivers didn’t always make a play on the ball when Browning gave them a chance.
“The deep ball is not just the quarterback,” Petersen said. “It starts with him — it starts with the timing (of when) he throws it, getting it up early; it starts with him putting the proper air on the ball. It ends with him giving the receiver a shot to make a play on the ball. And once he does those things, the receiver’s got to go make a play.”
Still, Browning knew his deep throws weren’t good enough. So he sat down with Huskies offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith during the offseason and studied film of some of his deep throws. They found what Smith described as “inconsistencies in his posture,” and established a series of teaching points for Browning to refine this spring.
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Such as, Browning said, “keeping a consistent drop, keeping a good base, staying low, being consistent and just giving the receiver a little more time to work.”
Smith emphasized the latter.
“We aren’t going to complete every one,” he said, “but he’s got to give them chances.”
And through the first half of UW’s spring practice schedule, Smith said, “so far, so good.”
It helps that fourth-year junior receiver John Ross III is healthy again. Ross has displayed his elite speed on several deep routes so far, running past UW’s experienced defensive backs for a handful of long catches and touchdowns.
“John Ross obviously helps a lot with the deep ball,” Browning said. “But it also opens up Dante (Pettis). We’ve had a couple deep balls that have been good.”
On Monday, Browning connected with Ross up the left sideline, dropping it between coverage from a cornerback and a safety. Browning also found redshirt freshman receiver Andre Baccellia for a 30-yard touchdown during an 11-on-11 two-minute drill near the end of practice.
Browning threw one interception on Monday, a pass snagged by cornerback Kevin King during a 7-on-7 period.
“For being practice (No. 9), I feel pretty good about it,” Browning said of UW’s passing game. “I thought we could have had a better practice today. We just have to go produce. We can’t think like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be this or it’s going to be that, because we’re all returning.’ You have to get better every day, or else you’re just potential and it doesn’t matter.”
Third-year sophomore right tackle Kaleb McGary, who injured his left knee early in UW’s Friday practice, did not participate on Monday and had a soft wrap on his knee. … Fourth-year junior safety Trevor Walker also sat out practice with an undisclosed injury. … There was positive health news for the Huskies, too: Sophomore left tackle Trey Adams returned to practice after being limited in the last few, and left guard Michael Kneip also returned from an undisclosed ailment.