It’s been a while since we have been able to talk about Washington Huskies football. With the exception of Austin Seferian-Jenkins being in the news far too much, we have had to sit in silence, waiting for the new season to start.
And it starts with a bang, as the Huskies face a now-familiar foe in the Boise State Broncos, whom the Dawgs fell to in the Las Vegas Bowl to end last season.
This year, the Huskies are poised for a breakout season. After coming oh so close to beating Boise State last season, they get to start their season with a shot at redemption, and quite possibly a shot at a national ranking.
After hosting the Broncos (Aug. 31): @ Illinois (Sept. 14), vs. Idaho State (Sept. 21), Vs. Arizona (Sept. 28), @ Stanford (Oct. 5), vs. Oregon (Oct. 12), @ Arizona State (Oct. 19), vs. California (Oct. 26), vs. Colorado (Nov. 9), @ UCLA (Nov. 15), @ Oregon State (Nov. 23), vs. Washington State (Nov. 29).
Let’s break down the team.
Games of Note
Every game this season is a must win. It is every season, I realize that, but this year carries so much more weight. From top to bottom, the Boise State game has to stand out first. In my mind, Arizona is the next BIG game. They have torched the Huskies in the past and have an explosive offense. Ka’Deem Carey alone could give this team nightmares.
The Stanford game jumps out next. While the Huskies squeaked it out last year, they won’t have home field advantage this year. It all depends on if Stanford is a shell of itself after losing so much talent or if they are able to be as powerful as their ranking says they are. Follow that up with the much hated Oregon Ducks (we can expect the same thing from them as every year) and you have yourself a mini gauntlet, much like last year.
UCLA has to stand out, after watch them stockpile talent, taking several talented players from other Pac-12 schools. And then the yearly trap game against Wazzu. Do I have to remind you of last year’s Apple Cup?
As the expectations build on this year’s Husky team, the expectations on coach Steve Sarkisian’s job are building as well. This is a make or break year for Sark and the Huskies must rise to the occasion, no matter the opponent. With version 2.0 of his star studded, handpicked staff with a whole year under their belt now, it’s time to see what the upperclassmen have learned from coaches like Justin Wilcox, Dan Cozetto and Tosh Lupoi.
With this being Keith Price‘s last season as a Dawg, he really needs to cement his legacy now, whatever it may be. Will he return to 2011 Price and flourish or will he fizzle out like the 2012 Price? In other words, has Price regained his confidence and trust in his teammates and coaching staff?
The depth chart behind Price is a little fuzzy. Derrick Brown, the incumbent #2, is finding himself sinking deeper down the list as he has probably been overtaken by Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist AND Troy Williams. All 3 have huge strengths that can help this team win. The weekly reports are so murky that it’s hard to find an order after #1.
Here’s mine: Miles, Lindquist, Brown, Williams.
Last year, we were prepared to see the 1-2 punch of Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey. Things changed quickly as Callier went down and Sankey took the starting role and owned it. The Huskies are probably holding on to the same starting expectations, but Sankey is now the lead dog.
While there are big names at the RB position in the Pac-12 alone, I believe Sankey can emerge as one of the best backs in the Pac-12. That is, if he doesn’t top the list.
Last year we saw Kendyl Taylor move from WR to RB to help out with depth and we also so Deontae Cooper go down 2 years in a row. With freshman Dwayne Washington and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman on deck, we might see some more young blood if anything detrimental happens.
Wide Receiver & Tight End
We all know about Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins at this point. But who is behind them and ready to help keep the ball evenly distributed? There are seniors Antavius Sims and Kevin Smith in the receiving group and Michael Hartvigson right behind ASJ. There’s Junior DiAndre Campbell. There’s sophomores Marvin Hall and Jaydon Mickens. And then the slew of Freshman and RS Freshman led by Damore’ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels.
Hartvigson, Smith and Campbell are my favorites to step up and I think that Hall and Mickens will play a bigger role this year than just return guys. I also believe that Stringfellow will make an impact early on in his Husky career at some point this season.
The offensive line has something it hasn’t had in a while…youth and depth. The oft-injured linemen have either moved on or have healed up and come back. With less holes in the line, Price and company will have an easier time administering the game plan each week.
Look for the combo of Tanigawa, Riva, Kohler and Hatchie to anchor the o-line with James Atoe, Shane Brostek, Dexter Charles and Siosifa Tufunga making their rotations to keep the line fresh.
Defensive Line & Linebackers
This is the year the Huskies solve one of their biggest problems of the recent past: pass rush. With Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson both primed to have a bigger impact this year, Evan Hudson and Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Jamora) will have to step up in order to ensure productivity on the ends.
Danny Shelton and Sione Potoa’e will anchor the middle with freshman Elijah Qualls maybe getting a little action as well.
Safety turned linebacker Shaq Thompson is the headliner in the middle of the defense. Princeton Fuimaono, John Timu and Thomas Tutogi will surround him and they will be a force in the Pac-12. With the quick and physical style they’ve developed, teams are going to be sorry when going down the middle. (Finally!)
Travis Feeney and Jamaal Kearse will get worked in quite a bit, too.
The Washington secondary is filled with talent. 5 of them are all seniors this year. Headlining the group is Sean Parker. He has All-American talent and could easily make a HUGE impact for the Huskies.
Will Shamburger, Greg Ducre, Marcus Peters, Taz Stevenson, and Tre Watson will all get steady work as well.
The team has 2 kickers and 3 punters. The kicker is almost a foregone conclusion in freshman Cameron Van Winkle. I first hand saw him kick at Mount Si and he might be one of the most powerful kickers the school has seen. Travis Coons is still around, with a K/P tag on his name as he had to take both roles after a mediocre output by Korey Durkee. He will most likely be the team’s starting punter.
This year is full of big expectations for the Huskies. Can they finally defeat Oregon? Can they beat Arizona State or Oregon State on their home turf for the first time in over a decade? There are lots of questions to be answered.
The answers start coming on Saturday against Boise State.