Washington Preview - The Pressure Is On
Washington QB Keith Price
Washington QB Keith Price
Posted Jun 6, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Washington Huskies

Washington Huskies

Preview 2012

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-  Washington FBS Opener 2012 San Diego State Preview

- By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Steve Sarkisian
Fourth year: 19-19
Returning Lettermen
Off. 21, Def. 19, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Washington Players
1. QB Keith Price, Jr.
2. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Soph.
3. SS Sean Parker, Jr.
4. CB Desmond Trufant, Sr.
5. DE Josh Shirley, Soph.
6. WR Kasen Williams, Soph.
7. DE Hau'oli Jamora, Soph.
8. C Drew Schaefer, Sr.
9. LB John Timu, Soph.
10. RB Bishop Sankey, Soph.
2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 San Diego State
Sept. 8 at LSU
Sept. 15 Portland State
Sept. 22 OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 Stanford
Oct. 6 at Oregon
Oct. 13 USC
Oct. 20 at Arizona
Oct. 27 Oregon State
Nov. 2 at California
Nov. 10 Utah
Nov. 17 at Colorado
Nov. 23 at Washington State

Now that fourth-year head coach Steve Sarkisian has shown he can rebuild the U-Dub program, expectations are rising in Seattle. That's a good thing, but it also adds a degree of pressure that this school—or its staff—hasn't faced since Don James was on Montlake.

Sarkisian appears to be up to the challenge, provided he can get much better play out of his defense. In going 7-6 over the past two years, Washington's first back-to-back winning seasons in a decade, very little of the support came from the D. A 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor marked the unofficial end of the Huskies' career of coordinator Nick Holt, who has since been replaced by Justin Wilcox.

There will be no shortcuts for the hotshot young coach who has yet to accept an assignment with such a high level of difficulty. Stopping the run will be doubly hard in 2012 now that the two all-stars in the middle, DT Alameda Ta'amu and ILB Cort Dennison, have graduated. Wilcox is in the process of installing a system that attacks, and makes the most of the speed and young legs that the school has signed in recent recruiting cycles.

Even marginal defensive gains will go a long way toward boosting the potential of a squad that'll few problems putting up points. QB Keith Price will be looking to build on an auspicious debut as the starter by teaming up with a collection of emerging sophomores, such as RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The offensive key for the Huskies, as is often the case, hinges on the line's ability to protect the pocket and open holes better than it has in recent years.

The Huskies are thrilled to be regulars on the postseason dance card, but are anything but content. In fact, the program wants to be where Oregon and Stanford currently reside, as perennial contenders in the Pac-12 North. Sarkisian & Co. have excelled on the recruiting trail, and continue to do a crackerjack job of coaching up those young kids. Next up is executing with more precision on Saturdays, a required step for U-Dub to climb even higher in the conference pecking order.

What to watch for on offense: Kasen the joint. Of course the Huskies were disappointed to see receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar graduate, but second-year sophomore Kasen Williams is going to be better than both … maybe as early as this fall. One of the nation's top recruits of 2011 played like it in his first season out of high school, catching 36 passes for 427 yards and six scores off the bench. At 6-2 and 216 pounds, with the burst to elevate high into the air, he has the natural skills to beat defensive backs in so many different ways. QB Keith Price is looking for partners as he begins his trip into the national lexicon. Williams shapes up as one of his preferred passengers on the 2012 journey.

What to watch for on defense: Shirley's temple. Sophomore Josh Shirley has found a home at U-Dub after initially failing to launch at UCLA. He's also turning the position of rush end into his own personal religion. A natural for a role that asks its defenders to be fast-twitch athletes, with an insatiable appetite for the backfield, the 6-3, 235-pound menace is bucking to build on last season's team-high 8.5 sacks. Shirley is a menacing presence off the edge, exactly what first-year coordinator Justin Wilcox is looking for in his kids. If Hau'oli Jamora can bounce back from last fall's knee injury, and play the way he did in 2010, Washington will boast one of the Pac-12's most intimidating bookends.

The team will be far better if… Wilcox is being offered head jobs in December. Basically, the program needs its new defensive coordinator to be so good in 2012 that other schools are looking to promote him at the end of the regular season. Obviously, the ultimate success of the Huskies is going to hinge on a D that performed miserably last fall, yielding an average of 36 points and 453 yards per game. Washington has the offense to survive in some shootouts, but it would prefer not to. The Huskies are an improved away from being legit Top 25 squad.

The Schedule: The Huskies aren't exactly taking it easy. Portland State should be a layup, but that's a totally acceptable non-conference date coming off a trip to LSU. Starting off against San Diego State isn't exactly going to be a breeze. And then comes the bad news: Stanford, at Oregon, USC. Two of the three might be in Seattle, but it's still not a plus to get those three in a row to kick off the Pac-12 slate, and it's also a bad break to have to play Utah from the South. Because the first half of the season isn't enough of a challenge, three of the last four games and four of the last six re on the road including trips to Colorado and the Apple Cup against Washington State to close things out.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Keith Price. Who could have possibly seen this coming? At this time last year, Price wasn't even assured of being the heir apparent to Jake Locker. Today, he just might be the next best thing to Matt Barkley in the Pac-12, and a contender for national awards. In between, the first-time starter helped elevate the Huskies offense by throwing for 3,063 yards and a school-record 33 touchdown passes. He carries himself a lot like a young Russell Wilson. In other words, you can win a lot of games with Price under center.

Best defensive player: Junior SS Sean Parker. DE Josh Shirley and CB Desmond Trufant are certainly capable of filling this slot as well. However, Parker has something special about him that transcends his physical ability. Oh, he can hit, and does a solid job in coverage. It's his instincts and his feel for the position, though, that have coaches believing that he has a ceiling that'll reach Sundays by the time he's done as a Husky. In just his first year as a full-timer, he led the team with four interceptions, while ranking second with 91 stops.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive tackles. Yes, the Washington defense must raise the bar in 2012, but if the offense stumbles, the program will really be in big trouble. The only way the gears of the attack will grind to a halt is if the O-line fails to give Price the time he needs to operate. And since the quarterback is neither very big nor particularly durable, new tackles Micah Hatchie and Ben Riva have to keep the pocket as clean and uncongested as possible. It'll be no small task since the projected starters have minimal experience between them.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskies not only make it three straight bowl invitations, but also break through the seven-win threshold. After finishing a game over .500 in consecutive years, Washington is looking to advance the ball downfield in ways that actually translate to the standings. Eight wins against a tough schedule would be yet another sign of tangible progress for a program that's going to start a slew of players who are going to have eligibility beyond the 2012 season.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Stanford. If the Huskies are going to surge a little higher in the Pac-12 North, they need to start breaking through against Stanford and Oregon, neither of whom they've beaten in the last four years. Washington will face a wicked first half schedule that includes trips LSU and Oregon, and visits from USC and Stanford. Averting a hideous start to 2012 will require U-Dub to pull an upset at CenturyLink Field, and the Cardinal could be ripe for the picking in this one.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Rushing touchdowns: Washington 19 – Opponents 32
- Red-zone touchdown%: Washington 81% – Opponents 67%
- Third-quarter scoring: Washington 83 - Opponents 132
- 2012 Washington Preview | 2012 Washington Offense
- 2012 Washington Defense | 2012 Washington Depth Chart