Jake Browning may get a chance to work some of his Friday night football magic.
A season after tossing a high school national record-tying 91 touchdown passes for Folsom, there’s a growing sense from Seattle to the greater Sacramento area that Browning has won the starting job as a freshman for the Washington Huskies, who begin the season Friday at No. 23 Boise State on ESPN.
Washington coach Chris Petersen won’t say who will start, adding secrecy to his game plan as he ventures back to familiar territory. The second-year coach from UC Davis said he won’t disclose his starter until, oh, perhaps during the national anthem, after players race onto the blue turf for warmups in an opener heavy with intrigue. This marks Petersen’s return to Boise State after he led the Broncos to record heights.
The options are many. Does Petersen go against his norm and start a true-freshman passer for the first time because nothing about Browning suggests true-freshman youth? Does he go conventionally safe with junior Jeff Lindquist, who started the Huskies’ opener last season at Hawaii, resulting in Petersen’s first victory? Then again, very little of Petersen’s coaching has been conventional, just daring, bold and fun. Or will it be redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels?
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The race was that tight in camp, with each showing promise.
“We have a really good plan,” Petersen told Seattle media. “We’re excited about it.”
And that plan is?
“Because we figured it out the last day or two, we just really don’t think it’s an advantage to us to tell you our strategy right now on that position,” Petersen said. “We’ll pretty much announce that starting quarterback (at) game time.”
Petersen joked that speculation can be a good thing. Rumors are welcomed, he said with a smile, adding the Huskies could play one, two or all three quarterbacks against Boise State.
“As much as you can do for that will help us,” Petersen said of speculation. “Our guys know what is going on and that is the important thing.”
Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor could not shed any light Monday, but added he wouldn’t be surprised if Browning emerged as the starter. He echoed what Petersen said about Browning – that he isn’t your typical true freshman. There’s nothing wide-eyed or intimidated about Browning.
After setting the national prep record with 229 career touchdown passes while going 44-2 at Folsom, Browning enrolled at Washington in January. He immediately soaked up the playbook. He was sharp in 15 spring practices and throughout summer workouts, though also human with forced passes and interceptions.
“The kid is amazing,” Taylor said. “As soon as our season was over here, Jake was prepping to win that job at Washington. He is so focused, and his preparation is unrivaled. He has that mindset that you need for that position, so even-keeled, and he just keeps getting better, the perfect mindset to thrive.”
Taylor spoke to Browning earlier in camp.
“He said they were in football mode early in the morning until late at night, and for some, it was a long day, but Jake said, ‘I love it. I love every moment of it,’” Taylor said. “He has a real passion for the game. He’s going to be great.”
Arbet wins – Darren Arbet grew up in Stockton, where he learned to play football, and he played at Sacramento State, where he got his coaching start.
On Saturday night, in his hometown, Arbet celebrated his coaching pinnacle, leading the San Jose SaberCats to a 68-47 victory over Jacksonville in ArenaBowl XXVIII at Stockton Arena, capping the best season in league history at 20-1. He was born two blocks away from where the arena would open in 2005, and he prepped at Edison High, a campus so close, “you can throw a rock at it from here ... just amazing,” Arbet said after the game.
The coach and part-owner of the team pointed to his mother, Clinso, in the stands after the game. She wept, and so did he.
“Eighty-nine years old,” Arbet said. “She’s my rock.”
Another rock was Rick “Tree” Plumtree, Arbet’s defensive-line coach at Sac State in the early 1980s. Plumtree attended Saturday’s game. Their relationship remains close, like father and son.