I feel like I should write some kind of preview for the Huskies, but I can’t think of any clever or particularly interesting way to do it. There are tons of previews out there, most of them much better than anything I can offer. Still, the best day of the year comes this Saturday, so here goes nothing. I’m just going to give the things I’m concerned with for this year’s team and the things I’m excited about, with the (potentially) bad stuff first. In no particular order…
Things That Make Me Nervous
- The new defense. This one’s complicated, because I think the defense will be much improved (see below). The problem is that they have a long way to come. One of the coaches noted that, while the team has looked great in practice, sometimes players get into games and forget what they’re supposed to be doing, especially with a new scheme. The talent looks improved enough to be at least average, other than possibly the…
- Linebackers. The bane of last year’s defense (at least on the field) do look improved, but they have plenty of issues as well. After receiving a bunch of new bodies from the safeties this spring, they proceeded to average an injured linebacker a day through much of fall camp. Nate Fellner and Jamaal Kearse are still out for a couple of games, but everyone else is now back. The enlarged John Timu at middle linebacker has been drawing accolades and should be the one constant throughout the year. Princeton Fuimaono is probably the number two guy right now. Former safety Travis Feeney is holding down Fellner’s spot, although Shaquille Thompson will take over a good share of the time in the nickel package. There’s talent, speed and athleticism here. Now it just needs to translate to tackles.
- The offensive tackles. File this under lack of experience as well. Both tackles, Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva, left and right respectively, have seen little or no game action. They have lots of talent and the practice reports are good, but only games will show if they’re actually ready. I’m optimistic, but without Chris Polk, this line needs to be a strength. Unless these two excel, it will likely be average at best.
- The new home field. Century Link is a great place to play, and it should still be plenty loud, but it’s tough having to adjust to a new routine and a new home. You know those first couple of months after you move into a new house or apartment? No matter how nice a place it is and how excited you are to be there, it takes a while to feel completely comfortable. Hopefully, the adjustment for the Dawgs will be short and easy, with no effects on the field.
What I’m Excited About
- The offensive playmakers. Keith Price, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Kasen Williams could all challenge for All-American status. Bishop Sankey and Jesse Callier are talented, if unproven. The freshman receivers, Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor, have been so impressive they’re listed as starters for Saturday. There’s a lot of firepower here. Maybe the best news? They’re all a year older, and they’ll all be back for 2013.
- Shaq Thompson has the potential to be the best Husky defender since Steve Emtman. He won’t be that this year, but impact players like him don’t come along very often. Right now, he’s the starting nickelback, which is kind of oxymoronic. I would expect he’ll start out playing between 50-75% of the time, and that will be close to 100% by the end of the season. He’s as big as a linebacker, has the speed to return kickoffs, and has incredible football instincts. This should be fun.
- In fact, the whole defensive secondary should be a strong point. Desmond Trufant could be first team Pac-12, as could Sean Parker. There’s talented depth, both experienced and young. If they can get off to a good start and solidify their confidence, we should see a hugely improved group.
- Danny Shelton and Josh Shirley could be a terror on the defensive line. Shelton came on late last year as a true freshman and has the size and force to be the All-American tackle the Huskies have been missing. Shirley had a dominant freshman season that was somewhat under-the-radar. With a little extra size and experience this year, he could be a nightmare coming off the edge. We’ll hope for no sophomore slumps here, because these two, especially Shelton, might be the keys to the defense.
- Football season is here. No matter how good the team is, there’s nothing better than going to Husky football games, as my sister wrote yesterday. Even in a different stadium with a new routine, I can’t imagine a better place to be on a Saturday in the fall than with thousands of fellow Huskies, screaming and barking.