Washington has named redshirt junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. starting quarterback for the opener against Kent State on Sept. 3. Penix transferred from Indiana after four years with the program and has up to two years of eligibility remaining.
Penix completed 59.4% of his passes for 4,197 yards passing, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions during a strong but injury-riddled career for the Hoosiers. He notably led Indiana to a 6-2 record and No. 12 finish in the postseason AP Top 25 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
However, Penix has also dealt with injuries over his career. He played just five games after suffering a shoulder injury in 2021, and also had season-ending injuries in both 2020 and 2019.
Penix emerged from a crowded quarterback competition against sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard. Both returners were blue-chip recruits, but Penix's experience and familiarity with coach Kalen DeBoer's system gave him a leg up in the competition. Morris completed 60.6% of passes for 2,458 yards passing as the starter in 2021, but threw 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions during a miserable 4-8 season.
Here are key takeaways from DeBoer's decision to name Penix the starting quarterback.
A perfect fresh start
Penix became a national name during his stellar 2020 season, but Indiana's successful run quickly crumbled after a 2-10 campaign in 2021. When DeBoer got the job at Washington after a successful stint at Fresno State, Penix was an obvious fit to help right the ship.
"Systematically, he understands what we do," DeBoer said of Penix. "That was an easy transition for him during spring ball. You see him being able to coach guys up and being a little more confident in that."
DeBoer was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Indiana in 2019, when Penix had perhaps his best season as a passer. Penix completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,394 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and 8.7 yards per pass attempt in six games, far better than Penix's career efficiency numbers. Making the decision even easier, Penix's other OC -- Nick Sheridan -- joined the Huskies as an offensive assistant.
Familiarity and fit is a massive advantage for any quarterback. Mixing Penix, Sheridan and DeBoer should quickly deliver results.
Fixing the offense
Former coach Jimmy Lake hired ex-James Franklin assistant John Donovan to run the offense, and the results were notably poor. Despite fielding a relatively solid defense, the Huskies ranked an embarrassingly low No. 107 in scoring offense. The mark places Washington in the same category as programs like Kansas, Illinois and Rutgers offensively.
That said, there's plenty of talent to be found. Offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland and receiver Jalen McMillan earned All-Pac 12 nods. Giles Jackson is a star returner with receiver potential in a better-formed offense. Penix could be the guy to pull it all together.
DeBoer's offense at Fresno State averaged more than 33 points per game. The Bulldogs scored a combined 64 points against Oregon and UCLA, two of the Pac-12's best teams. If the offense can move forward without losing too much defensively, the upside for Washington is there.
While the upperclassman Penix will start, DeBoer should feel good about the state of his quarterback room. Penix has another year of eligibility remaining thanks to the NCAA-granted blanket year of eligibility after the Covid season, and Penix should consider returning if he can stay healthy.
However, both Morris and Huard have a solid combination of experience, pedigree and talent that should excite DeBoer if he can keep them on campus. Huard specifically was the No. 12 overall player and No. 3 quarterback in the 247Sports Composite. The only passers to rank ahead of Huard in the Top247 were Quinn Ewers and Caleb Williams.
DeBoer has quite the history of developing passers during his time in the FBS ranks -- Brogan Roback, Marcus McMaryion, Penix and Jake Haener all had their best seasons under DeBoer's watch. With any luck, DeBoer can get the best out of Huard and Morris as well when their time comes. And with Penix's injury history, it might come soon.