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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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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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A Few Quick Notes About The Washington Husky Football Team, Also Anagrams!

The Huskies have started Fall Camp!  Thank goodness because I can’t take any more talk of what ASJ’s suspension should be.  July is slowly becoming my least favorite sports month.  July is Mariners impending doom and endless speculation about dumb things.  Let me start over.

The Huskies have started Fall Camp!  On Monday, Steve Sarkisian had his annual ‘opening of the season’ press conference.  That was followed by, what has been, two practices.  There are no two-a-days this year, but the Huskies will practice every day aside from Sunday for the next few weeks.

There hasn’t been a ton of news, as the team isn’t even in full pads yet, but I’m going to try to recap the noteworthy information using bullet holes and then write some anagrams about the team after the jump.  Bullet holes!

  • Austin Seferian-Jenkins may or may not be suspended for the first game.  Same with Kasen Williams.  We won’t know until the first game and there is nothing wrong with that, at all.  I don’t know why so many people care about punishing college kids.
  • There were a few position changes announced yesterday.  Evan Hudson, who was a backup tight-end, is being tried out on the defensive line.  He’s a big and long guy, so there is a feeling that this might work.  Hudson played defensive end at Bothell and is being tried out at that position.  While he’s working as an end, from what I’ve read, he is on the inside of the rush end.  So, it’s almost a variation of defensive end and tackle. Derrick Brown is being switched from quarterback to H-back.  Many quarterback have gone through this change and come out successful so this seems to be worth a try.  He was blocked at the quarterback position.
  • There was also a position change along the offensive line, although we don’t know if it will stick.  Ben Riva and Micah Hatchie have flipped tackle positions.  Riva is now at left tackle and Hatchie at right.  The coaches have raved about Riva this off-season, so it would make sense to try him out at the most important line position.
  • John Ross, a freshman wideout, has been the guy who has raised the most eyebrows over the last few days.  He is a smaller guy but may have the best speed on the team.
  • Erik Kohler is the only guy that has been missing from practice and Sark said he has a foot injury.  He has had an injury plagued career and it’s hard not to wonder if this is the end.  I hope not.  Shane Brostek, another offensive lineman, was in a walking boot today after practicing all day yesterday.  We don’t know the severity of the injury.  Otherwise, injuries have been quiet thus far.  After the terrible injury bug last year, let’s hope we aren’t bitten again.
  • As a closing thought for the first two days, it really seems like this team has an attitude about it.  There isn’t much joking around in the interviews, Sark seems to have an attitude, and the goal is a championship.  The whole team is united and seems to be taking on their coach’s persona in the first two days.  They are tired of thinking of the terrible losses that closed out last year.  If they embody this edge and attitude they will be a team to watch this year.  The problem is they haven’t consistently done that yet.  Here’s to hoping that they do.

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One Last Review Of UW-Stanford

I promised a more thorough review of last Thursdays game and here it is!  Five days, a trip to Yakima and about 8 hours of homework later.  I did finally finish watching the game last night and I had a few thoughts about the game.  I’ll go by position and add in some thoughts about coaching here and there.  Before I begin, I think this was probably the best coached Husky game since Rick Neuheisal was coach.  Seriously.  I’ll get into more detail as the post goes, but as a whole this was an incredibly coached game for the Dawgs, scheme-wise, personnel wise and on the motivational side.  Anyway, here we go, by position.

Quarterback – Keith Price has been a somewhat forgotten man through 4 games this year.  He doesn’t have the numbers that he had last year and won’t end up with as impressive stats but he has progressed.  Last Thursday, Keith played the toughest football game he’s ever played.  It wasn’t his best but it was very good.  He was tackled in the pocket over 10 times, while only three of those turned out to be sacks.  This is a testament to him standing in the pocket and not rushing things.  At one point it looked like he couldn’t feel his right arm.  I’m not sure why Stanford was never called for a roughing the passer penalty because they went high and hard many times.  Anyway, Price was accurate and threw well even with the amount of duress he was under.  He had 3 passes dropped that would have given him about 40 more passing yards and 3 more first downs.  He generally had less than 2 seconds to throw.  Three plays before the Huskies game-winning touchdown Price lined up under center and killed the running play that was called.  This audible essentially sent the receivers deep.  The ball was snapped, Price dropped back and was pressured from the outside so he stepped up into the pocket.  His outside receiver (I couldn’t catch the number) made a double move and was about to break free but a Stanford linebacker got a hand on the ball.  It was a brilliant call by Price and a beautiful play, it was just a .1 of a second too late.  The game winning touchdown could have come 3 plays earlier than when it did and it would have looked a lot more conventional.  Price was a great decision maker and game-manager.  I hope his body feels okay.

Running Back – It sure looks like Bishop Sankey has found his niche.  He’ll never be Chris Polk.  He’s not a bruiser and isn’t as patient.  But, he’s hitting the hole harder and faster every week.  Hugh Millen pointed out on KJR today that the Huskies use more of a zone-blocking scheme this year instead of a weak-side pulling guard, man-blocking scheme.  This allows Sankey to hit the hole faster than we saw the last few years because you don’t have to wait for that guard to come across.  So, maybe Bishop didn’t find his niche, maybe Sark found his niche for him?  It takes a humble and good coach to adjust his scheme to fit his players and Sark has continually done this.  That’s overlooked an awful lot.  Moving Kendyl Taylor provided an unexpected boost to the Husky offense and he did some good things on Thursday.  I’m guessing he’ll see more and more time as we go.  The fun thing to think about is that these running backs are only going to get better.  No one playing right  now is older than sophomore status.  Sure, they’ll cause a few headaches but the more I think about it, the more I think this year is setting up for a special 2013.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – Quite a bit has been made of ASJ not getting only 2 receptions against Stanford.  There was no other tight end who caught a pass either.  What isn’t being said is that ASJ had a block on Chase Thomas that helped spring Bishop’s 61 yard run.  No one is talking about how Evan Hudson lined up at fullback a few times and got into the second level to give Sankey some other big runs.  The tight ends will be used in different ways as this season goes on but don’t think they played an insignificant role on Thursday.  Every receiver was fairly inconsistent aside from Kasen Williams.  Kasen turned 2 yard gains into 7 at least 3 times.  The plan was to get him the ball in space and he showed why that was a great game plan that Sark never went aways from even when it was getting frustrating.  Anytime another receiver wants to step up though, feel fee!

Offensive Line – Yes, the pass blocking was pretty horrendous.  It’s a big problem that needs to be solved right away.  But, they were playing a very good front seven.  To their credit, the line did run block well.  It doesn’t matter how you get yards and points as long as you get them.  No one expected the Huskies to be able to rush for 150 yards but they did and that was because the line opened few holes.  I do think they wore Stanford down a little bit.  Where the Oregon defense is used to being on the field a lot because their offense scores in a hurry, Stanford is exactly the opposite.  I imagine that the Cardinal generally win the time of possession battle and they didn’t on Thursday night.  The Huskies, especially in the first half generally were on the field for at least three minutes on offense every time they had the ball.  It doesn’t seem like much but that adds up, especially when your defense is getting three and outs.  I might be the only one, but I think the Stanford defense was tired and they looked it on the Huskies last drive.  Shane Brostek got his first career start at right guard and looked pretty good in run blocking.  Him and James Atoe next to each other is probably my favorite configuration of the line.  When they’re on the right side, holes seem to open up a bit more.  The Huskies most successful running plays were runs off-tackle or which would follow Atoe, Hatchie, and, on the final drive, Criste.  The right side of the line seemed to open more holes, as I mentioned earlier, but the left side of the line did pretty well too when I re-watched the game.

Defensive Line – Stopping the run starts up front, so here you go.  I don’t know much about defensive lines so I won’t try to explain anything and there wasn’t a ton that stood out.  Pio Vatuvei got extensive action.  Josh Banks saw his first action of the season and made a very good tackle on Stanford’s last drive.  Not a lot shows up in the box score from these guys but they freed up space for the linemen to make plays.  It took Josh Shirley about a half to get his pass rush going but he was definitely felt in the second half.  This group continues to get better.

Linebackers – The Dawgs haven’t had linebackers tackle like they did in this game since who knows how long.  If you think back to the game, think about how many times Stepfan Taylor broke free from a tackle for extra yards.  It didn’t happen.  Even re-watching the game, I can’t think of a time.  Tutogi, Timu, Fuimaono (although he didn’t play as much), Feeney, and Shaq were all in position and made the tackles.  I’m still amazed.  Their pursuit was incredible, their tackling was the best I’ve seen from a Husky defense, and their effort was off the charts.  I don’t expect them to be able to keep this up but if they do then what was thought to be one of the Huskies biggest weaknesses has all of a sudden become one of the best positions on the team.  As one of my favorite wrinkles that Wilcox threw in, Talia Crichton played a hybrid linebacker.  He rushed the passer some but he was used to stop the run a good amount.  It was just another big body who wouldn’t be pushed around.

Secondary – Desmond Trufant was the only corner on the field about 30% of the time for the Huskies.  What a responsibility that was and he handled it extremely well.  Right now he’s an all-conference player and is deserving of All-American recognition.  Two pass breakups, one interception and shutting down one side of the field.  The other corner spot is a bit concerning still but they did okay this game.  Marcus Peters saw quite a bit of time on the field.  Especially in the second half.  Sean Parker played a great game, blowing up screens and flying around.  The defense looks fast and he is one of the players that looks the fastest.  Travis Feeney lined up as free safety sometimes to stop the run which was another wrinkle.  Justin Glenn also played a good game with a couple of pass-breakups.  There were a few blown assignments but that’s to be expected especially when there was such an emphasis on stopping the run.

Special Teams – Travis Coons was the first half MVP.  He made a career long field goal, had a pretty good yards per punt average and punted one left-footed which saved the Huskies field position.  That was a great play that I’m not even going to try to explain.  Marvin Hall is fast and will break a return soon.  He’s been very close in the last two games.  He’s a game changer and I’m glad Sark pulled the red-shirt off of him.  Not literally.  They don’t actually wear red-shirts.

After watching the game again, this game was something that all Husky fans should feel proud of.  But, it’s time to turn our attention to our bitter rival down south.  It’s been fun to bask in this game.  I doubt we’ll have this feeling next week but it seems like these Dawgs like to surprise.

Andrew

 

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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 – Offensive Line

We’re only five days away from Husky football now, which means I’m not going to go quite as in-depth on these because I want to get most of them done before the first game (and I have other things to write).  The Huskies offensive line is the biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball but it doesn’t make me as nervous as many people feel.  Sark said last week that this was the best offensive line they’ve had since he took over and I don’t have any reason to not believe him.  I won’t have a lot to add about these guys because I don’t know a ton about offensive linemen and their technique.

I think the team will have about 8 offensive linemen who could play and then the rotation will become smaller as the season goes on, I would guess.  I’ll talk about those 8 guys and 2 of the true freshmen who are on the verge of playing.  Here we go! (I’ll try to list the starters first, as there’s only one position still in question)

LT – Micah Hatchie (RS So.)

It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking to start a season with an unproven left tackle.  With that being said, there wasn’t much competition for this job.  Hatchie won the spot fairly easily and received almost all of the first team reps all camp long.  Micah played some at right tackle last year but never started a game.  Scout rated Hatchie as the top recruit from Hawaii when he came out in 2010.  This spot will be tested early against LSU and it will be interesting to see if Hatchie holds up.

LG – Colin Tanigawa (RS So.)

Tanigawa started last year before suffering a knee injury in the Oregon State game that kept him out for the rest of the season.  He made his way back during camp and participated almost fully the last three weeks.  Tanigawa has a hold on the spot, as he played pretty well last year and he should only get better.  The only question with him is if the knee will hold up.

C – Drew Schaefer (RS Sr.)

Schaefer is the veteran of the group.  He’s played the last four years and has played pretty well.  It’s good to have a senior at such a critical position.  If Erik Kohler had been healthy all camp, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Schaefer ended up playing at left tackle this year.  Watch for that as we go forward, if the line isn’t succeeding.

RG – Erik Kohler (Jr.)

Kohler came in as a highly rated recruit and didn’t red-shirt his first year on campus.  He started most of that season and played well for being a true freshman.  Last year was a little bit up and down for him but he comes into this season as the second oldest starting lineman.  He was injured early in camp but came back last week and has since got more and more work.  He’s engaged in the only battle left in the O-line with James Atoe but I expect him to win.  If Atoe does win, look for Kohler to move around and play multiple positions.  I think the staff feels comfortable with him at every position save left tackle (although they might feel okay about that as well). Edit: Kohler has been named the starter in the depth chart.

RT – Ben Riva (RS So.)

Ben Riva makes the fourth starter out of five who came to U-Dub in the 2010 recruiting class.  There are a few more who could be in the rotation as well.  Riva is the only guy out of the five who didn’t see a lot of time last year.  That makes you wonder if the question marks regarding the offensive line aren’t overblown.  Riva comes from O’Dea and was a fairly heralded recruit.  He challenged for a spot last year but didn’t play much aside from on PAT attempts.  It is a little worrisome that the two starting tackles are unproven, especially considering the early season gauntlet, but the coaches seem to feel fairly comfortable with them.  If they didn’t, Kohler would have moved to one of these spots.

The next 5 in line:  LG (LT) – Dexter Charles (RS Fr.), RG James Atoe (RS So.), RT Mike Criste (RS So.), C – Siosifa Tufunga (RS Fr.) G Shane Brostek (FR.), Jake Eldrenkamp (FR.)

I don’t have a lot to add about these guys.  Charles, Atoe, and Criste will all probably see game action on the offensive line.  Tufunga is a large man who could play center if things go really bad.  The two true freshmen I list are both probably headed to red-shirt years but they are also the closest to playing out of all the true freshmen.  Brotesk is actually on the two-deep so he may play but hopefully he red-shirts.

That’s about all I have to add about these guys.  If you have any questions about any of these positions, post them in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Andrew

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