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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:02 A.M.
By Bob Condotta
The popular notion is Casey Paus was named Washington's starting quarterback in its season opener against Fresno State on Sunday largely because he is the least likely to screw things up. That he is the one QB who the coaches can trust the most at the moment, anyway to do what he is supposed to.
A coat-and-tie guy, if you will, to Isaiah Stanback's plaid jackets.
So why, then, was Paus standing 10 meters up on a high dive at Lake Washington this summer teaching himself how to execute gainers essentially, running back flips surely putting the right arm on which so much could depend this season at risk just a little?
"You can't be too conservative," Paus says with a laugh. "You have to keep your edge a little bit."
Truth be told, Paus may be the edgiest quarterback UW has had in years.
Cody Pickett, Marques Tuiasosopo and Brock Huard who have started all but one game at QB for Washington since early in the 1996 season were generally portrayed as almost wholly devoted to the game, products of well-known athletic families who grew up around the sport and studied film for fun.
But he's also an art aficionado who likes nothing better than to while away a few hours drawing with a pen.
His roommate and teammate, tight end Jon Lyon, says Paus is an "extreme sports" lover who never met a lake he didn't want to ski on or a mountain he didn't want to snowboard down.
And he's an honor student (he has a 3.33 GPA) just beginning classes in his intended major of economics, in part because he struggled to narrow down what he wanted to study.
"That's my problem," said Paus, a fourth-year junior. "I like so many different things. It's hard to pick one or the other."
A reporter told Paus earlier this week that those covering the team having spent the last three years listening to Pickett generally mouth nothing but clichés weren't used to having conversations about such topics with UW quarterbacks.
Paus laughed knowingly, before noting that "I got along with Cody just fine."
But Pickett was also the cause of Paus' greatest frustration his first three years at UW. When Paus committed to UW in the summer of 2000 before his senior year of high school Tuiasosopo was a senior and Pickett an unproven freshman, so the job would seemingly be open. But when Paus arrived in 2001, Pickett had beaten out Taylor Barton for the job and never let go.
"I think he was concerned at one point whether he'd ever get a chance," said UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Pettas of Paus. "But he stuck in there and played, unlike a lot of other QBs who come to college and don't start as a freshman."
And then Pickett finally left, and in a perfect world Paus would have ascended to the top spot without challenge. But UW coaches instead told him he had to beat out Stanback, a sophomore, and Carl Bonnell, a redshirt freshman.
"A lot of guys might have let that bother them," Pettas said. "They might have gotten frustrated and said, 'Why am I not the starter? Why do I have to compete?' But he just went out there and competed."
UW coaches had reasons for making Paus earn the job despite his impressive showing against Oregon last year his only significant game action leading the Huskies from a 10-7 halftime deficit to a 42-10 win.
Paus isn't the fleetest of foot and has a somewhat troublesome passing motion. He negates some of the advantages of being 6 feet 5 by throwing sidearm, which leads to passes getting batted down at the line of scrimmage.
UW coaches have tried to change his motion in past years, but haven't done much tinkering with it lately, thinking it would be most fair for Paus if he didn't have to worry about a new throwing style while trying to win the job.
"We understand he may get a pass or two batted," Pettas said. "But the other stuff, he does pretty well."
There is also the question of leadership, which can be hard to judge until games are played.
The Oregon win, however, would seem to indicate his teammates will rally around him.
"He's not a real loud guy," said Lyon. "He's not going to be yelling and screaming and all that kind of stuff. But when he's out there on the field, he's telling people what to do. He knows his stuff. Me, personally, I feel like the guys on offense have more confidence in him knowing the plays right now because he's been here longer."
Still, Paus' window of opportunity to grab this team could be brief. Stanback is guaranteed to play Sunday, and at some point, his athleticism and electricity could supersede Paus' experience and knowledge. And if both struggle, Bonnell is waiting in the wings.
But Paus insists the pressure of the position won't change him. That's why he was up there on the board that day, telling Lyon that the 3-meter board wasn't high enough, only the 10-meter board would do.
"I just have to relax," Paus said. "Be myself, and be the best player I can be."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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