Jake Browning is back in his element, albeit guardedly cautious.
The Washington Huskies quarterback by way of Folsom High School was limited in spring drills last month as he continued to heal from surgery in January on his right throwing arm, something that ailed him down the stretch last season, including the College Football Playoff championship loss to Alabama.
As a sophomore last season, Browning passed for 3,430 to earn Pacific-12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors and finish sixth in the Heisman Trophy race. His 43 touchdown passes tied the Pac-12 single-season record set by Jared Goff of Cal in 2015.
Browning suffered the shoulder injury during a 44-18 win over Arizona State on Nov. 19, though he kept it mostly quiet, even to teammates. He labored a bit through the final three games while leading Washington to its first conference crown in 16 years.
Browning told Huskies media that he is “pain free” and is “back in the full swing of things.”
He added: “I was supposed to be just barely throwing at the beginning of spring ball and by the end be going full go, which is what I am. It feels good, feels exactly how it’s supposed to, and it’s going exactly how it’s supposed to.”
Browning, 20, said he needs to regain arm strength, and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback wants to get stronger overall. Losing 24-7 to Alabama was a reminder of that, as the Crimson Tide at times physically overwhelmed the Huskies. Browning took blame for the loss, though his teammates and coaches said it was a team loss.
“I didn’t think there’s anything scheme-wise or mentally that (Alabama) had on top of me,” Browning said. “I just thought, I got out there and they were bigger, stronger, faster than me personally, so that’s something I want to work on.”
Big Ben move – After just one semester at American River College, offensive lineman Ben Davis is on the move, signing a scholarship package with Minnesota of the Big Ten Conference.
He is the younger brother of former Bee Baseball Player of the Year J.D. Davis, now at Double-A Corpus Christi in the Houston Astros organization.
Ben Davis was a late bloomer, emerging as a dominant player last fall in the Beavers’ march to the state championship game.
“Ben is special,” ARC line coach Josh Crabtree said. “His hunger, commitment, I couldn’t have asked for a better kid. He has enough chips on his shoulder to fill 20 shoulder pads.”
Robards returns – Ryan Robards, The Bee 2015 Player of the Year while at Elk Grove, said he is leaving Pacific, where he played as a freshman outfielder, to return to football.
His likely destination is ARC, which has fielded scores of Elk Grove players. As a running back in 2015, Robards rushed for 2,884 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also played in the secondary, kicked and punted. Robards said he missed football and is ready to start “putting on a show once again.”
Robards’ father, Steve, has run spring football practice during Elk Grove High as the school continues to search for a coach after Chris Nixon stepped down.
At Pleasant Grove last season, Steve Robards coached on an interim basis when coach Jason Rossow stepped aside. Robards isn’t interested in the job full time, though he has quite a résumé. He won multiple Northern Section championships in the mid-1990s at Delta High.
A new name has emerged on the Herd coaching front: Ed Lombardi, who led Elk Grove to championships in the 1980s and ’90s, including back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division I titles in 1997 and ’98.
He was last a head coach in 2009 at Sheldon, where he remains a substitute teacher.
Toles on the move – Eric Toles of Cosumnes Oaks High and Sierra College has signed with Cal Poly to play basketball. The 6-4 guard averaged 15.2 points for Sierra last season.