A Bunch More Huskies Are In The NFL Now

I’m on record as saying the Seahawks would be fortunate to have as many Huskies on their team as possible.  I’m also on record as a huge know-nothing homer, so maybe they’re best not to listen to me.  Anyway, with the 2017 NFL Draft in our rearview, here’s a breakdown on where all of our beloved Huskies will be calling home, at least for Training Camp, if not for many years beyond.

John Ross got us started by the Cincinnati Bengals picking him 9th overall in the first round.  If the Seahawks couldn’t have him, I’m glad to see him in the AFC.  Quite frankly, too many AFC teams would drop the ball on this, forcing a lot of Huskies into direct competition with the Seahawks.  This is an awesome fit, though, for the Bengals.  He gets to play opposite A.J. Green and will open up a lot for his partner in crime by opposing defenses game-planning against his speed.  This could really further Green’s career, as he’s prone to foot injuries and will likely be slowed further due to age.  Green could become a top possession receiver with Ross blowing out coverages over the top.

No more Huskies taken until the second round, where three guys were selected with the top 11 picks on Day 2.  Kevin King went to Green Bay, two spots above where Seattle picked.  Obviously, he wasn’t a top priority for the Seahawks, otherwise they would’ve made more of an effort to pick him at 26 or again at 31 when they traded down.  It’s pretty clear, in hindsight, that the Seahawks had Malik McDowell targeted all along, and King was more of a backup pick.  I hope this doesn’t bite them in the ass, as I could easily see King being a Pro Bowl player for years to come, while McDowell feels like more of a longshot (with, admittedly, a higher upside if he reaches his full potential).

Then, to make matters worse, one pick after the Seahawks took McDowell, the Arizona Cardinals moved up to nab Budda Baker.  Great, so we get to play against Budda twice a year.  They are going to LOVE him in Arizona.  I think I’m more jealous of this pick than even the King one, as after Ross, Budda was a close second as far as my favorite Huskies are concerned.  That guy just has a nose for the ball, a nose for making a big play, and a nose for beating the shit out of guys.  What that means for his long-term health is another issue, but I wouldn’t have let that stop me from taking him high in this draft.

Then, with the 43rd overall selection, the Eagles took Sidney Jones, who had the achilles injury (and thus MIGHT start the season out on the PUP list), but figures to be a long-term lockdown corner for many years to come.  Part of me hoped he would’ve dropped a little further, with the Seahawks either landing him at 58, or packaging 58 with another pick to move up into the low 50s or high 40s, but alas, at 43, that’s probably a lot more than the Seahawks were willing to move.  Also, aside from the injury issue this year, my main concern with Jones is that he primarily played the Richard Sherman side of the field, so how would he take to playing opposite?  I’m pretty sure he would’ve been fine, but you never know.

From there, a pretty long gap without another Husky taken.  As time went on, and Friday moved into Saturday, more and more people were questioning the decision of Elijah Qualls coming out a year early.  He eventually fell all the way to pick # 214, also belonging to the Eagles.  I attribute a little bit of this to being wary after Danny Shelton really hasn’t done much of anything of impact with the Cleveland Browns since he was picked in the first round.  Either way, I think they got a great guy at a tremendous value.  He tops out as a Sam Adams type player if he can put it all together.  Either way, the Eagles didn’t risk much by using a late 6th round pick.

That’s it for the Husky draft picks.  Not too shabby, though.  Five guys, four of them on defense.  I’d expect this to be a trend going forward as Chris Petersen keeps reloading this team with top talent.

In the undrafted sector, tight end Darrell Daniels signed with the Colts.  Even without knowing their situation at tight end, he would seem like a longshot.  He’ll really, I would think, have to make his hay by improving his blocking a great deal, as I think he’s a sneaky good offensive weapon down field.

Jake Eldrenkamp, left guard who really developed into a nice interior lineman by his senior season, signed with the L.A. Rams.  He’s got good size and athleticism and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get stashed on the practice squad for them and maybe make a bigger impact in his second season, if everything breaks right.

Perhaps the biggest shock of this whole thing is Deontae Cooper, the oft-injured running back and HUGE fan favorite, who ended up transferring to San Jose State in his final season in 2016 (part Fresh Start, part being blocked out by the younger UW running backs), I guess is getting an invite to Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders?  I’m not sure, exactly, what the deal is, as news is pretty spotty.

Safety Brandon Beaver (who I totally forgot was a senior last year) is getting a shot with Budda Baker’s Arizona Cardinals, so that’ll be interesting.  Beaver had some nice impact plays last year, but obviously would be considered a pretty big longshot.

Joe Mathis, defensive end, who missed out on the back-half of his final Husky season due to a foot injury, also went undrafted, much to the chagrin of everyone who saw how impactful he was for the Dawgs.  He signed with the Houston Texans, to either be an end or an outside linebacker.  Either way, I think they’ve got a good one on their hands.  That is a STEAL, especially for a team looking for a cheap way to add some pass rush depth.  I hope he really knocks their socks off in Training Camp, because I could see him – over the rest of the undrafted Huskies – having the biggest impact right away.

Husky Football Starts Tonight At Boise State

The Broncos are ranked in the top 25 in both polls; the Huskies are not.  That’s pretty much what you need to know about the game tonight.

Not a lot of people very high on the Washington Husky football team this year.  I think too much is made of all the defensive studs who left after last year.  Yeah, Shaq and Kikaha and Peters and Shelton were all great, but that defense as a whole last year was pretty underwhelming.  If the 2015 Huskies are bad, it won’t necessarily be exclusively the fault of the defense.

As usual, it comes down to quarterback play.  This year, we’ll be without Cyler Miles.  Say what you will about him, but if he were healthy and in a football frame of mind, he’d be the clear best option.  Now, does that mean he’d be any good?  Or that he has very much upside?  I don’t think so.  If you feel like this Husky team is in more of a rebuilding mode for 2015 regardless of whether or not Miles was going to be here, then it’s probably for the best that he’s not.  Let’s see who else we have on the roster; let’s see if – by season’s end – we haven’t found a star in our midst.

The 3-way battle – between Junior, Jeff Lindquist; Redshirt Freshman, K.J. Carta-Samuels; and True Freshman, Jake Browning – has all boiled down to tonight.  The coaches haven’t named a starter, but it would appear Browning is going to get the first crack at it.  I still don’t fully believe the team is going to stick to just one quarterback, as I think at least two will get regular play.  Browning is probably the better passer and quarterback overall, but he’s straight out of high school.  Ultimately, the move to burn his redshirt will probably be a huge mistake.  I tend to agree with the concept that true freshmen should never play bigtime college football; ALL of them should be given a year to adapt to college life, and get bigger and stronger.  The concern is really twofold though, when you’re talking about a highly touted talent like Browning.  The most likely scenario is:  he struggles, he loses his confidence, he gets injured, or some combination of the three.  The flipside of that is:  maybe he succeeds and ends up as this team’s starting quarterback for 3-4 years, but maybe he’s not quite as great as he could be, and when we get to the end of his college career – right as he’d be about to explode as one of the best players in the conference – he’s forced into turning pro before we get a chance at having him play his very best ball.

Obviously, that second scenario is a good problem to have, because it likely means we’ve had a successful 3-4 years.  But, I think we can all agree – however this turns out – 5th Year Senior Jake Browning would be a much better player than 4th Year Senior Jake Browning.

If you want my prediction, I think Browning does start tonight, and I think he does struggle during his true freshman campaign.  I also think he gets hit with the injury bug, because there’s no way I’m ever going to trust a Husky offensive line until they finally prove it to me.  The O-Line has been an issue for at least a decade now, and while help should be on the horizon with some of the better recruits we’ve gotten under Coach Pete, I don’t anticipate the O-Line being much of a strength in 2015.  Even if Browning doesn’t get injured, I still believe Lindquist will have his share of reps.  Maybe he comes in for a drive or two per game.  Maybe he has a sub package where we can utilize his running ability and/or cannon arm.

Either way, though, I don’t expect 2015 to be a banner year for the quarterback position.  Which is why I tend to believe this Husky team is going to struggle.  A lot.

At the moment, the Huskies have six ranked teams on their schedule – Boise St., USC, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona St.  That doesn’t include a very tough Utah team, an improving California team, a road game against Oregon State, and an Apple Cup against what I feel will be an explosive Washington State team.  As it stands right now, the Huskies are favored to win 4 games, and two of those games are against non-conference duds.  Most of the betting public has the Huskies winning anywhere from 4-5 games; I think five wins might be pretty generous.  I can envision a scenario where the Huskies get beat by the entire Pac-12 and finish last in the conference (unfortunately, no Colorado on the schedule this year).

Did I mention John Ross is out for the year, and we haven’t even played a game?

I don’t see much of any hope for this team making a bowl game, but if they do, it starts tonight.  The Huskies will have to run the table in the non-conference schedule, and follow that up with a home win against the Bears.  That puts us at 4-0, which is where we’ll need to be, because I guarantee we’re going to lose at least the next three games (@ USC, home vs. Oregon, @ Stanford).  We follow that stretch with two home games against Arizona and Utah; we have to win 1 of those 2.  That should give us 2 quality wins, which sets us up for getting pounded down at Arizona State, followed by winning the last two, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State.  That gets us to 7 wins, and 7 wins probably gets us a bowl.  If these Huskies are like the Husky teams of the last five years, that’s exactly what they’ll do and it’ll be like Sark never left (except, I guess there’s now more booze for the rest of us to share).

But, I hardly see that happening.  For this team to be reasonably good, we’re going to need steady play from our receivers.  Mickens is going to have to be a true #1 receiver, and Pettis will need to take a step up after a promising Freshman season.

We’re going to need to lean HEAVILY on our running game.  One of Coleman, Cooper, or Washington will have to step up and be a huge force for this team.

The defense will need to not be a wet paper bag.  Gonna have to find a way to bend & not break.  The secondary has a lot of talent, but who knows if the front seven is going to get enough push to let them do their thing?

And the quarterback is going to need to be more than just a game manager who avoids turnovers.  Make no mistake, he will NEED to avoid turnovers, but he also better be someone who’s got that clutchness gene.  This isn’t going to be a Husky team that rampages through the conference.  If this team is going to win games, it’s going to win CLOSE games.

Gun to my head:  I’m going with the majority and saying the Huskies win 4 games.  I think we’re for sure going to lose tonight, and I have a bad feeling it’s going to be by a lot of points.  I think half our wins come from the non-conference duds, our third win probably comes from either Cal or Utah, and our last win happens at Oregon State (here’s to hoping they’re a total trainwreck and keep us from being last).  For what it’s worth, I think the Cougars beat us in the Apple Cup and I think Luke Falk ends up being the next Ryan Leaf (in other words, a good thing for the Cougs, and a very bad thing for whoever drafts him #2 overall in the NFL).

In Coach Pete We Trust?  Maybe in 2016.

The First Round of the NFL Draft Happened Yesterday

You’ll notice how little of it applied to the Seattle Seahawks.  Quick Reminder:  Jimmy Graham.

The real story of yesterday ended up being the three players picked from the University of Washington.  Danny Shelton kicked it off for us, going 12th to the Cleveland Browns.  He was the first interior defensive lineman taken and projects to be a BEAST.  If he tops out at a Sam Adams level, I think the Browns would be ecstatic.

Next up, at 18, the Kansas City Chiefs took Marcus Peters.  This almost feels like cheating, considering the Huskies kicked him off the team and everything.  Is he REALLY a Husky, or is he more accurately an ex-Husky who finished his college career as an unemployed independent contractor?  I mean, for better or for worse, when they list the college for Russell Wilson, they’re not listing NC State, even though he spent the bulk of his time there.  Anyway, Peters was the third corner taken, but arguably has the highest grade based on talent alone.  Obviously, getting kicked off the team – and the reasons therein – didn’t help matters.  But, landing in the Top 20 is pretty damn good all things considered.

Finally, probably the biggest surprise of the first round (aside from the general lack of trading that went down) had Carolina taking Shaq Thompson at 25.  Seems a little high to take a weakside linebacker – and a LOT high to take someone who arguably doesn’t have a set position whatsoever – but with his raw talent, you gotta figure a smart organization will plug him in and sort of re-work the defense around him to utilize his talents to their fullest.  Admittedly, I’m not super high on Thompson’s pro potential – at least, compared to the Huskies who went before him – but the kid’s got gifts.  At the very least, you know you’re getting a special teams dynamo (which, obviously, isn’t something you draft for in the first round, but at least you’ll know you’re not getting a total all-around bust either).

The University of Washington had the most players selected on Day 1 of any school in the nation.  I suppose that speaks more to Sark’s abilities as a recruiter, but it still looks good for the program in general.  The Huskies also went a long way towards the Pac-12 dominance we saw, as our conference tied the ACC with 9 picks each (ahead of the SEC’s 7, for what it’s worth).  The Pac-12 for football isn’t NEARLY as disrespected as the Pac-12 is for men’s basketball, but you can’t help feeling somewhat ignored by the national media when it comes to bowl season.  Not for nothing, but you have to wonder how the Pac-12 would fare if Oregon was just another mediocre program (still doesn’t mean I’d ever root for them under any circumstances – up to and including an Oregon victory preventing the end of the world – but it’s interesting to think about).

From a Seahawks perspective, it’s nice seeing 4 of the top 6 draft picks going to AFC teams.  Those players, you figure, are the cream of the crop, so it’s nice keeping them out of our hair for the most part.

The Rams took Todd Gurley, so prepare for dozens upon dozens of Hans & Franz “Gurley Man” references.  He’s an elite – top 5 level – running back talent if he ever returns to 100% following his injury.  Or, he’s a Reggie Bush type who will flash greatness in between bouts in the training room.  He doesn’t really scare me too much considering the Rams apparently have a God-awful offensive line.  Nick Foles makes the Rams much more interesting, but again, you have to wonder how good he’s going to be with that line and his team’s overall lack of weapons to throw to.  I don’t know if that pick moves the needle too much from their 8-8 baseline.

The 49ers traded back and took a defensive end out of Oregon.  That franchise is a mess right now, so don’t be shocked if this guy flames out hard.

The Cardinals took an offensive lineman which is absolutely the right thing for them to do.  It’s not like they’re going to find their quarterback of the future with the 24th pick, so you might as well do everything in your power to keep what quarterbacks you do have healthy and upright.  I don’t like living in this world where Arizona knows what it’s doing on draft day, combined with some whip-smart coaching that’s able to turn moderately-talented individuals into NFL studs.  Let’s hope more misfortune befalls this organization, for all of our sakes.

The Seahawks don’t pick until the 31st pick of the second round later today.  Rumors abound of the Seahawks trading up (as we have approximately a million picks in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds), so I guess we’ll see.  Could be a long, boring few hours, as the Seahawks technically only have two picks today before their nine picks tomorrow.

YOUR Washington Huskies Shit The Bed In The Cactus Bowl

I don’t know what to say.  I was as confident as you can be going into this game – going so far as making Washington my top choice in this year’s college bowls pool – and I was rewarded with the hottest mess imaginable.

One of my themes on the year has been:  we’re wasting all this great defensive talent with this mediocre offense.  That’s no less true now, and guys like Shelton, Kikaha, and Thompson will all be greatly missed.  But, for what it’s worth, what did those guys or anyone else do on defense last night?  I mean, what’s the deal?  We’re talking about no less than three All Americans on the same side of the ball; yet a team like Oklahoma State is able to shred us at will?  It’s not like those three guys are surrounded by total scrubs; this defense should be better than it is!

A lot of people are calling for the head of the offensive coordinator, but you know what?  This coaching staff failed across the board this year.  Part of the blame should rightly be placed on a difficult transition from one coaching staff to another; I’m willing to concede that.  But, I’ll tell you what:  I’m not giving this coaching staff FOREVER.  In fact, I’m less inclined to give this staff a long leash compared to Sark and his crew when they took over in 2009.  Because the expectations are higher right now, and quite frankly, the cupboards aren’t NEARLY as bare as they were six years ago.

Should Coach Pete and Co. get some time to have their guys mature and see what they can do?  Of course.  But, in the meantime, we shouldn’t be THIS FUCKING BAD with the players brought in by the former regime, because these are still some good players.

One of those players is absolutely not Cyler Miles.  He’s awful.  He needs to go.  This coaching staff can regain a lot of credibility in my mind by benching him and going with literally anyone else.  If Coach Pete wants to start a redshirt freshman next year and go through a zillion growing pains with a future possible star?  BE MY GUEST!  But, if I have to endure another year of Noodle-Arm Miles, just because he’s the most experienced, I’m going to flip the fuck out.

I mean, WHAT HAPPENED?  Washington is supposed to be a school that’s capable of attracting quality quarterbacks!  Even in our leanest times post-Tui and pre-Locker, we had quarterbacks who could do SOMETHING well.  They either had strong arms, or they were able to run fast.  Ol’ Noodle-Arm can’t do EITHER!

The Washington Huskies easily had the worst starting quarterback in the entire state of Washington, and that’s including Wazzu’s backup-turned-starter AND Eastern’s capable signal caller.  Hell, I’m thinking even the Bellevue high school kid’s got some tools Ol’ Noodle-Arm will never DREAM of having.

There really couldn’t be a grosser taste in my mouth after this season.  The only thing I have to possibly look forward to next year is the fact that we never have to see this starting offensive line group ever again.  But, really, no.  I’m NOT looking forward to next season.  At all.  Maybe if they bench Ol’ Noodle-Arm, but I doubt they’re even capable of doing that.  Zero expectations of anything good.  So, who knows?  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I dunno.

I can’t even sit here and expect to make a bowl game next year.  6-6 seems to be our highest upside, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Huskies at the bottom of the conference.

I’ll leave you with this:  the combined record of the seven FBS teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  26-60.  And this:  the combined conference record of the four Pac-12 teams the Huskies beat in 2014:  7-29.

2014:  total disaster for the Washington Huskies.

Quick & Dirty: Going To The UW/Cal Game

So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days.  In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space.  It’s going to be glorious.

That makes travel between now and then … limited.  And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year.  The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways.  But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!

Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work.  As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday.  I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade).  Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours.  It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time.  Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.

I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place.  Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.

And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning!  Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking.  Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road.  This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly.  I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay.  From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards.  "Tailgating, how quaint!  Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!"

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”

Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal.  Nerds, amirite?  Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such.  Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene.  Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.

My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself.  Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).

We were, like, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill.  We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between.  Did I mention the oppressive heat?  There was oppressive heat.

We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice.  They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice.  Those old fucks were good sports, though.  We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.

Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game.  As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in.  I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario.  Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game ...

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …

I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year?  40th?  1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way!  Is that Shaq?!?  No fucking WAY!  OH MY GOD IT IS!!!”  Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.

For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments.  Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half.  In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!

A lot of delayed gratification in this game.  We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is always never fun.  Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance.  The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.

Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game.  He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines.  Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.

The Husky defense was superb.  We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense.  That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before.  Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air.  Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.

It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook.  People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds.  Appreciate it now, while you still can!  And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end.  Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future.  We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.

Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant.  That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).

After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food.  I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think.  Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.

I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport.  My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended.  It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do.  Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game.  One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them.  And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.

Huskies Beat Eagles 8 TDs & 1 FG to 7 TDs & 1 FG

So, that game against Eastern Washington, amirite?

I had a really odd feeling throughout that game.  For starters, I was in a bar having lunch as the game kicked off and Washington raced out to a 21-0 lead.  The Eagles fumbled on a kickoff with their first possession, and contrary to popular belief, the Huskies actually DID manage to force them to punt – one time – on their second possession.  Nevertheless, even with a 21-point lead, I couldn’t help feeling like it wasn’t safe.  That NOTHING would be safe.

Indeed, as the first quarter drew to a close – with Washington up 24-14 in one of the highest-scoring quarters of football I’ve ever seen – we were in a dogfight for the ages.

I watched the rest of the game from home.  And, you know, I saw what you saw:  a defense that couldn’t get out of its own way.  Giving up bombs as well as intermediate & short routes.  Not being able to get off the field on third down (Eastern converted 6 of 12 third downs and 4 of 4 fourth downs).  We gave up 573 yards to one of the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.  To be fair, they’re a well-coached and well-recruited college football program.  Also to be fair, the Washington Huskies should be in a completely different class.

But, this wasn’t us playing down to the level of our competition.  Nor was it a lesser school rising to the occasion.  This was simply a matchup nightmare, and I’m not sure there’s anything we could have done from a scheme standpoint or a player personnel standpoint to make the outcome of this game any different.

In spite of all of that, though, I never felt like we were going to lose this one.  For as great as their offense was, ours was just a little bit better.  John Ross is a fucking maniac and I love him to death.  If he manages to stay healthy, he might go down as the greatest wide receiver the Huskies have ever produced.  The numbers might not be there – as we somehow only managed to get him three touches in this game of non-stop scoring – but when all is said and done and he’s making lives miserable in the NFL, we’ll look back and remember with fondness his all-too-brief tenure with the Washington Huskies.

The running game was the real star of the show.  After being shut down for long stretches in the Hawaii game, the Huskies rampaged to the tune of 356 yards on 57 carries for a 6.2 yard average and 7 touchdowns.  Lavon Coleman once again took over, with 17 carries & 118 yards; Dwayne Washington was next on the list with 10 carries and only 35 yards, but he seemed to get a lot of work in the red zone and goalline, as he plowed through for 2 scores.  It’s unfortunate that this great rushing game is completely forgotten thanks to the ineptitude of the defense, but then again, it’s Eastern:  you’re SUPPOSED to run for 356 yards against a smaller school like Eastern.

Cyler Miles, as I hoped, did indeed get the start at quarterback.  He looked as rusty as you’d expect, but he also flashed leadership and ability that we weren’t getting from Lindquist in Hawaii.  Miles ended up throwing for 180 yards and a touchdown (and no turnovers), but he also ran for 58 yards on 12 carries, for three more touchdowns on the ground.

This was the perfect game for him, to be honest.  We needed everything he had on Saturday, and he delivered.  It was a nothing defense, so he was able to work out his kinks and eventually find a rhythm.  But, the game was always close, so he got a full game’s worth of reps that he also desperately needed.  It’s a nice little warmup for him as we take on Illinois this week.  They should be somewhat better defensively, but they shouldn’t be so good that he’s having a hard time doing what we need him to do to win.

In the end, it came down to turnovers, as so many games do.  The Eagles overcame that early-game kickoff return fumble to eventually take a lead in the third quarter, 38-37, and then going into the fourth quarter, 45-44.  But, to kick off the final frame, the Huskies pushed through another TD and a 2-point conversion to take the lead for good.  On the subsequent drive, the Eagles were moving the ball with ease once again, but as they got it into Washington territory, a defender popped out a completed pass for a fumble that we recovered.  The Huskies drove the ball right back down the field and got that 2-score lead to seal the deal.  Obviously, the Eagles scored again to bring it back to 1-score, but the Dawgs were able to run out the last 3+ minutes for the win.

I know everyone’s down on this defense – even though they single-handedly preserved that victory against Hawaii in the second half – but I’m not.  The Eagles were a fucking matchup nightmare as I said before, with a mature quarterback who’s capable of throwing it all over the field.  With the way we’re trying to break in almost an all-new secondary this year, the passing game was always going to be our Achilles heel.  The Eagles just so happen to do it better than most.  I shudder to imagine what our defense is going to do against the likes of the Wildcats, Ducks, Cougars, Beavers, and Bears, but lets hope the kids grow up fast.

I fully expect the Huskies to come out this week against Illinois and put up that complete game they’ve been looking for all season.  Then, we follow that up the following week with another cream puff of a game with Georgia State.  At this point, the Huskies WILL be 4-0 as we all anticipated coming into this season.  I’m more sure of this now than ever before, even after the shitpile of a start we’ve had to this season.  Everyone’s just getting back into the flow of football being back, combined with getting used to the new coaching staff and playbook.  You’re going to have some kinks, because contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t Alabama or Ohio State.  Not yet, anyway.  We’re still working our way back to elite, and this is just another blip on the journey.  By the time we finish our 4-game non-conference schedule, we should be well primed to take on the best of what the Pac-12 has to offer.

  • Miles will have three full games under his belt by then
  • The kinks should be worked out of our pass defense
  • The running back rotation should coalesce into a two-headed monster of Coleman and Washington
  • The offensive coordinator should figure out how to get the ball into the hands of John Ross more than a paltry few times per game
  • The offensive line will have had four full games together and should improve accordingly

All while knowing that our stable of offensive skill positions is stacked.  On top of Ross, I thought Kasen Williams looked solid, especially on that nifty 2-point conversion.  He could be the jump-ball machine we all expected, and it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

And finally, let’s not forget that this defensive line is doing the lord’s work.  Danny Shelton looks like he’s a first round talent at defensive tackle.  We should be able to keep running games in check while still being able to generate pressure without necessarily sending more than four guys at the quarterback.

The Huskies Very Nearly Lost To The Rainbow Warriors

I mean, it’s like, come on!

That game was a fucking shit-pile from beginning to end, with the exception of John Ross being my sunshine on a cloudy day.  Do you believe in Love At First Sight?  What if it’s been multiple sights, but you never really appreciated what was in front of you until now?  Oh mercy me, I’m rambling …

I don’t even know what to say after a game like that.  The defense was all out of sync for the entire first quarter.  The running game completely disappeared for most of the game.  And our quarterback couldn’t do a God damn thing the entire second half.  We were LUCKY to come out of that with a win.  If Hawaii would’ve ever managed to snag a lead on us after we got to 17 points, we would’ve been screwed.

Thankfully, the defense started to get its shit together once the Rainbow Warriors got a 10-point lead on us early.  Marcus Peters ended up having a pretty good game, but you can’t discount his disaster of a first quarter.  It looked like he was playing about 15 yards off of his receiver all day.  I don’t know if it’s just the style of their offense, or if they somehow game planned something against us, but when they threw the ball, they overwhelmingly threw to the outside.  I’m guessing their quarterback’s weak spot is hitting receivers down the middle of the field, because he didn’t seem to have much success when he tried that.

The defensive line would go long stretches without getting much pressure, and there were a lot of times where we were gashed in the running game pretty good.  But, they stiffened when they had to and incorporated just enough big plays behind the line of scrimmage to keep Hawaii from totally running away with this one.  Danny Shelton looks like the beast we all figured he’d be, which is a comforting sight.  If he’s not double teamed, he’s on the warpath.  And, even when he is double teamed, he’s getting extreme push to disrupt what the offense is trying to do.

The only thing the defense couldn’t do was create a turnover, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.  I think, by season’s end, we’ll be pretty happy with our team’s turnover differential, as they were constantly jumping routes and trying to strip balls.

Offense was a completely different story.  We moved the ball pretty damn efficiently in the first half.  That nifty little reverse to John Ross to score from 20 yards out was a thing of beauty!  When you bring in Coach Pete, you’re bringing in a solid head coach for your football program, but you’re also bringing him in for a little razzle dazzle, and he didn’t disappoint in his first game.  These plays aren’t something you want to feature on every drive, but you pick your spots, and even though you’re known as a coach who will take some crazy chances, it’s still nearly impossible to predict when they’ll happen or what they’ll be.

Our running game has potential, even though we were basically manhandled for most of the second half (until that final drive, when we were able to run out the last four minutes or so).  Dwayne Washington was the de facto starter, and I thought he looked pretty dynamic at times, though the numbers don’t bear that out.  Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper had four combined carries.  I still like Cooper, and think he’ll find a few moments to shine this year, but Callier looks like a shell of his former, pre-injury self.

The story for me in the running game was Lavon Coleman, who’s apparently a red shirt Freshman I’d never heard of before this game.  He’s got the kind of power and burst that can be a workhorse for this team.  Indeed, the team trusted him with the game’s final drive – even after he fumbled the ball that we ended up falling on – and he delivered.  If this game is any indication, the Huskies will have a nice two-headed hydra at running back with Coleman and Washington.

The offensive line looked better than it had in years when it comes to pass protection, but that’s not saying a whole helluva lot.  Still, Lindquist had time, he just didn’t know what the fuck he was doing when he had that time.  Also, there’s no excuse for our running game to be shut down for as long as it was in the second half.  Credit Hawaii for simply out-fighting us in the interior.  That will need to be rectified as the season goes on.

Ultimately, this game came down to the play of the quarterback.  Jeff Lindquist was starting for the first time, so it’s reasonable to give him a pass on this one.  It’s unfair to expect perfection right out of the gates.  Nevertheless, for an entire half of football, he was nothing but a detriment to this team.  Usually, when you’ve got quarterbacks with issues throwing the ball, they can make up for it with their legs.  I have a feeling if we’d gone with Troy Williams to start the game, this is something we would’ve enjoyed.  We might not have had that breathtaking 91-yard touchdown pass to John Ross in the second quarter, but I bet it would’ve been a more comfortable victory, with a much improved running game.

This game really took a turn for the worse midway through the third quarter.  Hawaii had just kicked a field goal to make it a 17-13 game.  Lindquist passed for 21 yards on the first two plays of the drive, then we ran it down to the 50 yard line to make it 4th & 1.  At this point in the game, the defense had been on point for the last two full quarters, only giving up those three points on the previous drive.  The Time of Possession battle was HEAVILY in Hawaii’s favor, thanks to their 10-play and 18-play scoring drives back in the first quarter.  Say what you will about the announcing team (and the color guy’s bias towards the Rainbow Warriors), but they made a good point about how the effects of those two early drives would more than likely be felt late in the game, with tired legs and hands on hips and so on and so forth.  We could’ve taken CHARGE of this game right then and there.

And, indeed, it looked like we were going to go for it.  But, instead, we wasted a time out, and when we came back from commercial, the punt team was on the field.

This was an unconscionably stupid decision by the coaching staff.  For starters, you HAVE to go for it there!  It’s 4th & 1 (but, more like 4th & inches) at the 50!  You’re going up against the Rainbow Fucking Warriors!  This isn’t the Crimson Tide defense we’re talking about.  If you can’t nut up and get a few inches against Hawaii, then you might as well prepare yourself for a lousy fucking season.

When I saw the time out was called, I figured it was just the coaching staff making sure the offense knew exactly what play should be called.  More than likely (the more I think about it), they were probably just stalling to see if the refs would go back and look at the spot of the ball.  Either way, if you’re not going to go for it there, WHY CALL THE TIME OUT?  You’re at midfield; take the delay of game penalty!

That decision to punt was Playing It Safe to the extreme.  I don’t necessarily need Big Balls (Coach) Pete here to go for it on fourth down every time; but I can’t abide punting at the 50 yard line on 4th & inches when you’ve got the most experienced offensive line in one of the best conferences in college football!

I belabored this point on Twitter, but the fact remains:  there wasn’t an immediate impact to this decision.  The Rainbow Warriors didn’t come back on the very next possession and ram it down our throats.  But, for one thing, it set a tone.  The Huskies were going to be timid for the rest of that game.  And, for another, it cut the legs off of the ONLY decent drive the Huskies managed in that half (until they ran out the clock to close things out).

This put a ton of undue pressure on a defense that had already been worked to death to that point in the game.  Which ultimately gives me even MORE respect for what this defense was able to accomplish in this game.  Holding Hawaii to 16 points in this environment was a sight to behold.  If we go for it there and succeed, we probably end up scoring points on that drive.  Which would’ve taken some of the pressure off of our defense.  At the VERY least, it would’ve used up more time on the clock, which would’ve been nothing but a help to our cause.

And, who knows, maybe Lindquist would’ve had a better game had we gone for it.  He was certainly off on the majority of his throws in the second half.  But, he completed a couple on this drive.  Had it continued, maybe he could’ve gotten into a better rhythm.  A lot of what if’s surrounded that decision to punt.  I just hope it’s not a harbinger of hyper-conservative decisions to come.  Because, looking back, even if we don’t convert there, we still have them at midfield and likely would’ve either forced a punt or held them to a field goal.  Granted, that would’ve meant that we would’ve needed to score at some point in the second half, but you can’t live in fear.  I would’ve rather we took the chance, even if it might have ultimately cost us a game we had no business winning in the first place.

Heading into Game 2 against Eastern, I’m absolutely petrified with fear.  If we play like we played against Hawaii, you can chalk that up to a loss and a bunch of snarky replays on SportsCenter.  Oh, the top 25 team with the great and powerful Chris Peterson can’t beat a team from the Divison I Football Championship Subdivision?  Or, something a little catchier with “boo yah” tacked onto the end.

As Husky fans, we have to hope for a couple of things.  Cyler Miles is eligible to play after his 1-game suspension; we have to hope that he’s adept at running this offense enough to be a viable starter in this game.  Because, if Troy Williams isn’t good enough to replace Jeff Lindquist in that Hawaii game, with how atrocious he was in the second half, then I have no doubt in my mind that Cyler Miles is the best quarterback on this team.  Period.  Cyler Miles with even a partial grasp of the offense would be better than what we got in the first game.

Secondly, we have to hope there’s no stubborn pride at play from the coaching staff.  Yes, Cyler Miles was wrong to get in that offseason brouhaha that ultimately led to his suspension.  But, the coaches have to let that shit go and put the best players out on the field.  Let Cyler Miles start, let him get his feet wet in these next three non-conference games at home, so ultimately he’ll be ready to go once the table is set for Stanford on September 27th.

Because I have some serious doubts that Jeff Lindquist is the man for the job.  He will CERTAINLY kill our chances in the “regular season”, and what’s worse, he might even cost us a chance at a win this weekend.

2014 Will Be The Most Important Season In A Generation For Huskies

We’re jumping the gun here a bit, but that makes it no less a pressing concern.

As the Huskies prepare for their bowl game next week – the primetime, post-Christmas, Friday night spot against BYU – know that we’re seeing the end of an era.  An era that beat the hell out of the previous era, for sure!

It’s interesting to look at the ebbs and flows of the history of the University of Washington football team.  If you go all the way back to the Jim Owens era, you see a team in the late 50s and early 60s that was one of the best in the nation.  His first seven years brought with it three Rose Bowl appearances (two victories), before a long descent into mediocrity.  The Huskies of the mid-60s to the mid-70s weren’t terrible, but they weren’t all that good either.  Just sort of okay.

Then, Don James came in, and the mediocrity continued for the first two years.  His third year was probably the most important season in Husky football history, and we were all rewarded with a Rose Bowl victory.  Thus began the next great era of Husky football, lasting through the early 90s.

Once Don James left, the team fell back to the pack again.  Part of that was losing a legend, but most of it was due to the sanctions that really wiped out our ability to recruit the proper talent we needed to maintain our stay as one of the nation’s premiere football programs.  Just as we were starting to recruit, Lambright was replaced by Rick Neuheisel, who reaped the rewards and took this program back to the Rose Bowl in 2000.

Ever since then, it was a long, slow, brutal decline, culminating in the 2008 winless season.

So, if you’re keeping track, the Jim Owens era started off great, then went mediocre.  Then, greatness returned with Don James, and immediately went mediocre once he left.  Greatness returned briefly under Neuheisel, then the program plummeted to its nadir.  Sark came in here and brought us back to mediocrity, and that’s where we sit today.

Coach Pete’s first year will be the most important year for the program since Don James’ third season.  Any regime change is going to automatically see a hit in recruiting; that just comes with the territory.  How bad we’ll have it largely depends on where the assistant coaches end up.  If we’ve got Wilcox and Lupoi going to USC, that really puts us in a bind.  If they end up at Boise State, it’s not AS bad, but they’ll still be going after a number of the same players they recruited to Washington.  If they left the west coast, it would be ideal (but that’s probably not going to happen).  Just figure, this recruiting class won’t be as highly rated as some of Sark’s last classes.

Which, fine.  Long term, it could be a problem, but we can also make up for it by redoubling our efforts in our 2015 class.  However, that 2015 class will hinge on how well we do in 2014.  Of course, you can say that about literally every year, but the importance of this year outweighs any other.

You always want to put a good product on the field to show kids that if they choose Washington, they’re choosing to play for a winner.  No one wants to come to college and get their shit kicked in.  However, kids are going to be watching this team to get a sense of Coach Pete’s style and how they might fit.  We all know that Coach Pete is great when it comes to getting the best out of the talent he’s able to bring in.  Will that translate with a program that currently houses a number of blue-chip prospects – kids who never seriously considered playing for a “lesser” school like Boise State?  It’s one thing to coach up some kids who are just happy to be there; but does he have the ability to coach up kids who already expect to be great?

The Huskies, right now, are a team on the rise.  Sark brought us Top 25 & Top 30 recruiting classes the last few years.  We have A LOT of talent on this team.  But, we’re also losing some critical pieces.  Keith Price, Sean Parker, most likely Bishop Sankey & ASJ, maybe even Danny Shelton (among others, who I can’t remember off-hand right now). 

Whenever you’re looking at a quarterback change of this magnitude, you can’t help but think that the next year will be a year of transition.  Fortunately, Cyler Miles had a chance to get some meaningful reps this year, so we won’t TOTALLY throw a greenhorn into the fire.  Still, there will be growing pains.

And, on top of that, Coach Pete doesn’t get to work with the kids right now.  That’s falling on Tui and the rest of our M*A*S*H unit of interim coaches.  Just as Miles and the rest of our quarterbacks are fighting for the starting job in spring, they’ll also have to contend with learning a new offensive scheme.  That’s BOUND to set us back, especially when you consider this will be the third scheme-change in three years (from traditional pro style, to the HUNH-hybrid, to whatever Coach Pete installs).

Even under normal circumstances, with Sark and the rest of our coaches returning, I wouldn’t have been shocked to see this team to take a bit of a step back.  But, under these freak circumstances, a step back is almost expected!

And yet, we can’t have it.  If we want this program to be one of the elites not just in the conference, but in the nation, we need to continue with the momentum we built under Sark.  And THAT means:  not having two or three down recruiting years in a row.  2014 will already be down, because Coach Pete won’t have the time he normally would as an incumbent head coach, saying nothing of the players who will be poached.  To avoid a repeat down recruiting class, though, we’re going to have to show people we not only have the best head coach in the conference, but we’re already surrounded by the best talent in the conference.

There are a lot of reasons to come to Washington.  New stadium & facilities, located in a major city, most beautiful gametime setting in the nation, a premiere head coach, lots of player talent already here, we’re in a major conference and play against some of the best teams in the nation.  Now, we just need to win.  That’s it.  Sure, it starts with this bowl game next week, but there’s going to be a major asterisk next to this game.  The real fight will be next season.  If we’re able to show the kind of improvement I know we’re capable of, then it’s off to the races after that.  We should have kids banging down our door to come to UW.

2013 Husky Football Preview

Can you believe that August 31st happens THIS Saturday?  And can you believe that once again I will be out of town and won’t be able to make it to the home opener, or even watch it live on television?  I’M DYING!  Somebody kill me, because I’m dying.

Maybe it’s because I follow Husky fan-blogs, but I’ve got to say there is an amazing amount of optimism among the homers out there.  For instance, there is this universal belief that THIS is the year that Washington finally beats Oregon.  Which immediately gives me pause, because it can’t be THAT easy, right?  I mean, yeah, we’re looking at improved depth, we’re looking at a senior quarterback poised for a bounce-back season, and we have been focusing non-stop to counter Oregon’s style of play by adopting Oregon’s style of play (the ol’ Can’t Beat ‘Em/Join ‘Em Corollary).  When I see everyone and their mothers making the “difficult” prediction that the Huskies are going to beat Oregon, I can’t help but be the contrarian.  So, I’m sorry to say that it’s my official opinion that the Huskies WON’T be beating Oregon in New Husky Stadium and that it’s probably another couple years before we do.

For the record, I think this is the first time the Huskies actually make it a GAME with Oregon.  I think the final result is the Huskies lose by one score or less, and I think Oregon needs a fourth quarter scoring drive to seal the deal – certainly one of their toughest tests of 2013 – but ultimately I think they do, in fact, seal the deal.

So, here’s what I’ll give you.  Since you can’t be a college football fan and NOT be a homer, I’m going the other way with my prediction than the crowd at large.  I say the Huskies WON’T beat Oregon, but I say they DO have a winning road record for the first time in years.

Oh … yeah, I’m going there.  The Huskies have one of the surprisingly tough road schedules in the entire Pac-12 conference.  After playing Illinois in Soldier Field, they go to Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon State.  ASU and UCLA will be with USC in fighting for that Pac-12 South title; and Stanford & OSU will be fighting with Oregon and, yes, Washington for the North title.  And here’s a bombshell for you:  the Washington Huskies go 4-1 on the road.  BOOM!  Take that, prognosticators!

As much as it angries up my blood, I say the Huskies lose to UCLA and Jim Mora’s dumb ass (God, you have no idea how much I hate the Bruins and wish them nothing but pain & misery).  In every other road game, though, I think the Huskies play tough, hard-nosed football, and they prevail with a bevy of final-minute scoring drives.  You are going to look at one of the clutchest football teams since Tui was roaming these fields!

A 4-1 road record would be about as Awesome Sauce as it gets, because I think the Huskies will be going 6-1 at home, with that aforementioned defeat to the Ducks, leaving us 10-2 with a 7-2 conference record.  Ultimately, I don’t think two conference defeats gets us into the Pac-12 Title Game (because, with tie-breaker, that would involve Oregon losing three times in conference, which – with their relatively easy schedule – isn’t happening), but 10 wins isn’t 7 wins, and that by itself is something.

I think 2013 will ultimately be remembered as the year Sark finally put together a dominant team.  All that hot-seat bullshit will go away for good and this program will spring-board into bigger and better things.  Of course, 2014 by default will be a bit of a step back, as we will be working in a first-time starting quarterback.  But, I don’t think we will step back far enough to miss out on a bowl.  And, that kind of experience should make 2015 our target year for making it back to the Rose Bowl and returning to the kind of prominence we deserve!

***

The season, as always, hinges on Keith Price’s performance.  If he manages to return to or exceed his Sophomore form, we will be looking at that 10-win team everyone has been salivating over.  If he maintains his Junior form, then God help us all.

I truly think Price was hampered by a loss of weapons in this offense last year, moreso than the injuries.  Remember, Price was hobbled for most of his Sophomore season too, and that didn’t prevent him from being one of the best QBs in the conference.  The bottom line is:  we need to supplement the talent round Kasen Williams and ASJ, and I think this team has done so.

Kevin Smith, thus far through camp, has taken a huge step forward after an injury-plagued Junior season.  At the moment, he’s looking at a starting spot on this team, but of course that can change at any time.  The real reason for optimism lies in our true freshmen receivers:  John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow.  At the moment, Ross is listed as a starter and Stringfellow is listed behind Williams.  There were grumblings about red-shirting one or both of these players, but I think this season is too special and too important to not play our very best guys.  That means All Hands On Deck, and that means true frosh – if they’re able – get the nod over disappointing elder statesmen like Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell.

One of my very favorite things about college football is that constant sense of competition (it’s also one of my very favorite things about the Seahawks right now).  You replenish lost talent via recruiting, and those guys have an instant chance to make an impact and join the ranks of the starters.  They only fail in that charge if they have legitimately been beaten out by more experienced players, who feel the push from those coming up behind them and rise to the occasion.  Either John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow play meaningful snaps with this team, or they make the other receivers around them better.  Win/win.

And, speaking of improved depth, look no further than our running game.

Bishop Sankey returns as one of the best backs in the Pac-12 – with an outside shot at being one of the best backs in the nation.  Jesse Callier returns from injury to give us that change-of-pace quickness we were lacking last year (though, some accounts have him as not quite back to his 2011 form; possibly worried about that knee, possibly due to lack of conditioning).  Between the two (Callier is listed 3rd on the depth chart, if you can believe it), is Dwayne Washington, the converted wide receiver who – by all accounts – has looked absolutely phenomenal in camp thus far.  So phenomenal, in fact, that it wouldn’t be shocking to start seeing him steal carries away from Sankey as the season goes along.

As with any other football team, though, this offense will only go as far as its offensive line allows.  I can’t remember the last time the Huskies have had a dominant line, which goes a long way in explaining how far this team has fallen from its Don James/Jim Lambright days.  This year, I think we’re all hoping for marginal improvement.  Major improvement would be unthinkably outstanding, but let’s not get our hopes up too much.  What this line does have going for it – aside from returned health – is experience.  The number of linemen on this team who have started games is amazing.  That can only be an asset for a unit searching for an identity and hopefully some cohesion.  There are currently no Seniors on the depth chart, so that’s a little concerning.  But, four out of five starters are Juniors, so that will bode well if they manage to play the majority of snaps.  If we can get improved play out of these guys, 2014 should be an embarrassment of riches along the line.

This offense should be capable of averaging well over 30 points per game this season.  I have the utmost confidence that we will see a return to form for this Husky offense.  It will be an asset and not a liability like last year, I promise you.

***

The 2012 Husky defense was the very definition of a Pleasant Surprise.  After the Nick Holt abomination, the 2012 D could have been only slightly better than its 2011 counterpart and we would have been thrilled.  But, in truth, the 2012 D was a legitimate strength, it kept us in some games we had no business being in, and it won us some games we shouldn’t have won.  Granted, we still got thrashed by LSU, Oregon, and Arizona.  But, they helped us over the hump against the likes of San Diego State, Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal on the road, in one of the sloppiest games in recent memory.

The 2012 defense wasn’t perfect.  That choke-job in the Apple Cup is an embarrassment of the highest order.  But, the defense was a step in the right direction, leaving this team poised for even better things in 2013.

The two big losses on this unit were Justin Glenn and Desmond Trufant.  I agree that there’s no way to replace someone like Trufant, but I don’t think the cupboard is bare by any stretch.  We still have Sean Parker, who will be among the best safeties in the conference, as well as Marcus Peters at one corner spot, who should be poised to make a name for himself in his second season.  Gregory Ducre, my erstwhile whipping boy ’round these parts, is one of the fastest guys on the team and going into his Senior season.  The level of improvement out of this kid never ceases to amaze me.  With another senior, Will Shamburger, at the other safety spot, we actually have one of the most experienced secondaries in the Pac-12.  There’s no Desmond Trufant in there, but that might not matter with the depth we’ve got behind these guys I just mentioned.

The Husky linebacking corps is one of the best – as a whole – we’ve had in some time.  Led by Junior John Timu in the middle, and all-world athlete Shaq Thompson on the outside, we will be fast, powerful and elite in the middle.  Which is important as this defense goes from challenging the power rushing attack of Stanford to the speed rushing attack of Oregon to the aerial assault of Arizona State.  If this team is going to take the next steps towards being elite, it’s going to be on the backs of these linebackers.

I’m not necessarily as sold on our D-Line as many, but I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.  Danny Shelton is a Junior looking to make a name for himself among NFL draft boards.  To generate the kind of attention he’s hoping to get, he’s going to have to be a dominant force not just once in a while, but on every single down.  Many question whether he has the drive to become the next in a long line of elite Husky defensive tackles, and count me among them.  I’ve seen him out there, seemingly going through the motions, far too often to have much more than wavering confidence.

One interesting note on the recent depth chart is Cory Littleton taking the defensive end spot over Josh Shirley.  If that’s a way of saying that Shirley isn’t so much an every-down end as much as a pass-rushing specialist, then I agree.  If that’s a way of saying that Littleton is actually on par as a pass-rusher with Shirley, then I’m pretty fucking happy.  Because we know what Shirley is capable of as a rusher, and we have a good idea of what he could develop into if he puts his mind to it.  And, if Littleton is on par with that, while also being an asset in the run game, then that’s a little scary.

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There’s a lot of reason for optimism for this team.  We’re at a point where it’s all Sark’s guys, and those guys have the kind of talent we haven’t seen in over a decade.  Get ready, Husky fans, because 2013 is the year it all starts getting fun again.  Fewer embarrassing blow-outs, more thrilling last-minute finishes.  And, with an improved kicking game, I actually might not have that much to bitch about (oh, who am I kidding?).