2011 Washington Preview – Offense
Washington WR Jermaine Kearse
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Washington Husky Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What you need to know: Washington entered 2010 with high expectations for an offense that was led by Heisman Trophy contender Jake Locker at quarterback, returning 1,000-yard rusher Chris Polk and a deep wide receiver corps. The unit largely underperformed, finishing 76th in yards per game and 97th in scoring. Now that Locker is a Tennessee Titan, the ability to replace him will go a long way in determining whether or not head coach and play-caller Steve Sarkisian can improve the attack. Fortunately, the new quarterback will have a lot of help at the skill positions. Bruising junior Chris Polk, who rushed for 1,415 yards last year, will keep the chains moving for the Huskies in what could be his last collegiate season. The receiving corps should also be solid, led by senior Jermaine Kearse, who caught 63 passes for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Chris Polk
Passing: Keith Price
19-37, 164 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Rushing: Chris Polk
260 carries, 1,415 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: Jermaine Kearse
63 catches, 1,005 yds, 12 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OL Erik Kohler
Unsung star on the rise: True Freshman TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Best pro prospect: Polk
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Polk, 2) Senior WR Jermaine Kearse, 3) Senior OT Senio Kelemete
Strength of the offense: Running game, the receivers, backfield depth, starting experience
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line, quarterback experience
State of the Unit: Steve Sarkisian didn't plan on announcing a starter until the summer. However, when the post-spring depth chart was released Keith Price was listed on top. He impressed all spring with his mobility, arm strength and decision-making. Although unproven, the sophomore does have some game experience. When Jake Locker was hurt against USC, Price came in and completed a crucial two-point conversion. He also started and played the entire game at Oregon, performing surprisingly well considering his first start came in the unfriendly confines of Autzen Stadium. He's an athlete who loves to run the ball, which could be a problem given that he's only 6-1 and 192 pounds. Fortunately, he's elusive and heady enough to go down on contact. He'll get his feet wet in the opener versus Eastern Washington, but better learn quickly because two weeks later, he'll lead the Huskies into a Sept. 17 showdown at Nebraska.
Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, was U-Dub's only other scholarship quarterback in the spring. Like his dad, Nick isn't the biggest guy out there, standing 6-3 and 191 pounds, nor does he have the strongest arm. He makes up for his shortcomings, though, with a crisp delivery and sharp instincts. If Sarkisian wants Price to run the ball, then Montana will almost certainly be needed at some point in the season. Despite being only a redshirt freshman, he's been praised for his leadership, and while not a running quarterback, is nimble within the pocket.
Watch Out For … Ball security. With such young quarterbacks, making good decisions and taking care of the ball will be concerns all year. The Huskies are blessed with plenty of playmakers on offense, but that won't mean much if they can't keep the offense on the field.
Strength: Athleticism. While not as big or as fast as Locker, Price has the ability to be just as effective a runner as his predecessor. Price excels at running the bootleg, and can use his feet to buy time to pass.
Weakness: Experience. Anytime a team has to choose between a sophomore and a redshirt freshman at quarterback, there are bound to be growing pains. Neither contender has ever had to go through the rigors of a college season, nor are used to the speed of a Pac-12 game.
Outlook: There's no sugarcoating Washington's quarterback situation. With a pair of untested passers on the hot seat, mistakes will be made, picks will be thrown, and sacks will be taken. On the bright side, Sarkisian has a proven track record of churning out quality quarterbacks. By the latter stages of the season, the Huskies should have a battle-hardened leader they can rely on for a couple years.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The decision of junior Chris Polk to forgo NFL riches may end up having as big an impact as Jake Locker's was the year before. If he stays two more seasons, he'll almost certainly own all of the Huskies' rushing records, including being the only four-time 1,000-yard rusher. Chances are, the 5-11, 214 pounder won't be around that long. Yet, he'll still leave his mark as one of the greatest to ever carry the rock on Montlake. Polk finished 2010 with one of the greatest three-game stretches in program history when he kept the season alive with a two-point conversion at Cal, rushed for 284 yards in the Apple Cup, and was named the Offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl after rushing for 177 yards against Nebraska. A versatile back, his specialty is yards after contact, keeping his feet churning and packing a nasty stiff-arm. Since the end of last season, he's dropped weight while maintaining his lower-body strength. His leaner physique should mean a little extra burst and more homerun potential.
At fullback, 5-11, 223-pound Jonathan Amosa is a former walk-on, who proved that he was too good to sit during practice. He opened eyes all spring with his ability to open holes, and is a decent threat to run the ball. While not a game-breaker, Amosa is a reliable blocker who the coaches can trust to help keep their young quarterback safe.
As a true freshman, Jesse Callier was the toast of the town as fans drooled over his ability to run the fly-sweep. He has good vision and the quickness to get to the second level. The sophomore rushed for 433 yards in 2010, including 107 in the win over UCLA. While a terrific change-of-pace, he's yet to show whether or not he can be the Huskies' every-down back of the future. The 5-10, 205-pounder can punish safeties, but hasn't done much work between the tackles in the early stages of his career.
The staff likes having access to a fullback who can run and catch as well as he blocks. In 6-0, 238-pound sophomore Zach Fogerson, it has a viable option. He has deceptive speed for his size, and can keep the sticks moving. The only thing preventing the reserve from starting is his knowledge of blocking schemes and ability to protect the passers.
Watch Out For … Before tearing his ACL in August, Deontae Cooper was the favorite to backup Polk in 2010. It was a crushing injury since the blue-chipper graduated early in order to compete for reps. Now that he's healthy again, fans are excited to watch the redshirt freshman continue his maturation process. The 6-0, 193-pounder has the big-play ability and leadership to steal carries away from Callier this fall.
Strength: Depth. Polk could improve greatly and still have fewer yards than last year. With backups like Callier and Cooper, the Huskies won't need the workhorse to shoulder the entire load. On the other hand, if he starts off 2011 the way he finished 2010, he could rush for considerably more yards on fewer carries.
Weakness: Durability. If there's a potential problem creeping beneath the surface, it's the health of Polk, the star and the one guy who's been dinged up at times since arriving. Although he's expected to be fine after missing the spring, shoulder injuries have a knack for limiting a back's full potential.
Outlook: If Polk's shoulder problems don't flare up, Washington will boast its best backfield in years. To help keep him fresh, the staff plans to spread the carries around a bit more, a luxury it'll have with the depth and talent that's currently at its disposal.
Unit Rating: 8.5
State of the Unit: It says something about a receiver when a 63-catch, 1,000-yard season is considered by some to be a disappointment. Jermaine Kearse struggled with drops all year long, and while he turned in a solid effort by most standards, he also left ample room for improvement. The dichotomy of the senior is that while he often makes the big play when needed, he also disappears in games, like he did in both games against Nebraska. The 6-2, 205-pounder was always Locker's main deep threat, and if he can become a little more consistent, he could be end up being the Pac-12's premier best receiver.
While Devin Aguilar isn't the flashiest player, and he, too, has had some struggles with drops, the 6-0, 188-pound senior runs solid routes and can be counted on in the intermediate passing game. Last season, he caught 28 passes for 352 yards, and it would be reasonable to expect similar production in 2011.
One of the players who really emerged this spring is sophomore Kevin Smith . A terrific athlete, he's only been playing organized football since his junior year of high school. The 6-0, 197-pounder has played his way into a starting role, showcasing an ability to stretch the defense with his size and speed, while also racking up yards after the catch.
True freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins didn't graduate early from high school and participate in spring practice so he can redshirt. The U.S. Army All-American has been an offseason star, with a great shot to start in the fall. His specialty is catching the ball in traffic, where he uses his 6-6, 250-pound frame to get up and rip the ball away from defenders. During his recruitment, there was speculation he might move to offensive tackle, an indication of his blocking ability.
Can James Johnsonlocate the spark he showed during an impressive freshman season? Or will he revert to the non-factor he was last year, struggling to get on the field after battling injuries early on? The answer will decide whether the junior sees the field every series, or is relegated to spot duty off the bench. When he's on, the 6-2, 205-pounder is a sure-handed weapon on third down. As a rookie, the coaches loved to use him over the middle because of his ability to make tough grabs in traffic and move the chains.
Backing up Smith is another second-year player, 6-0, 184-pound redshirt freshman DiAndre Campbell , who impressed coaches this spring with his knack for getting open. He runs precise routes, complemented by his natural athleticism, to find the seams in a defense. He also showed flashes of being able to pick up big yards after the catch, earning an opportunity for reps in the fall.
The player the fans will be most excited to see won't even arrive until fall camp. Heralded true freshman Kasen Williams can do everything. He's big, and knows how to use his 6-3, 215-pound frame to his advantage. Plus, he can fly. The rookie is so athletic, in fact, that he was a high school track star in the triple, long and high jumps. Williams has great hands, too, and had such a successful final prep year that he was named Parade Magazine's national player of the year.
If there's one thing that can prevent Seferian-Jenkins from starting as a true freshman, it's the stellar play of Michael Hartvigson. The redshirt freshman would've played significantly last year, but was injured in the fourth game and was able to secure a redshirt. Another big target, the 6-6, 246-pounder showed surprising athleticism in the spring. While not as athletic as the competition, if he can continue to impress in the passing game, his experience may just give him the edge.
Watch Out For … the Huskies to finally make use of the tight end. Last year, the position accounted for six total receptions. The tight ends were no threat, allowing opponents to gang up on Kearse and company. If the two young tight ends can stretch the field a little, it should make the quarterbacks' job much easier.
Strength: Depth. The older players are experienced and the younger players are talented. When Johnson got hurt last year, the Huskies didn't miss a beat in the passing game, and they've only added weapons since.
Weakness: Speed. While the Huskies have a plethora of great possession receivers, departed senior D'Andre Goodwin was their quickest receiver last year. Smith will be asked to fill that role, but until he shows he can be successful in conference games, Washington will be lacking a proven speedster.
Outlook: The Huskies will have one of the best receiving corps in the conference. Even if both of the tight ends are unproven it's still an upgrade over last year, and just about every notable wide receiver from 2010 returns. Add in potential stars, like Smith, Williams and Campbell, and the sky is the limit for the unit.
Unit Rating: 8.5
State of the Unit: The rebuilding of the Huskies' line has been a long, drawn-out process that's still ongoing. While the unit will be a little better than 2010, it's still a year or two away from becoming one of the conference's steadier units. The best lineman will once again be senior Senio Kelemete. With Jake Locker and now Keith Price, the 6-4, 289-pound veteran has had the benefit of protecting some pretty mobile quarterbacks. Still, the senior is a solid Pac-12 left tackle, with the chance to earn some post-season honors. He missed much of spring practice with a popped plantar fascia in his foot, but the coaches insist it's a non-issue that won't affect his availability.
Strengthening the Huskies' left side at guard will be sophomore Erik Kohler . The 6-5, 305-pounder lived up to his recruiting hype when he was thrust into the fire as a true freshman and held his own. In an otherwise forgettable game for the Huskies against Nebraska early in the season, he neutralized the Huskies vaunted defensive tackles. He started games at both left guard and right tackle, and with a year of college weight training under his belt, should be ready to emerge as a quality lineman.
Returning for the Huskies at center will be 6-4, 281-pound junior Drew Schaefer . In his second year starting, Schaefer will be well-versed in the offensive system, and does a nice job of calling out assignments.
At right guard, the Huskies have another talented sophomore in 6-4, 307-pound Colin Porter . After starting six games as a true freshman, he'll hold down the spot all season in his second year on campus. One of the stronger players on the team, Porter excels in run blocking.
At right tackle, the Huskies will start another second-year player, redshirt freshman Ben Riva . The 6-6, 275-pounder was a bit of a surprise this spring, laying claim to the starting spot early on. An injury held him out of some practices, but once he gets back to form, he'll be the bookend opposite Kelemete.
As a walk-on last season, Daniel Kanczugowski played quite a bit at both lineman and tight end. His play earned him a scholarship this year, and he will find himself in yet another role. The 6-4, 327-pound junior is being asked to learn the center position. If he can get that down, the Huskies should be able to plug him in anywhere they need him along the line.
Watch Out For … the youth of the offensive line. Kohler, Porter, and Riva are expected to start. While talented, all of them are in their second year of college. With only a year in the weight program, it could be hard for them to hold up for an entire season.
Strength: The left side. The combination of Kelemete at tackle and Kohler at guard gives the Huskies a pretty solid left side of the line. Expect Polk to be run between the two of them often, as they should be good enough to get him to the second level.
Weakness: The right side. Riva has never seen live game action and is only a second-year player. Porter is a stud in the rushing game, but is still just an underclassman who needs to work on his pass blocking.
Outlook: Washington simply has too much youth on the lines to count on much consistency this fall. While the long-term talent is apparent, there should be plenty of growing pains as the season unfolds.
Unit Rating: 6
- 2011 Washington Preview |
2011 Washington Defense |
Washington Depth Chart