On Monday, Ryan Grubb was asked if Michael Penix Jr.’s runaway success made Washington a prime destination for quarterback rookies.
“I sure hope so,” laughed the freshman UW offensive coordinator. “I hope so. Because it is.”
Maybe Grubb knew more than he was willing to say.
Two days later, EJ Caminong — a 6-foot-2, 195-pound quarterback at Garfield High School — announced a verbal commitment to his hometown Huskies on his birthday. Its distance to the destination is shorter than most.
Caminong is ranked as a three-star freshman, the No. 9 prospect in the state and the No. 33 quarterback in the Class of 2024 by 247Sports. Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor for 247Sports, said Caminong “checks all the boxes for what they’re looking for – a big, well-armed quarterback who continues to progress as a player.”
“The coaches and the system are tied for what got me,” Caminong told 247Sports Wednesday. “They made me feel welcome from the day they proposed to me.”
Although UW was Caminong’s first bid in May, Pac-12 competitors Washington State, Oregon State and Colorado soon followed. The high schooler – who plans to enroll in early winter 2024 – made an unofficial visit to UW earlier this month after attending several games at Husky Stadium throughout his childhood.
He’s a quarterback making seismic progress.
“His second year was just OK, and that’s generous,” Huffman told The Times on Wednesday. “He had some good practices, but it’s not like he had a sophomore tape that had the coaches drooling over him. But he started to find his groove in the spring and that translated into his freshman year. I always said he had all the physical tools, all the physical traits. What he really needed to work on and improve was his decision making – his willingness to track his progress and readings, to stop trying to use his arm and force him into windows. which did not exist. I went to two of his games as a sophomore and he threw some grueling interceptions early in the game right after bad calls.
“Now you see in his first year his willingness to follow his progress and his readings. He made a few throws in the Lumen Field game (a 48-7 win over Seattle Prep) that were the kind of throws you see at that stadium on a Sunday – back shoulder throws from the back of the area goals. He just looked so much cleaner. Mechanically it looked better. As he continues to progress, I just see him continue to progress. But making that decision early – it’s a school in his backyard – I think Washington is engaging very early.
Caminong is UW’s third verbal commitment in the Class of 2024, joining three-star athlete Landon Bell and Jaxson Jones. The Huskies — who missed another Home State quarterback in 2023 standout Tacoma Lincoln (and Mizzou hires) Gabarri Johnson — also have a commitment from 2023 Pierre, SD, dual-threat passer Lincoln Kienholz.
In his first eight games this fall, Penix — a redshirt junior and transfer from Indiana — leads the nation with 2,934 passing yards on 67.8% passing, while adding 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions in of Washington’s 6-2 start.
UW has secured commitments from a range of local callers in recent classes – Jacob Sirmon of Bothell (2018), Dylan Morris of Graham-Kapowsin (2019), Sam Huard of Kennedy Catholic (2021), and more. – with only sporadic success. The Huskies (whose only other stock quarterbacks are Morris and Huard) also offered six out-of-state quarterbacks in the 2024 class.
Of course, getting an early quarterback commitment to the state is extremely important, given that there are six four-star recruits at Washington State in the Class of 2024.
But UW’s interest in Caminong transcends its proximity to Husky Stadium.
“It was their guy, their rookie, their quarterback that they targeted,” Huffman said. “When you take on a program, do these guys fit our program? Do these guys fit in our locker room, our quarterback room? From this point of view, it is not just a child that they have taken locally. He’s a kid who they think ticks all the boxes. They had other offers at 2024 QB outside the area. But EJ was the first 2024 (QB) they got into.
“It’s not been a great year of depth at quarterback in the West. He’s got some good high-end talent, with (five-star Ohio State pledge Dylan Raiola) and (five-star Carlsbad, Calif. QB Julian Sayin). But in my opinion, (Caminong) is the only Power Five quarterback in the Pacific Northwest. When you have a Power Five level quarterback in your backyard, that’s an added bonus. It gives him time to be a Pied Piper, to recruit. There’s a level of comfort with him, where he’s been on campus. He spent time at school. They don’t have to play the long waiting game that we see with quarterbacks these days.
“So to get an early quarterback commitment and get it from a local kid, that means they have their quarterback on board and they can bring in the rest of their guys. It’s a commitment that will stand.