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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #19 Washington

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 30, 2014

#19 Washington Huskies

 

2013 Recap:

A 9-4 record with all losses coming to tough teams within the Pac-12 (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona State). This team is right where it needed to be but they just needed a definitive win or two for the season to get them over the hump.

 

Coaching:

Chris Petersen comes to town after 8 years and 92 wins at Boise State. The Washington area is one known well by Petersen, and Washington is counting on him to continue his terrific recruiting in the region and rely on his reputation to ensure the Huskies still sink most of the prized recruits from the area.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

The biggest question heading into the season is who is going to play quarterback for the Huskies after three seasons of Keith Price. Cyler Miles was the backup a season ago and he saw action in five games with two starts and performed admirably. Yet he had some problems with the law in the offseason and is now suspended for the opener against Hawaii and did not participate in the spring. This is opening the door for another pair of candidates at quarterback. Troy Williams and Jeff Lindquist both ran with the first offense but neither seemed to impress the coaching staff, meaning the situation is now even more convoluted than before. Miles may have the job out of attrition as Coach Petersen has yet to make an announcement and the first couple of games of the season may be more like a live audition.

One player that seems even harder to replace would be running back Bishop Sankey. Sankey was chosen in the 2nd round of this past draft and was the first running back off the board. While a far superior player than Keith Price, the Huskies have an answer at running back in Dwayne Washington. There are many pundits who feel this position is a question mark but they must not have seen Washington rip off big run after big run last year. Washington only had 37 carries last season and 8 went for 10 yards or more as he averaged 7.1 YPC. Washington is a big bruiser with breakaway speed, and he is a start waiting to happen. Shaq Thompson is already a star and we will get to the linebacker later, but the running back we can talk about now. Thompson looks like he will be doing double duty this year and the 230-pound athletic freak doesn't make to disappoint.

Best Draft Prospect: Dwayne Washington RB 4th Round 2017.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Kasen Williams was supposed to be the man making all the catches last year while Austin Seferian-Jenkins would grab all the touchdowns with his red zone presence. Seferian-Jenkins was a high selection at tight end and he did lead the team in touchdown receptions, but Williams never delivered and had a very disappointing season. Williams had some legal issues and was arrested on two separate occasions before succumbing to a few injuries that lingered during the season, limiting Williams to 29 catches and 1 lonely touchdown. Williams is listed as a 5th rounder but that has more to do with injury and off-the-field concerns than sheer talent. The best part of this for Washington was the emergence of Jaydon Mickens who led the team with 65 catches and had 5 touchdowns. Mickens has two years of eligibility and he should form a nice duo with Williams. Finding a red zone threat now that Seferian-Jenkins is gone is the biggest concern with the passing game and that is a question that Washington doesn't seemed prepared to answer.

Best Draft Prospect: Kasan Williams WR 5th Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

Last season this was an above average line. There had to be some talent there with Bishop Sankey registering over 1,900 yards rushing. It’s easy to say the line should be even better this season as all five starters return and four of the five players will be seniors. Right guard Dexter Charles is the lone underclassmen being, but he is a person that may even declare this season. Charles plays in the 280-285 range so he is a little undersized but his versatility and speed off the ball makes him a valuable run blocker and he has a very strong lower body. We expect right tackle Ben Riva to also be drafted this season with the rest of the line being late round prospects or undrafted free agents with a shot at the next level. Aside from Charles there is no superstar but they are a cohesive unit that for the most part has stayed healthy. Washington may want to cut down on the 30 sacks allowed but again it’s not a horrible number, it’s just that pass blocking is not their strong suit.

Best Draft Prospect: Dexter Charles OG 3rd Round 2016 (Possible candidate for early entry in 2015).

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Danny Shelton is the best prospect the Huskies have but the key will be the play and health of defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha. Kikaha missed large chunks of two seasons with knee issues but last season stayed healthy and was one of the best defensive ends in the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, a total good for second in the PAC-12. The added pass rush boosted the Huskies sacks total to 41 on the season, a number that landed them 3rd overall in the conference and it had a direct impact in helping to stop the running game. Danny Shelton is a short stubby ball of energy in the middle of the field who can be a true nose guard at the NFL level. Even though Shelton plays in a 4-3 base he is a candidate to be a 3-4 DT at the next level as he is sound against the run and will offer enough penetration when needed. Like the offensive line the defensive line is returning all starters as Evan Hudson and Cory Littleton are back at tackle and end respectively. Littleton came into his own with 10 tackles for loss and 5 sacks as well and the junior keeps improving with every game.

Best Draft Prospect: Danny Shelton DT 2nd Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

Two of the three starting linebackers are back from last season so we are starting to see a trend here with players returning for the Huskies. John Timu patrols the middle and is back after a 77 tackle season, but it’s outside linebacker Shaq Thompson that everyone talks about. Thompson has a legitimate shot at being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and he will get some reps at running back. After 80 tackles and countless big plays, you can see Thompson is only scratching the surface of his abilities with him entering his junior season. Travis Feeney had 55 tackles a season ago but only started five games so there is a plethora of experience here. Washington will have one of the top linebacking units in the PAC-12 and they should help Washington create turnovers, an area where they were 4th in the PAC-12 a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Shaq Thompson LB 2nd Round 2015 (Junior expected to declare early).

 

Secondary:

Marcus Peters is an up and coming cornerback that flew under the radar a season ago. Peters registered 55 tackles with 5 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, and a touchdown. Peters is starting to look like a true prospect for day two of the draft for 2016 and the fact that he does not shy away from physicality should continue to help him rise up the boards. This is the one area that is different than most on the field because Peters is the only returning starter to the secondary and it looks like the three players joining him will consist of a freshman and two sophomores. Despite the lack of starting experience the secondary should still be in good shape with Brandon Beaver looking like a future star at free safety. Trevor Walker looks like he will start at strong safety although that may change with sophomore Kevin King in the mix. Jermaine Kelly looks like he will open the season opposite Marcus Peters and the freshman will be tested.

Best Draft Prospect: Marcus Peters CB 2nd Round 2016.

 

Special Teams:

Travis Coons was very reliable last year missing only 1 field goal and he was perfect under 40 yards. Koons was also the punter so Washington will have replacements at both positions. Cameron VanWinkle has a booming leg but accuracy remains to be seen while punter Korey Durkee saw some time at punter as a freshman in 2012. The return game is in good shape but coverage was an issue last year.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Schedule:

Washington starts with a trip to Hawaii August 30th but then spends all of September at home including a date with Stanford to close out the month. Only on 1 occasion will the Huskies travel in successive weeks and unfortunately week 2 of that trip is in Oregon. November is a hectic month with 5 games including UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona, and rival Washington State. This is not an impossible schedule but it is also far from a cake walk.

 

Draft Outlook:

Washington will surprise many with the amount of top notch players available and Shaq Thompson and Danny Shelton will be big names heading into this draft with Dexter Charles possibly making that a trio if he declares. This will be an interesting year as Washington will be looking to hit at least 10 wins to ensure Chris Petersen has no future issues recruiting in an area where he has excelled in the past.

 

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