The Big Questions

With the Huskies starting spring football practice today, here are some of the biggest questions and issues they face going into next season.  Solid answers likely won’t come this spring, but we should have a better idea about the team after the Spring Game on April 30th.
  1. Can the offense become a consistent threat?As good as the offense looked in the last few games of 2009, it spent too much time being inconsistent and pushed around earlier in the season.  If it can play every game at a high level, this team has a chance at the upper tier of the conference.  Much will depend on the offensive line, which has more talent and experience than any Dawgs line in recent memory, but needs to take a big step toward dominance.
  2. Can the Dawgs field a defensive line that will stop anyone?Between graduations, injuries, and an unfortunate suspension, the defensive line, especially the end position, is undermanned this spring.  End was already a question after the graduation of Daniel Teo-Nesheim and Darron Jones, and now will spend the spring without three players who would have been in the two-deeps.  Tackle is in a little better shape, but was not exactly a dominant spot last year, either. 
  3. Will quality depth emerge on offense?The starting offense is fairly loaded with experience and a decent amount of playmakers, with fullback the lone position with little experience.  With the possible exception of receiver and tight end, depth is a question mark, however.  The back-up QB will have never taken a snap, RB doesn’t have anyone who’s shown a consistent ability to run the ball, and the offensive line is still lacking a little in bodies.  There is talent at each spot, especially considering the freshman class coming in, but it remains to be seen if that talent can turn into production.
  4. Can the defense take the next step?Last year, the defense went from absolutely horrible to thoroughly mediocre, but the last two games showed a team that could make some plays without giving up the big one.  Can the defense get stingier, despite some losses and personnel shuffling?
  5. Will special teams find any playmakers?Like most of the rest of the team, special teams improved last year, with fairly good years from the two kickers and decent coverage more often than not.  The expected increase in strength and speed throughout the team should further help coverage, but the team could desperately use a threat returning kicks.   Their best bet seems to be with the freshman class, but anyone with speed and some moves will get a shot.
  6. Will we see any changes in Nick Holt’s defensive game-calling in his second year?Opinion on Nick Holt’s first year remains mixed.  The defense certainly improved on his watch, but Dawg fans would love a return to the attacking defense of the glory years.  Will the expected strength of the secondary allow more one-on-one coverage, meaning more blitzes?  What can Holt do to improve the pass rush, especially with the worrisome line he currently has?  Can this be the year that the defense neither bends nor breaks?
  7. Who will emerge at safety and linebacker?Safety and linebacker both have solid returnees and talent to fill holes.  Spring should provide a good glimpse of who is in line to replace Donald Butler at linebacker.  Mason Foster and Cort Dennison are two of the better players on defense, but the other backer will be short on experience.  At safety, Nate Williams is a solid, if unspectacular, three-year starter.  A host of youngsters will battle for the other spot, with Nathan Fellner and Justin Glenn appearing to be in the lead to start.  Most believe this battle won’t be over until the team gets a look at Sean Parker when he arrives in the fall, however.
  8. How much of the team’s success is dependent on Jake Locker?  How far can he lead them?Jake Locker is undoubtably the strength of the team.  The past two years, any success the team had was almost solely due to his playmaking.  Hopefully, the team has improved enough where he doesn’t have to shoulder as much of the load.  Right now, 6-6 or 7-5 seems a fair projection for their 2010 record, but could a great year from Jake and improvement from the rest of the team push them into contention for the Pac-10 title?

In his best move besides making the team not hopeless, Sarkisian has opened all spring practices to the public, so take advantage.  It’s a lot of fun, especially the Spring Game, which will be played under the lights this year on April 30th.  We’ll have plenty of practice reports, and we’d love to hear your observations.  See you at Husky Stadium!

-The Good Guys


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