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Your 2014 UW Huskies Defensive Preview

Defense wins championships, I’ve heard. I’m not sure that’s always true, but should the Huskies win a championship, the defense will likely be the main reason why. This is the most loaded UW has been on this side of the ball in a long time. It does have some issues on the back end I’ll discuss below, but if they can sort those out, points could be few for UW opponents. Offense was covered here, if you missed it.

Defensive Line

With the coaching change, it’s hard to be sure what the defensive alignment is going to look like. Players and positions are being moved around a bit, but it’s unclear how that will actually look onfield. For my purposes, I’m considering players where they played last year. For example, and as a good place to start, Hauoli Kikaha was a defensive end last year, but they’re listing him at linebacker now. I imagine his new role will be similar to Wilcox’s Rush End, where he can be moved around some and plays in space and coverage a bit more. Whatever the specifics, Kikaha will be rushing the passer, and if last year was a starting point and not a peak, he will cause massive amounts of havoc. Kikaha overcame knee issues and lots of time off to turn in one of the better pass rushing seasons in UW history. He had the most sacks of any returning player in the nation, and if he builds on 2013 at all, he could be an All-American and 1st round pick.

While Kikaha gets more credit, big Danny Shelton is the true key to the defense. The massive tackle blossomed last year, eating up blockers for other guys to get into the backfield. At his best, Shelton occupies two or three blockers, clogging the inside of the line and preventing running plays from going whichever direction was planned. Shelton was extremely effective last year, but if he can find a bit more burst and get into the backfield with regularity, he’ll be in the discussion for the best D tackles in college football. It’ll be important to keep Shelton on the field, because the depth behind him is quite young. RS frosh Elijah Qualls has loads of potential, so it was surprising to see less heralded true freshman Greg Gaines listed above him on this week’s depth chart. That may be as much about Gaines having a bigger body as anything to do with their performance. Both have good to great potential, but there will be a noticeable drop-off when Shelton leaves the field.

Completing the line are the Hudson brothers (not really brothers) Evan and Andrew. Both are cool stories. Evan was a walk-on from Bothell who started out at TE. Last year they moved him to the line, and he started most of the year as a big end/smallish tackle. I kind of think of him as playing a similar role to what Red Bryant did for the Seahawks, where he did more to hold the edge or occupy guys than make plays in the backfield. That said, I have no idea what his role will be this year, or what kind of upside he still has in him. He could become a star or lose his job to a younger guy and I wouldn’t be surprised. Andrew Hudson was a starter early in his career before rarely seeing the field last year, leading the old staff to decide it was time for him to move on. Peterson had other thoughts and invited him back, and now he’s slated to start. He never showed a huge amount of explosiveness, but he used to be a serviceable starter. No idea what he’ll do this year. LIke at tackle, the depth here is talented but young. I’d feel better about guys like Jojo Mathis, Jarrett Finau and Psalm Wooching seeing the field, though. They’ve at least gotten their feet wet, and there are some interesting skills there.

Linebacker

This could be as good as any backer group in the conference. John Timu is finally a senior and has developed into a dependable leader in the middle. He’s not an elite athlete, but he makes up for it with great instincts and a nose for the ball. Shaq Thompson has not quite delivered on his talent and athleticism, which isn’t to say he hasn’t been excellent. He has. He just has so much potential, that anything short of a dominant year would be a bit of a disappointment. Maybe that’s not fair, but he’s capable. The third spot is a bit undecided, but it’s not for a lack of good options. At times, Travis Feeney has looked like the best backer on the roster. He’s listed as a co-starter with RS freshman Keishawn Bierria. Both are lighter guys who can cover ground and be effective in pass protection. Bierria’s fellow RS freshmen Azeem Victor and Sean Constantine are in the depth and should see time. Victor in particular is developing a rep as a big hitter and could become a fan favorite before long. Scott Lawyer is the long experienced reserve besides Cory Littleton, who’s become a bit of a forgotten man with some minor injuries in camp. I don’t know if he’ll serve as more a linebacker or a rusher, but he should make his presence felt at some point.

Secondary

If there’s one area that could hold the team back (other than QB), it could be the secondary. UW is replacing 3 of 4 starters along with some key reserves, and all of the contenders for those spots are young. Luckily, the one returning starter is CB Marcus Peters, and he’s one of the best in the country. Peters is the latest and maybe the best in the Dawgs’ recent run of excellent corners. If he has the season everyone expects, he’ll likely go pro and be picked in the top round or two. Opposite him, RSFr. Jermaine Kelly looks to be the guy. He’s a tremendous athlete who’s received nothing but raves since he showed up on the recruiting radar. He’ll likely have some growing pains at times, but I expect him to look like the Huskies’ next star corner by the end of the year. Depth will come from senior Travell Dixon, who seems to have responded well to the coaching change, and some true freshman. Naijiel Hale and Sidney Jones are first up, and both have the talent to excel. Whether they can do so this year is the question.

Safety is replacing both spots, but it has a bit more returning talent. Of course, the guy turning heads is true freshman Budda Baker from Bellevue. He brings a small body but elite speed and football instincts. He’s slated to start opening night, and he should be the most exciting Husky freshman since Shaq. Opposite him at strong safety is Brandon Beaver. He was a touted recruit who didn’t play much last season, but he’s still only a sophomore. Behind him are two sophomores who saw lots of time as true freshman last year, Kevin King and Trevor Walker. Both played well at time last year. Expect to see all four of these guys on the field in different coverages and as the coaches try to find the right combinations.

Special Teams

UW lost do-everything kicker Travis Coons, so these spots are a little unsettled. Cameron Van Winkle has recovered from back issues to take the lead for field goal duty, and he and Tristan Vizcaino will handle kick-offs. Kory Durkee gets first crack at punter. He has a huge leg but has struggled previously with consistency and getting his kicks off.

John Ross returns as the kick returner, where he’s a threat to break one every time. Budda backs him up and has similar potential. Jaydon Mickens gets the call to return punts. UW hasn’t received much production there, but Mickens and others have the skills to be effective.

Go Dawgs!

-Matthew

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Your 2014 UW Husky Offensive Preview

Hey readers, long time no write! New content here has been next to non-existent for a while, but college football season always inspires The Good Guys. I can’t promise the inspiration will last, but we’ll at least get the season started right.

With Seahawk fever now a permanent Seattle epidemic, the Huskies aren’t getting a lot of attention yet.  I don’t know whether that will change at all, but they deserve some buzz. This team has the potential to be the best Husky squad since the Tui-led Rose Bowl team. That’s not saying a ton, and this team has questions, but there’s the chance of something special on Montlake.

I debated what type of preview to write, but I think I’m going with a good old position-by-position write-up. While a lot of these players have been around, some of the focus is shifting from the departed offensive stars to lesser-known guys. I’ll start with the offense tonight. Here we go!

Quarterback

Most fans would say this position is the key to the Huskies season, and it’s hard to disagree. I don’t know that the Dawgs need elite QB play this year, but they need an unproved guy to be dependable and reasonably mistake-free. Who the QB will be is still somewhat in doubt. Jeff Lindquist gets the opening start in Hawaii. He’s big and athletic with a good arm but next to no experience. There’s no reason he can’t be effective, but game action is the only true determiner. Lindquist narrowly beat out freshman Troy Williams, who has maybe the biggest arm and most potential of the group, but the least experience. Should Lindquist struggle, Williams could see some time. Hopefully more likely, he’ll see mop-up duty in Hawaii.

Lurking behind these two is Cyler Miles, suspended for the opener for his off-season shenanigans. The common assumption is Miles will take over week two, but I don’t consider that a fait accompli. Miles brings a bit more experience and excellent running ability, but he’s generally considered to have the weakest arm on the roster and missed all of spring practice. Should Lindquist impress at Hawaii, it’s no given he’ll lose the spot just because Miles is available.

Running Back

Replacing Bishop Sankey is impossible, but the Dawgs have the talent to maintain an elite running game. Dwayne Washington will get the first carries. He’s taller for a back and fast, but runs with a good amount of power and violence. Fumbling issues held him down early last year, but he recovered to log the most yards of any back besides Sankey. His time as a receiver should theoretically be of benefit in the passing game. RS freshman Lavon Coleman has garnered raves since arriving in Seattle. He’s a big back with star potential.

Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier are still around and should see plenty of carries. I’ve never been a huge Callier fan, but he’s a dependable change of pace from the bigger Washington and Coleman. It’s hard not to continue to hope for Cooper to regain everything he was rumored to have before his injuries. If he were to do so, he could easily take over the starting job and be one of the best in the conference. More likely, he’ll get a decent share of carries but not quite have the burst to be a star. No matter what, he’s one of the great stories of perseverance the Huskies will ever have.

Shaq Thompson looms in the shadows, awaiting the day the Dawgsignal summons him to the offensive backfield to deliver justice and retribution to Ducks and Bruins alike. 

Receivers

This is a talented and fairly deep group, but how dominant they are could depend on how effectively Kasen Williams returns from last year’s injury. He’s not yet at full strength, but he’s close enough to play this week. Kasen’s size and experience is needed as a counterpoint to the speed of Jaydon Mickens, John Ross and friends.  Mickens matured into a go-to receiver last year, and he could be a monster in 2014 if he can diversify his game a bit. Ross is the most electric player on the roster and could make a huge jump himself. There are capable bodies behind the three, but a breakout or two would be welcome.

Tight end is a little hard to figure, due to Austin Seferian-Jenkins departure and questions as to how a new staff will use the position. Josh Perkins showed himself capable of making big catches a year ago. Michael Hartvigson has never had the impact many expected, but he’s valuable as a blocker and might catch a few more passes this year. Darrell Daniels is easily the most talented guy here and one of the better athletes on the team. Hopefully he can translate all that into football skills. If he can catch the ball, he could be huge as a bigger threat to complement Kasen. 

Offensive Line

For the first time in a long time, UW is deep, talented and experienced on the O Line. Six guys have extensive starting experience, and there’s some young talent behind them. Tackles Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva are dependable if unspectacular. LG Dexter Charles, the lone junior starter, has been considered an awards candidate in waiting since his freshman year. Colin Tanigawa supplanted Mike Criste at C this fall, potentially a good sign since Criste was a solid starter all of last year. That move could be largely about getting mammoth James Atoe into the line-up at RG. This line might not be as dominant as some of the great lines of Husky days past, but they should be better than anything the Dawgs have had lately. Count me as one who believes the coaching change could have a huge effect here too, both in performance and recruiting. Dan Cozetto’s lines never seemed to reach their expected level, and new guy Chris Strausser is renowned as a teacher.

That’s enough for tonight. Defense is next in a day or two. Go Dawgs!

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Washington-Illinois Review

The Dawgs moved to 2-0 on Saturday night against a feisty Illinois team.  From the get go it was obvious that U-Dub was the better team but the game was in doubt as late as the fourth quarter.  If you’re reading this, you probably have already read/watched/heard about the game so I’m not going to tell you what happened.  I’ll just add a few notes here and there and move on to this week.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a replay on TV (with it being on the Big-10 Network) and I’m not sure I want to hear those announcers for another 3 hours anyway.  In other words, I’m not going to do quite the breakdown I did against Boise.  I’ve made this weird little outline that pretty much encapsulates the main notes I have on the game.  Enjoy!

Distractions:  First, this trip seemed a little hectic for the Huskies.  On the radio show today, Sark said their bus showed up late at the airport when they landed.  He also mentioned that Northwestern University (their mascot is the Wildcats, if you need any more proof that they are stupid) cancelled on letting the Huskies having a walk-through on their field.  This led to the Dawgs having a practice in a large, public park in downtown Chicago.

Dumber Distractions:  Then, the officials happened.  Yes, the Huskies committed too many penalties, without a doubt.  The Huskies ended with 12 penalties for 104 yards.  I can remember 4 or 5 penalties I don’t particularly agree with.  ASJ was called for holding without touching anyone.  Danny Shelton was called for a late hit on a guy that was still in-bounds (although he did launch himself, this will usually be a penalty).  Jaydon Mickens was called for a late hit and was shown walking around while the player was being tackled, so I don’t know how it could be a late hit.  Josh Shirley was called for a roughing the passer penalty because he was pushed into the quarterback and his arm touched him.  There were a few other holding penalties that didn’t seem quite right.  If you take away just three of the four penalties I mentioned, the yardage is down to about 70 yards.  That’s not good but it’s not nearly as crippling, obviously.

Dumbest Distractions:  The Huskies also fought off a number of trick plays.  There was around ten trick plays the Illini tried.  Most of them worked for about ten yards.  One led to a big first down on a pivotal play and went for about 40 yards.  Other than that, the Huskies survived.  I hate those plays.  Not as much as my fellow Good Guys hate them but I can’t stand them.  It seemed fitting that the Huskies pretty much ended the game by intercepting a double pass.

The Real Story:  When you take into account and consider these first three points, the Huskies really dominated the game.  The offense racked up over 600 yards, led by a running back who should be considered for the Heisman Trophy.  The defense played fast in the first half and looked like the same team that played against Boise.  They had their lapses (more on those in a minute) but they dominated a team that played with a lot of confidence and tenacity.

Cause For Concern – Offense:  As I said, there were lapses on both sides of the ball.  First the offense.  In the Red Zone, the Huskies settled for field goals twice.  At the end of the half, the Huskies drove down into the red zone before stalling there.  The drive ended because of some really questionable play calling.  There was no running plays once the team got in there even though they had all their time-outs and there was plenty of time on the clock.  The other drive that resulted in a field goal ended similarly.  I know Kasen and ASJ are great Red Zone weapons but right now Sankey is our best weapon.  He needs the ball no matter where we are on the field.  I think Sark will remedy this problem but it’s something to be aware of.

Another Cause for Concern – Offense:  After really impressing in the opener, Dwayne Washington really struggled on Saturday.  He had 2 carries and 2 fumbles.  Not exactly the ratio you want.  Dwayne will get it right, but it was a tough day for the freshman and the Huskies need him to be effective as the season goes on.

Cause for Concern – Defense:  The big plays that were prevented against Boise came against Illinois.  The defense had a few blown coverages and Ducre was burnt for one long touchdown.  That touchdown kept Illinois in the game when it looked like the Huskies were about to put it away completely.  After being so sound defensively in the opener, the Huskies need to clean up some assignments and their mental game to prevent the big play.

Another Darn Cause for Concern – Defense:  In the second half, John Timu sat out because of a shoulder injury.  It is expected that he’ll be able to return, if not this week, next week.  It was apparent that Timu is very important to the defense.  In the second half, Illinois moved the ball pretty well and often ran right up the middle.  The defensive line got pushed around a little bit and the linebackers weren’t as effective because of that.  I’m curious to see if power teams will have success running right at us, even with Timu in.

Lots of Offensive Good News – Now that we have the lowlights out-of-the-way, let’s get to the good stuff.  The whole offense played really well.  I’ll just go position by position here.  Price played a great game.  He was very accurate and made good decisions.  He made a few really good plays and otherwise simply controlled the game.  At running back, Bishop Sankey was the star.  The guy is on fire and might be the best player on the team, right now.  Jesse Callier had a great return and added a few huge plays.  The receivers weren’t quite as good as the opener but were still dynamic and exciting.  Mickens and Smith continue to look fantastic.  I expect a big game from Kasen soon, as he seems to catch the ball every time it’s been thrown at him ASJ looked a little tired and didn’t perform his best.  He was on the field for over 80 snaps, which probably wasn’t the best move for his first game.  The offensive line had one of the best games in recent memory.  They gave Keith sufficient time and dominated the line of scrimmage.  Price was sacked twice but one of those he literally ran to the defender on his right and made sure he was tackled by him.  It was as weird as it sounds.

Don’t Get Defensive, There’s More Good News!  While the defensive came out to be the weaker link this week, they still did plenty of things right.  On the defensive line, Shirley had maybe the best game of his career.  He recorded three sacks, but what I think is more impressive is his two tackles for a loss.  Shirley has been called a liability against the run but he proved to be solid against it on Saturday.  Danny Shelton is not putting up numbers but the defense is noticeably worse when he’s taking a rest.  Hau’oli Kikaha continues to get better and better.  The rest of the D-line was so-so and many of the pressures were due to good coverage.  The linebackers looked very quick in the first half and were often in good position to make plays.  Their tackling, again, wasn’t the best but they are still one of the best groups on the team.  Timu truly makes a huge difference.  The secondary has played really well so far.  Ducre gave up the touchdown, but that was a great play by the offense, and then came back and sealed the game with an interception.  There were a few more blown coverages but the man-to-man defense was great.

Review and Preview:  All in all, it was a great victory by the Dawgs.  After the horror of the Apple Cup last year, the team didn’t buckle when Illinois made a run at them.  The Huskies toughened up when they needed to and ultimately dominated the game statistically.  As they move ahead they get an easy game this week against Idaho State and a home conference opener against Arizona.  The Huskies should be 3-0 and about to breach the top 15 by the time they open Pac-12 play.  It’s been too long since we’ve gotten to say that.

Until next time, go Dawgs!

Scott Lawyer!!

Scott Lawyer!!

– Andrew

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A Few Thoughts on a Perfect Husky Win

HSThe Huskies christened the new Husky Stadium on Saturday with their best win in years.  They’ve had wins against better teams, like the upsets of USC and Stanford, but it’s been a long time since they dominated a good team so thoroughly.  I’m not sure how good Boise State will be this year, but they looked like a solid team and were still outclassed in every way by the Huskies.  I’m not going to give a full recap, but here are a few thoughts:

  • First, the stadium.  Simply put, it is everything fans could have asked for.  It’s not glitzy and opulent, but it’s classy and open and perfectly designed for the fans.  And it is so close.  The proximity to the field without the track is what grabbed me immediately.  It’s such a sizable difference, there’s no real way to describe it.  You really have to walk through the stands and see it for yourself.  If you weren’t there Saturday, I’d make every effort to see a game this season.  You won’t be disappointed.  There are also a full day’s worth of high school games there this Saturday, including some big-time local match-ups and quite a few Husky recruits. I can’t imagine a better place to watch a college football game.  The location has always been perfect.  Now there’s a building that not only doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall down, but is also up-to-date and beautiful and possessing all the amenities anyone could want.

    From Our East End Zone Seats

    From Our East End Zone Seats

  • Sean Parker may have saved the season.  The air had gone out of the stadium a bit after Price’s interception and BSU’s first few plays going for easy yardage.  Who knows what would have happened had BSU gone for a touchdown to start the game.  Luckily, Parker saved them with a beautiful interception that reignited the crowd.  The offense went straight down the field for a TD, and there was no looking back from there.
  • Speaking of Parker, the whole secondary looked excellent.  The two new starters, Greg Ducre and Will Shamburger, were solid, particularly Shamburger, who was everywhere.  Marcus Peters made multiple plays and showed a physicality unseen in a UW corner for a while. This group had questions before the year, but for one game, they looked fast, physical and good.
  • The defense was excellent and had a ton of guys make plays, but Danny Shelton really stood out to me.  BSU ran the ball decently, but that was to be expected.  It was quite noticeable when Shelton left the field.  He did a solid job all day moving the middle of the line.  By the third and fourth quarter, he had completely worn down his opposition and was getting pressure right in Joe Southwick’s face.  Shelton is the key to the defense, and the signs are very impressive after one game.
  • One last thing on the defense.  They gave up yards, but they came up huge when they had too.  Peters’ pass break-up in the back of the end zone  at the beginning of the third was huge.  So was the fourth down stop toward the end of the third.  My favorite play was the third down stop in the first before the blocked field goal.  Kikaha (great for his first game back) broke into the backfield to get the first hit, and then the Dawgs swarmed Ajayi.  He ended up going down in a pile of about eight Huskies.
  • I wrote on Friday that a key would be finding a receiver or two to contribute.  The Huskies did better than that.  Jaydon Mickens and John Ross were revelations.  The Broncos had no answers for them when they caught a screen or quick pass to the edge.  The Huskies had significantly better playmakers all day, and it feels like that might not change for much of the season.  Kevin Smith also had a solid day, and while the back-up tight ends didn’t do a lot in the receiving game, they blocked well and did get a touchdown on a beautiful play by a scrambling Price to Joshua Perkins.  I don’t think there was a Husky skill player getting regular minutes who didn’t do something impressive.
  • Keith Price and his offensive line were excellent as well.  Price shook off the interception to be nearly perfect.  He looked loose and confident, and he got more creative and exciting as the game progressed.  The quick throws are a good fit for him.  It helped to not be on his back every play.  The line did an excellent job in both pass and run blocking.  They need to clean up a few penalties, but they made a good case Saturday that they are night and day better than last year.  I’ll be curious to watch them improve as the season goes. It’s still a young group.  Also interesting will be seeing if the Huskies will start to throw deep more and how ASJ’s return will influence defenses.  In case you forgot, the Huskies were playing without an All-American.

There was nothing to dislike about this game.  The Huskies gave up yards, but they didn’t give up a play of more than 18 yards or a touchdown.  I wasn’t excited about the Husky pass rush while I was at the game, but it looks better rewatching it on TV.  Mostly, the Huskies looked like a team taking the next step.  They executed crisply, didn’t make mistakes, and didn’t let up at any point.  They were athletic and skilled.  This is what we’ve been waiting to see, and if the Dawgs keep playing like this, they’re going to win a lot of games.

-Matthew

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Looking At The Dawgs – Offense

In past years, I’ve tried to do position previews before Husky football season kicked off.  Usually these previews fizzled out somewhere between the linebackers and the secondary.  In an attempt to end this, I have simplified the previews this year.  I will be previewing the offense in one post and the defense in the next.  I will do a general overview of each side of the ball first and then break down the position groups (although I’m not going to make those all that in-depth).  I don’t plan on listing all 90-plus guys on the roster over these but I will try to give an idea of what I think about the starters and the depth at each position.  With these things in mind, let’s get started with the offense!130318123323-keith-price-top-single-image-cut

Offensive Overview:

Heading in to 2012, the Husky offense was thought to be a strong point of the team.  They had lost their top receivers and one of the great Husky running backs of all time but they had a stud tight-end, a few exciting prospects at running back, a returning offensive line, a decent receiving group, and a Heisman contender at quarterback.  Things didn’t exactly go to plan.

Before the season began, the Huskies were already down a few offensive linemen.  That continued throughout the season and caused the offense to fall apart.  The tight-end was great.  A star was found at running back.  But, the offensive line couldn’t pass block, a second, third and fourth receiving option was never found, and Keith Price went from a Heisman dark horse to a guy that some people wanted benched.  The offense was a disappointment, but it was one that people could make excuses for.

In the spring, the Huskies started to implement a no-huddle offense.  This has continued and will be used this season.  Apparently, the playbook is close to the same.  While they may have simplified it some, Sark has not moved to a spread offense.  I will talk about how this affects the defense in the next post but it has yet to be seen how it will affect the offense.  If the playbook really hasn’t changed much, I think the offense has a chance to special.  Sark has always been good at taking advantage of match-ups on the offensive side and as long as this is the focus of the offense and not just ‘going fast’ I feel confident in what the team can do.  The offensive line returns almost everyone and the depth of the whole offense could make running the no-huddle effective.

Position Previews –

Quarterback:
Starter – Keith Price (RSr.)
Keith Price was extremely efficient and productive in his first year as a starter in 2011.  Last year, he was a shadow of himself.  Price couldn’t move around very well, was constantly pressured, and made questionable decisions.  His efficiency in the red-zone, which was what made him great in 2011, slipped dramatically.  Price seemed to want to be too perfect at times and played scared at other times.  I’m hopeful that playing in the no-huddle offense will limit his thinking and get him back to just playing ‘Keith Price’ football.  He is only a few touchdown passes short of breaking the UW career record.  He’s had an amazing career, regardless of the last two games of 2012.  Here’s hoping he gets back to his improvising, accurate ways.  I’m glad he’s our quarterback.
The Depth – Cyler Miles (RFr.), Jeff Lindquist (RFr.), Troy Williams (Fr.)
It seems like what is listed above is the pecking order.  Miles has separated himself as the backup.  He is a good athlete and a play-maker.  His weakness seems to be his arm strength.  Lindquist came in with Miles and, while he may have fallen behind him now, appears to be in the running for the starting job next year.  Jeff is from Mercer Island and has a stronger arm but maybe not the big play ability of Miles.  Williams is a true freshman and was highly recruited around the country.  He is mobile and said to throw the best ball out of all of the quarterbacks (maybe not the most accurate, but the strongest and best spiral).  Expect Williams to redshirt unless everything falls apart.  Unlike last year, the quarterback depth appears to be in solid shape and they seem to be capable backups.   Continue reading

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2012 UW Huskies: It’s Time for Football

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. Continue reading

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Getting To Know Your Dawgs – Wide Receiver

Camp is almost half over and the first game is 2 weeks away.  It seems as if training camp has brought a new injury with it everyday.  When you list everything out (which I will do after I run through the wide receivers) it doesn’t look as bad as what the perception is.

I’ve written about quarterbacks, running backs, and fullbacks so far in this series and I move on to receiver today.  The position is going through what seems to be a little bit of a face lift this year, with Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar graduating.  Those two had very good careers at U-Dub, although they both came with their fair share of frustrations.  Most fans agree that, while the 2012 group is young, they have a good amount of talent and shouldn’t see a huge drop off in production.  On to the names!  I’ll include most players (I will probably leave off some walk-ons who I don’t see as contributors this year).  The order I list them is in the order I perceive as the current depth chart.

Kasen Williams (SO.)

I was just reading Ted Miller’s blog (which is fantastic) and he was asked to compare Kasen Williams and Marquess Wilson.  He said that it wasn’t a fair comparison in comparing someone who is an All-American and someone who is mostly based on potential at this point.  This is exactly right.  Kasen Williams has as much potential as any receiver in the Pac-12 and maybe the country.  No, really he does.  He flashed it at times last year but he has hardly proven himself.  He’s not in the Pac-12 elite but I would be surprised if he wasn’t in that group by the end of the season.  Every Husky fan (and a few WSU fans) have the picture of Kasen leaping over a defensive back in the Apple Cup cemented into their memory bank and these are the type of plays that we hope to see all year.  Last year, Kasen caught 36 passes for 427 yards.  I expect him to double those yards.  By all accounts, Williams should be a star at some point, the question is if that will happen this year.  I sure hope so.

James Johnson (SR.) 

James Johnson has had an interesting career as a Husky.  He scored the first touchdown of the Sark era, as a true freshman.  Johnson then went on to have a great freshman year (39 catches for 422 yards), particularly in the first half.  He was then injured before his sophomore year and somehow got lost in the mix at the position.  He never really saw the field, aside from a few plays here and there.  Last year brought something of a comeback for Johnson (28 receptions for 366 yards).  He would have a few great games (Nebraska comes to mind) and then disappear for a game it seemed.  He did miss a few games due to injury.  This year is off to an ominous start, as he’s suffered a dislocated wrist and a few torn ligaments.  Sarkisian said that he’ll be out 4-6 weeks.  This is a blow to the Dawgs for the first few games as most people had James penciled in as the number 2 receiver.

Cody Bruns (RS SR.)

Speaking of interesting careers, I’m not sure any player could top Bruns in that category.  Cody Bruns played in his first game half way through his freshman year because Ty wanted to run some trick plays.  Cody would get on the field for about 3 plays a game and it wasn’t usually to catch passes.  Bruns was a bit lost in the depth his sophomore year and then played a little more his junior year.  He’s been labeled as a player who could do everything from holding on field goals, to passing the ball, to punt coverage, to actually receiving.  Last year, he was dealt an emotional blow as his father passed away.  The coaches and Bruns decided that a redshirt year would be best for all involved.  Now Bruns enters his last year and figures to be an integral part in the receiving corps.  He may be used in a more conventional way than usual but don’t be surprised to see him be on the field in many different capacities.  He has surprising speed and is said to be a sharp route runner.

Kevin Smith (JR.)

It’s easy to forget that Kevin Smith didn’t play all 4 years of high school football.  He started later but his athletic ability made up for however raw he was.  Now he’s an upper class-man who could be a pretty big contributor (208 yards receiving last year).  Smith is still recovering from an ACL injury and could be limited for the first month of the season.  If he does come back to 100% healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of the Huskies 4 best receivers.  You may also see him back returning kicks and showing off his speed.

Jaydon Mickens (FR.)

Mickens was rated as a four-star recruit coming out of California and has been turning heads in the first 2 weeks of camp.  He has even been running with the starters in the last couple of days due to injuries ahead of him and his good play.  Mickens is the smallest of the receivers (5-10, 170) but has a ton of speed.  He’s almost assured to play this year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in 2 weeks.

Kendyl Taylor (FR.)

Much of what I said about Mickens rings true for Taylor.  He was a highly rated recruit coming out of Arizona who has been making plenty of plays thus far in camp.  He’s also 5-10 but a little bulkier than Mickens.  His high school mascot was a Husky so that’s cool, I guess.  Taylor will see plenty of playing time, especially as Johnson and Smith work their way back as the season progresses.  Sure, these 2 freshmen probably have their best days a few years down the road but we don’t have the luxury to wait for that since the Dawgs need them now.  I’m guessing they’ll come through with only a few hiccups along the way.

A few more guys and notes after the jump. Continue reading

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UW Recruiting Thread

Update 1/31 10:25 P.M.  Matthew recapped the day pretty well below.  I’d recommend reading that because I won’t be analyzing any of these guys tonight (that will probably happen this weekend after they actually sign their letters of intent).  Needless to say, this was an amazing day.  The three weeks prior to this are the reason I hate recruiting.  There’s too much drama and too many fans up in anger about players they’ve never seen play, never researched, and don’t take the time to scout.  But, today was just simply fun.  We don’t know what Shaq, Payton, Brostek, or Mickens will do in the next 3, 4 or 5 years at U-Dub, but from reading scouting reports and watching plenty of tape there’s quite a bit to be excited about.

So, what will come in the morning?  A Good Guys running blog of signing day!  That’s what!  Oh, you were talking about the Huskies?  Well, the Dawgs sit at either 22 or 23 verbal commits.  The ‘or’ is because of Michael Rector, who is a receiver from Tacoma.  He had committed to the Dawgs but was accepted into Stanford and many think he will jump to them.  I believe UW will add 3-5 more guys tomorrow but I don’t know who they are.  Here’s some news on guys that will decide tomorrow and leftovers from a very eventful day:

Kenny Walker, who tripped to UW last weekend, has verbally committed to UCLA.  It sounds like he was offered as a receiver and his scholarship may have been pulled after Mickens and Payton committed today.

There is a rumor that there’s another big surprise commit tomorrow morning.  I think that it’s nothing more than a rumor, but at this rate anything is possible.

I think Brandon Beaver is a UW lean but no one knows for sure.  He may be the biggest name left out there that the Dawgs are in on.

Cleveland Wallace is also deciding between OSU and UW, but I think he is an OSU lean.  Both Wallace and Beaver are DB’s.

Devian Shelton, who seemed to have a little interest in UW, was offered by USC today and it sounds like he’ll be going there.

Dylan Cozens will be deciding tomorrow between UW and Arizona.  I don’t have much of a read on this one.  Matthew thought that earlier this week the Dawgs were a leader but I have no idea.

Pio Vatuvei was a former USC commit but has looked at the Huskies.  We won’t know until the morning on him either, but I don’t hear or read many rumors of him being a Dawg.

That’s some of what we have to look forward to tomorrow.  It should be a fun morning and I’ll try to keep the pace with the LOI that will be coming in.  I’ll be on here starting at about 6:45 tomorrow as I camp out here in Maple Valley.  Yes, I do proclaim tomorrow a holiday.  I suggest you should to.  That’s all for now.

-Andrew

Update 1/31 8:40 P.M. I wish we could have had some more updates throughout the day, but Andrew and I were almost as busy as I’m sure the Husky coaches and recruits were today.  And what a day it was.  The Shaq Thompson news broke last night, but if you throw him in with the other three commits today, that accounts for probably 4 of our 6 top recruits in this class so far.  I could talk about Shaq all day, but I’ll save that until he actually signs.  For now, here are the other three new Dawgs:

  • Jordan Payton is a receiver from the L.A. area who committed this afternoon on ESPNU.  He’s ranked the 15th WR in the country and sounds an awful lot like Jermaine Kearse: 6’2″, 205, good body control and leaping ability, not quite elite speed.  He’s said to have good hands, so hopefully those carry over to college and he doesn’t have Kearse’s drops problem.  Payton was a USC and Cal recruit previously who says UW felt like the place he was supposed to be.
  • Shane Brostek, the Hawaiian Bigfoot, as I saw him called today because of his lack of communication with the media, committed shortly after Payton.  His dad, Bern, was a Husky lineman.  Brostek is rated at 2 or 3 stars, but that’s probably partly due to lack of exposure.  They played his recruiting process as close to the vest as any I’ve ever seen.  I can’t vouch for this personally, but some people will tell you he’s a legitimate 5 star talent if he had gone to camps and stuff like most recruits.  Either way, Brostek’s a big boy with a lot of power and a reported nasty streak.  I’ve heard that he’s likely to start at center, but I wouldn’t be surprised by guard or defensive tackle either.  I’m excited about this one.
  • Jaydon Mickens, another wide receiver, just committed a few minutes ago.  He’s only 5’9″, but he’s quick and elusive.  Plan on seeing him in the slot and on end arounds and especially in the return game.  He’s another four star who had a big showing in a recent all-star game.  He should be a fun guy to watch.  We haven’t had a receiver who really makes people miss in a while.  Maybe I’m off, but I’m thinking in the mold of De’Anthony Thomas, although nowhere near as incredible.

As Andrew Tweeted a bit ago, this might be the best 24 hours of recruiting the Huskies have ever had.  I doubt they’ve ever had 4 players of this caliber commit in a day, anyway.  They’ve brought the UW class from about 45th in the country to the top 20.  That doesn’t mean a lot in the long run, but it gives you a good idea of their talent.  I’m betting Andrew will post his thoughts when he gets home in a bit, but if not, he’ll have a running blog up by around 7:00 tomorrow morning.  Go Dawgs!

-Matthew

Update 1/30 10:30 P.M.  SHAQ THOMPSON COMMITS TO U-DUB.  An absolutely huge get for the Dawgs tonight and seemingly out of nowhere.  I’m waiting for this all to be fake because of everything that’s happened lately on twitter, but this seems real since Sark just woofed.  I won’t be able to write anything very well right now because I’m too excited, but Shaq is rated as the top safety in the country.  He should get a chance to play right away.  This might be the biggest commit Sark has gotten since coming here.  I won’t completely believe this until his letter of intent arrives on Wednesday, but this seems real.

I’ll have more on him in the next couple of day, but this is huge.  It seems like this could be the start of some momentum to close this class.  Good night Dawg fans, today ended quite well. (I’ll be back on if anything else breaks tonight, but keep checking this thread tomorrow.)

Update 1/30 4:30 P.M.:  I’m about 2 hours late on this but, if you haven’t heard, Zach Banner has picked USC which is close to what everyone expected.  It really is unfortunate but we wish him well and it seems like he’ll have a good amount of success as a Trojan.

As Matthew mentioned in the comments, it sounds as if U-Dub has a chance with receiver, Jaydon Mickens.  In fact, it sounds like a good shot.

One more update is that Jordan Payton will announce his choice of school tomorrow at 1:30 on ESPNU.  Lets hope that the Huskies can land a few of these big names and finish in the middle of the Pac-12 recruiting rankings.

Update: 1/30 9:30 A.M.: Hi ho, Andrew here!  Happy Signing week.  I just have a few quick things to add to this recruiting thread, and I imagine we’ll be back on here at around 3 p.m. or so.

First off, I’d like to announce that we’ll have a live signing day thread starting Wednesday at about 7 AM.  We hope that you’ll follow along all day.  If you’d like to, add questions in the comments of that post (or this one) and we’ll try to answer them, preferably about recruits but anything about Seattle sports is fine with us.  You can also send us questions on our facebook page or twitter accounts.  I hope you’ll follow on what looks to be a very interesting day.

As Matthew mentioned last night (see below), Zach Banner, the last recruit in Washington who’s uncommitted and has an offer from UW, will announce his decision today at 2:30.  He’s a five-star recruit and would give this class a significant boost.  Unfortunately, it seems as if he is leaning towards USC.  I will say that most of everything that circles around right now is based on speculation and rumors.  As we learned in middle school, that’s not the most reliable source of information.  From the little I know about Zach Banner, he values family quite highly.  I think this is a big factor in his decision but I don’t know if it’ll be enough to go to UW.  He was often at Husky practices that I attended in the Spring and Fall and back then, I thought he would certainly be a Husky.  Right now, it’s not looking so good but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he has picked to become a Dawg.

Dan always texts me and asks for a percentage or chance we have on a recruit.  Today, I think it’s around 30%.  So cross your fingers and toes Dawg fans and one of us will be back around 3 p.m. to give you the story of what happened.

-Andrew

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Signing day for recruits is three days away, with lots of news and rumors coming out all the time.  We’ll use this as a general recruiting post and update it as information comes out.

It’s currently Sunday night, and today saw the elimination of two major UW targets and a few interesting rumors.  The big news was five star lineman Arik Armstead of Sacramento announcing he would be an Oregon Duck.  I didn’t really expect UW to land the big man, but it would have been nice if he went to Cal instead of Oregon.  It’s easy to see why recruits like the Ducks right now, though, so I can’t really fault him.  We’ll see what happens if sanctions are levied and Chip Kelly leaves in the next couple of years.  Armstead seems like a good kid, and we wish him personal success and happiness with a whole lot of losses.

Also making news today was Lakes High’s Cedric Dozier.  Dozier has been committed to Cal, but has recently been looking at UW and WSU.  it was thought he’d take a trip to UW this weekend, but he stayed home and will now choose between Cal and WSU later this week.  It would have been great to have him as a Dawg, but there were a lot of variables here all along.  Originally, UW wanted him as a cornerback, but he wants to play receiver, which is why he chose Cal.  UW recently told him he could play receiver, but it’s hard to know the reason for that.  Add the fact that he hasn’t always lived in the state and has lots of family in California, and this is just one case where there was too much to get past for him to be a Dawg.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.

On a possibly more positive note, safety Shaquille Thompson reportedly took an unofficial visit to UW this weekend, possibly with receiver Jordan Payton.  Shaq is deciding between UW, Cal, Oregon and UCLA on Wednesday, and it would seem this is a good sign.  Or it might work out the opposite way.  There’s no way to predict these things.

Also, rumors are that lineman Shane Brostek told some people that he is planning to come to UW.  These are very unreliable rumors, as I read them in a comment on UW Dawgpound, and they were about third hand at that point.  Story goes that, while on a visit to U. of Hawaii this weekend, he told some other players he will be a Husky.  Who knows.  I’m really hoping he’ll be a Dawg, because he looks like a beast.

Tomorrow, Zach Banner is announcing his choice.  I’m expecting USC, but I think UW still has a good shot.  Which is a weird thing to write, because he’s already made his decision, he just hasn’t announced it yet.  If he’s picked USC or Oklahoma, the Huskies have no shot.  So I guess I’m just hoping he’s picked UW and think it’s possible.  I really know nothing.

We’ll have another update tomorrow.  Until then…

-Matthew

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