Sunday, August 22, 2010
Washington Huskies 2010 season preview
For the first time since the 2003 season when Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams were heading into their last season has there been this much buzz surrounding the UW football program. The main reason for this buzz is the evolution as a quarterback of Jake Locker. The other reason was the 5 win improvement of last years team while returning 18 starters.
The Huskies last year were coming off an 0-12 season and faced off with LSU the first game of the year. After UW outgained LSU and mostly outplayed LSU but ultimately lost 31-23 there was hope for the Huskies. Two weeks later the Huskies shocked the nation by beating #3 USC 16-13. Thats when Jake Lockers stock started to take off as he was terrific on that final game winning drive.
Then after that the Huskies proceeded to suffer 3 heartbreaking losses to Notre Dame on the road, UCLA on the Road and ASU on the road(Pulling off a miracle win vs Arizona at home was in the middle of that). At one point the Huskies were 3-7 then they ended the season with a 30-0 win over WSU and a 42-10 win over #19 California in which Jake Locker threw for 3 TD's and ran for 2 TD's. The season ended on a high note but there was a cloud of mystery because Locker had played so well the question was would Jake Locker go pro?
Then December 14th came and Locker gave every Husky fan a big Christmas gift by saying "I'm staying". With Locker back and 17 other starters and both kickers hopes are high at Washington. I'll go through each position on this team.
Quarterback: Sarkisian said at Pac-10 media day that having a 5th year starting quarterback gives you a good chance to win the Pac-10. There is something magical about a 5th year starting senior quarterback(Look at Stanbacks senior year vs his previous 3, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Damon Huard,etc).
Jake is unlike most 5th year seniors though. As Mel Kiper Jr(ESPN draft geru) said "It would be an upset if Locker is not taken with the #1 overall pick in the draft". Many scouts believe Locker would have been taken ahead of Sam Bradford.
The potentional with Locker is great but many fans point to his 8-20 starting QB record. His career stats are he is 435 of 815 passing(53.4%) for 5,374 yards passing with 36 TD's and 26 Int's. His rushing numbers in his career are 1,554 yards rushing with 23 TD's. Last year though Jake improved alot on his passing posting a completion percentage of 58.4% with 21 TD's and 11 int's with 7 rushing TD's as well.
Jake is a great duel threat QB he can now beat you with his strong arm and beat you with his legs. When the Huskies are in a shotgun formation every defensive coordinator is scared. Locker if he continues to progress like he has shown already he could be in the running for the Heisman. The season rides on Locker. The Huskies have the advantage of they have the best player on the field at the most important position of every game they play.
Runningback: The Huskies are pretty deep at this position despite the recent season ending loss to true freshman Deontae Cooper. The good news is the Huskies return redshirt Sophomore Chris Polk.
Polk last season became the first Husky running back to rush for over 1,000 yards as a freshman. He has a serious shot at joining Napoleon Kaufman as the only back in UW history to have 3 consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons. Last year Polk ran for 1,113 yards(4.9 YPC) with 5 rushing TD's. He also had 25 receptions last year as well.
Polk was a top recruit when he came to UW in 2008 having chose UW over USC even. Last year it appeared Chris Polk was better as the season wore on. In his first 7 games he had just one 100 yard game(vs Notre Dame he had 136 on 22 carries, 6.2 YPC). In his last 5 games he had four 100+ rushing performances and the game he didn't have 100 yards rushing he had 94 yards rushing with a TD. In the last 5 games of the year Polk ran for 576 yards(115.2 yards a game, 5.81 YPC) with 3 TD's with 12 receptions.
The Huskies have good depth at this position as well with Demitrius Bronson(averaged 4.7 YPC) who was the top running back in the state of Washington coming into 2009. Johri Fogerson is also back, he is mainly used on the screen passes as he was so effectively used early in the season. The Huskies also have talented true freshman Jesse Callier in the mix as well. The fullback position appears to be a nice battle with senior Austin Sylvester heading the group. He'll have Fogerson's younger brother Zach along with Dorson Boyce competing for snaps at the fullback position .With Polk hard running and good depth the running game especially when you factor in Jake Locker should be the strength of this team.
Wide Receiver: This could be the most established and talented group in the Pac-10 possibly even in the country. This group of receivers are probably the best group of receivers from 1-6 that UW has ever had.
Lets start at the top though with true junior Jermaine Kearse. Last year Kearse caught 50 passes for 866 yards with 8 TD's. He is a big play threat as he led the Pac-10 in YPC with a 17.3 average. Kearse emerged as the star in the last 4 games of the season having 23 receptions for 425 yards(106.3 a game, 18.5 a catch) and having scored 6 TD's.With Jake Locker being a senior if Kearse has a big season he could go to the NFL after this year. Kearse is best at the deep ball and going up and catching the ball.
The #2 receiver of this group is the super steady Devin Aguilar who missed 2 games last year but still had 42 receptions for 593 yards and 5 TD's. The 3rd receiver of the group was last years freshman phenom James Johnson who had 39 receptions for 422 yards and 3 TD's. Johnson started the season off as the #1 receiver but hit a freshman wall at the end of the year catching just 4 passes for 38 yards in his last 4 games. The Huskies hope Johnson has a more consistent year.
The 4th receiver spot is up for grabs. You have three upperclassman who were all 4 star recruits in Jordan Polk, D'Andre Goodwin and Cody Burns competing for that 4th receiver spot. In Jordan Polk you have the fastest guy on the team but for some reason can't translate that on the field for a receiver. Then you have D'Andre Goodwin who was the #1 receiver coming into last year. He had more receptions than any other Husky since Reggie Williams in 2003 with 60 receptions in 2008 for 692 yards. Last year he had a very dissapointing season with 14 receptions. Cody Burns in limited plays on trick plays has done a good job in his career completing 3 of 4 passes for a TD and having 3 reverses for 36 yards. He just can't seem to break this talented group.
The scary thing for opponents is this group minus Goodwin is all projected to be back next year so UW could possibly be the most talented group in the Pac-10 yet again next season.
Tight End: The biggest mystery of the UW offense by far. The Huskies dismissed the very talented(Athlon picked Middleton as preseason first team all Pac-10) Kavario Middleton from the team. The Huskies are a bit thin at this position and will most likely not run as many 2 tight end sets as they had hoped for.
The Huskies have a former 4 star recruit in Chris Izbicki who played in alot of games last year but only had 3 receptions for a measly 7 yards on the year. Marlion Barnett appears to be in the mix as well. The good news for Dawg fans is that with the super talented receiving core this year you don't need your TE's to be amazing this year. Izbicki had beaten out Middleton at the end of the spring drills and was the 4th fastest guy on the team back in 2008. This unit has the most question marks by far on offense.
Offensive Line: This unit returns 7 guys who started at least one game last year. This team also brought in several talented true freshman to compete with the starters. The offensive line with the elusive Jake Locker doesn't have to dominate teams like the 1990's UW lines did but they also better be able to pick up 1 yard in a goaline situation(Last years Notre Dame game was a tragedy).
This current group of offensive lineman hasn't really established themselves yet but the potentional is there. This will be the 2nd year under a new regime that stresses the weight room. This group is no longer the fat pudgy guys you saw in the Willingham era. The star of the line is Ryan Tolar who was a freshman all-american in 2007 and last season in 2009 was named honorable mention all Pac-10. The Huskies need to return to the glory days of the offensive line not since Kyle Benn in 2001 has a Husky offensive lineman been named first team all Pac-10 .Most of these guys are 2-3 year starters so the Huskies have experience up front.
Defensive Line: This is the biggest question mark on defense for the Dawgs. The team lost Daniel Teo Nesheim to the NFL. He was the constant leader and heart of the team. Now its time for other D-lineman to step it up.
Cameron Elisara the talented 4 star recruit when he got here just like that is a senior. He has started plenty of games and will play mostly Tackle and on some 3rd downs when the Huskies run a 3-4 set he'll play defensive end.
The Husky who has had the most buzz on defense this spring and early fall camp is Alameda Ta'amu. He has trimmed his weight down to 330 and appears unblockable. With his size still teams will have a hard time pushing him around and he should be that big run stuffer the Huskies need badly.
At defensive end the Huskies have plenty of young guys who be filling in depth. Everrette Thompson and Kalani Aldrich will most likely be the starting defensive ends. Talia Crichton and De'Shon Matthews will be in the mix. Overall this group is young and needs to find a way to put pressure on the QB and fill the void of DTN graduation.
Linebacker: Last year this was the strength of the team with Donald Butler, Mason Foster and E.J. Savannah. Well Butler graduated and is now competing for a starting spot for the San Diego Chargers and E.J. graduated as well.
Mason Foster is still on the team. Foster led the entire Pac-10 conference as a sophmore in tackles in 2008. Last year he had 3 interceptions(2 going for a TD, one was very memorable vs Arizona) and forced 6 fumbles last year. Foster is a big play machine and will most likely land himself on the first team all Pac-10 squad and be playing on sundays next season. Thats fine and dandy but the Huskies need 2 other guys to emerge.
Well Cort Dennison has gained some weight and is trying to fill the big shoes of Donald Butler in the middle. Dennison did some spot starting last year for the injured Savannah and for the most part performed pretty well. This year is a different story as last year expectations will be greater. He is a hard hitter and should do just fine at stuffing the run.
The other outside linebacker spot is up for grabs. Victor Aiyewa appears to get the first crack at the other starting linebacker spot. Josh Shirley the very talented true freshman will play a role on this team. He'll probably be just a guy on 3rd downs who rushes the QB but Shirley will be making plenty of big plays for this defense this year.
Secondary: The strength of the defense in my opinion. The Huskies have plenty of experience in the secondary. Lets start off with Desmond Trufant. Last year as a true freshman he emerged as the teams best corner.
The Huskies also return starters Adam Long and 2 year starter Quinton Richardson along with forgotton senior Vonzell McDowell. McDowell is having a great camp so far. He was a former 4 star recruit and like Trufant started as a true freshman and played great the first two games of 2007 then the Ohio State game happened and you haven't seen or hear from him since.
This group has plenty of experience and athletic ability. The safety spot will be manned up by Senior Nate Williams who will be backed up by 4 star recruit Sean Parker who chose UW over USC. The other safety spot is up for grabs but appears Will Shamburger will be starting but Nate Fellner and Justin Glenn will be in the mix. This team has plenty of options in the secondary. Unlike previous years if someone makes a mistake Holt will actually have a viable option to replace them.
Kicking Game: The Huskies return both kickers. The Dawgs return Folk(Brother of former Cowboys kicker) he was 18 of 21 from FG's including the game winner vs USC and game tieing FG against Notre Dame. He was also 35 of 35 on PAT's. They also return punter Will Mahan. Last year in 52 Punts he had just 2 touchbacks and averaged 40.6 yards per punt. He had just 1 pick blocked.
Coaching: The entire staff is back. Which is rare in college football. This team who returns so many guys doesn't have to learn a new scheme or playbook because every coach remains from the Head Coach to the Linebackers Coach to the Special Teams coach there all here. Ivan Lewis the strength coach is also still on the team. This coaching staff is top to bottom one of the best staffs in the conference. Sarkisian could emerge as the top Dawg of the conference in a few years.
Outlook: The schedule is tough like very tough. The Huskies haven't won a road game since 2007 and with this schedule other than WSU all the road games appear to be very tough. The Huskies unlike years past are a tough team to play as well.
Husky Stadium appears to be a home field advantage again(went 5-2 last year, only 2 losses were to LSU and Oregon, beat 4 bowl teams at home). I say the Huskies should win at least 7 games this year and if everything breaks right for this team the Huskies could go 9-3 and be headed to the Alamo or Holiday Bowl.
The first game against BYU is so crucial with #8 Nebraska at home and at #14 USC in back to back weeks. A strong September by Locker and if the Dawgs are 3-1 he'll be in the heisman race. Keep your schedules open in late December fans because the Huskies for the first time since 2002 will go bowling!