Five quarterbacks from the Evergreen State could reasonably start in the FBS this year, and three already have clinched a spot.
Washington state quarterbacks — no, not Washington State quarterbacks — seem to have a certain reputation in the 21st century.
“Oh, he was just a five star because of inferior high school competition.”
“He only won more games than any quarterback ever because of inferior college competition. Plus he’s like, four feet tall and a dork.”
“He’s just an athlete, not a quarterback. And besides, he’s injured all the time.”
The above quotes have all been used many times to describe Jake Heaps, Kellen Moore, and Jake Locker, respectively. Maybe not totally verbatim, but close enough.
Evergreen State quarterbacks seem to fall into two categories: The highly-ranked high school recruit who doesn’t meet expectations and the guy who, once out of his program, we all decide wasn’t that good anyway. Kellen Moore is probably the exception to this because his collegiate accomplishments are so significant, yet still those are tainted by his Group of Five competition and the fact that he just doesn’t look one bit like a football player.
The former category includes guys like Jake Heaps, Jeff Lindquist, and potentially Max Browne if his grad-transfer shot at Pitt doesn’t work out. So predominant is the legacy of The Highly-Touted Washington Quarterback that as early as last October, some twerps had already anointed Jacob Eason the next five-star Evergreen bust. (Not only is that wildly unfair, it’s straight delusional.) Furthermore, that label is, in some circles, prematurely applied to 2018 and 2019 recruits Jacob Sirmon and Dylan Morris, two guys who still have at least a year of high school ball to play.
The latter category includes Jake Locker, Isaiah Stanback, and Marques Tuiasosopo. It’s much kinder but dotted by asterisks, fairly or not. Especially in the case of Locker is it epitomized as someone beloved during and after his tenure but for whom, afterwards, fans can’t admit their love for him without adding, “But…”
My hypothesis is that it sounds too pitiful to love a player for being the only source of joy on a team that’s at best mediocre and at worst literally as bad as a team can be.
Is that it? Is it just too depressing to love someone for being a folk hero?
Regardless, this might be the year Northwest quarterbacks put these two legacies behind them.
Five guys from Washington could realistically be starting in the FBS this year. (This isn’t to be confused with “Five Guys could realistically be starting in the FBS this year,” although I would absolutely watch a football game quarterbacked by a brick-and-mortar Five Guys restaurant.) These include, descending by high school class: Max Browne at Pitt, Jake Luton at Oregon State, Brett Rypien at Boise State, Ross Bowers at Cal, and of course, Jacob Eason at Georgia. Of the five, Luton, Rypien, and Eason have secured their starting spot.
Rypien has already proven he’s good. Eason has proven he’s good by true-freshman-QB-starting-in-a-Power-5 standards, and the talk of a Georgia breakout in 2017 can be actualized only if he makes the improvement from “good for a frosh” to “good.”
Luton is likely the key to Oregon State going bowling. And if I were a gambler I’d put money on the Beavs reaching a bowl. (I’ve told so many people Oregon State will go bowling this year that if they don’t, Dae Ho Lee could have a six pack before my reputation recovers.)
The two others are Ross Bowers and Max Browne — yes, that Max Browne. Ya know, the bajillion star high schooler who sat patiently for four years at USC only to have the worst timing ever because then Sam Darnold: Blonde Football Jesus showed up? Well, now he’s at Pitt. Browne’s currently their tentative QB1. Emphasis on tentative.
Bowers is part of a two-man (well, maybe three-man) starters’ battle over at Cal. Ironically, what plays to his advantage is that Cal’s offensive line is, in layman’s terms, a flailing trash heap. This, of course, is only an advantage for the more mobile Bowers during the fall quarterback competition but the moment Cal has to play an actual game… no amount of shiftiness makes playing behind an inexperienced line fun.
The 2017 season could go like this: Brett Rypien tells Wyoming, Colorado State, and SDSU to shove it and returns Boise State back to the status of Unquestionable Badasses of the Non-Power Fives. Jacob Eason’s offensive line gives him more than -0.3 seconds per drop back and he uses that to finally fulfill the “Georgia will win the East!” crowd’s dreams. Jake Luton shows us that Oregon State isn’t forever destined to suck. Max Browne improves his mobility and vision, proving his departure at USC wasn’t due to his inabilities but rather a string of miraculously poor timing. And Ross Bowers… Well, whoever quarterbacks Cal this year is gonna have a rough time.
If that happens, maybe, just maybe, Upper Left QBs will have finally put their shaky reputation to rest once and for all.
And if that doesn’t, and none of them make the PNW look good, well… we’ll always have Sefo Liufau.
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