The unquestioned leader of the team is more at ease speaking up and also has become more diligent about his diet and workouts as the Huskies begin fall camp.
There isn’t much to nitpick when reflecting on Jake Browning’s 2016 season. Not when he broke seven Washington passing records, finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and led the Huskies to their first outright conference championship in 25 years.
But Browning has heard some of the critics this offseason who point to his underwhelming performances in UW’s two losses last season, to USC and Alabama. They were the only blemishes in an otherwise charmed season for Browning and the Huskies.
“I hear all the ‘big game’ stuff,” Browning said. “But, first of all, what do you qualify as a big game? Because, for me personally, Wazzu was a pretty big game. Stanford was a big game. Pretty much every game is a big game. So if you want to make a story out of something, it’s always there. I’m not spending much time thinking about it.
“I’m thinking play by play, how can I get better?”
Against USC, Browning had his lowest-rated game of the regular season (105.7), throwing one touchdown and two interceptions in the 26-13 loss at Husky Stadium.
In the national semifinal against Alabama, he had a quarterback rating of 83.9 — by far his lowest of the season — against what coach Chris Petersen has said is the best college defense he’s ever seen. Alabama’s defensive front had its way with UW’s offensive line, and Browning played that game with a busted throwing shoulder that would require surgery a couple of weeks later.
“A lot of those games, especially when you’re playing good teams like that, you’ve got three to five plays that change the whole game,” Browning said. “If you convert those, well, then (the criticism) is something else. There’s always something you’re not doing right. That’s just what happens when you’re the guy in the spotlight.”
By all accounts, Browning has grown more comfortable in that spotlight. As one of two player representatives from UW at Pac-12 media days last week in Hollywood, Browning sat upright at a stage and spoke with confidence. During interviews in the past, he often sat with his shoulders slumped and mumbled through hesitant answers, fearing he might say something he shouldn’t.
He’s more comfortable speaking up in the locker room now, too. Entering his third year as the…