Michael Penix Jr.: Why Washington Could Finally Have Heisman Winner Through Him

Michael Penix was once an oft-injured passer, until a transfer to Washington happened. Here's why his Heisman hype is growing.

Caleb Williams of USC will walk into the upcoming 2023 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite once again. But if there’s a legitimate threat to snatch the top individual honor in college football from the Trojans’ quarterback, it’s the dual-threat north of him: Michael Penix Jr.

The lefty also gives Washington its strongest chance of producing a Heisman winner for the first time in school history. Here’s why.

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A Healthy Michael Penix is as Good as They Get

Penix was an oft-injured thrower and runner before his transfer to UW.

At Indiana, he went down with a torn ACL in 2018. The subsequent season, he sustained a sternoclavicular injury (connecting the clavicle to the sternum) — an injury that ruined a stellar first six games. In 2020, he re-aggravated his ACL after six games. Then, in 2021, a shoulder injury limited him to five contests.

The litany of ailments would’ve pointed to medically retiring from the sport or prevented teams from accepting his transfer request. Washington, however, had a different idea once the Huskies accepted his move.

Turns out, crossing over to Seattle became the best thing for Penix. And in return, it became the best thing for the 2022 Huskies under a new regime.

Penix proved that he’s a damager of defenses with his left arm and legs — combining for 4,733 total yards and scoring 35 touchdowns, 31 of which came through the air. He additionally averaged 8.4 yards per passing play and delivered an astonishing quarterback rating of 151.3.

Even with the injury history, Penix looked nothing like a passer who feared another injury. He showed poise, confidence, and comfort facing a new set of Power 5 competition out west.

One example of the three said traits came on this head faking tuck and scramble that resulted in a touchdown pass versus Michigan State. Another clip against Stanford showcases the trust Penix has in his wideouts, as he sent a floater between two Cardinal defenders that still resulted in a 23-yard gain. And, with Cal backing off from what originally looked like a six-man pressure sequence that became four on 3rd and 2, Penix didn’t panic and instead patiently waited for the open man, resulting in a 36-yard touchdown connection.

But even before his breakout 2022 season, Penix had shown flashes of stardom before, especially with one man who now gets his official third season with the QB.

Third Season with Kalen DeBoer Points to Increased Heisman Winning Chances

One has to wonder if Indiana would’ve had its first Heisman finalist had Penix stayed healthy in 2019.

Prior to his injury, Penix showed a knack for immediately identifying the open target in less than three seconds. That included this deep one versus Michigan State. Furthermore, he delivered a still career-best 68.8% completion percentage and averaged 8.7 yards per play, another career-high to this day.

And that was only in his first season with Kalen DeBoer as his offensive coordinator.

Penix’s completion percentage did regress in 2020, but his touchdowns rose to 14 without DeBoer. Then, in 2021, his interceptions (seven) were more than his touchdowns (four) in his last injury-ending season at IU.

But for Penix to prove he’s dynamic as a QB1 when healthy, his best option was a reunion with DeBoer. That reunion led to Penix leading all Power 5 passers in passing yardage — including tallying more yards than Williams or potential 2024 NFL Draft first-rounder Drake Maye of North Carolina.

With his quick release, field vision, pocket comfort, and ability to escape rushes, Penix turned out to be the best QB option in the new UW regime. But even scarier for defenses moving forward, Penix is entering season three in DeBoer’s multiple offense look.

History is On the Side Of Penix and UW

Heisman hype is nothing new at UW. After all, Napoleon Kaufman received it in 1994. Before that, defensive lineman Steve Emtman was another recipient of Heisman hype.

Both, however, weren’t even top three finalists for the nod…with Emtman the closest at fourth in Heisman voting.

Washington football has been in existence since 1916. In season No. 107, one more healthy season from Penix presents the best chance for a Husky to claim the award.

Michael Penix Player Profile

  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 216
  • Number: 9
  • Class: 2018
  • Hometown: Tampa, FL
  • High School: Tampa Bay Tech
  • Years Active: 2018-2023
  • Previous School(s): Indiana
  • Draft Eligibility: 2024

Michael Penix Career Stats

  • Career Games Played: 33
  • Career Games Started: 30
  • Completions: 704
  • Attempts: 1,130
  • Completion Rate: 62.3%
  • Yards: 8,838
  • Touchdowns: 60
  • Interceptions: 23
  • Yards Per Game: 7.8
  • Career Attempts: 99
  • Career Rushing Yards: 257
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns: 10
  • Yards Per Carry: 2.6
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