2013 Washington Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Washington Husky Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What you need to know: In an attempt to reverse last season's tepid offensive results, the Huskies want to rev up the tempo and pick up the pace this season. The objective is simple—put QB Keith Price in a position to think less and react more as the pilot of the offense. Price suffered a major regression in 2012, part his doing and partially the result of poor protection. The encouraging news is that he's surrounded by outstanding skill position talent, and he's the same guy who performed at an All-Pac-12 level just two years ago. Helping him get out of a funk will be a dynamite collection of skill position players that includes RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and star TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, the fate of the offense rests squarely on the shoulders of the blockers, a unit that had all kinds of problems keeping the pocket clean last fall. RT Ben Riva and LG Dexter Charles have anchor potential, but the group as a whole needs to stay healthy and improve their fundamentals.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Bishop Sankey
Passing: Keith Price
263-432, 2,726 yds, 19 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Bishop Sankey
289 carries, 1,439 yds, 16 TDs
Receiving: Kasen Williams
77 catches, 878 yds, 6 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LT Micah Hatchie
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LG Dexter Charles
Best pro prospect: Junior TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Seferian-Jenkins, 2) Sankey, 3) Junior WR Kasen Williams
Strength of the offense: Veteran quarterback, running game, skill positions, tight end
Weakness of the offense: Inconsistency of the passing game, wide receiver depth, pass blocking, third-down conversions
Will the real Keith Price kindly stand up? The senior is determined to prove that he's the quarterback who made Jake Locker a distant memory, and planted Heisman-contending seeds in 2011. And not the one who regressed into a shell of his former self last fall. The 6-1, 200-pound Price was arguably the Pac-12's biggest disappointment a year ago, slipping markedly to 263-of-432 for 2,726 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His picks were up, while his accuracy and money plays were way down. U-Dub is brimming with optimism and returning starters, but it needs Price to be Price again, the cool-handed triggerman who was so clutch throughout his sophomore debut.
The battle to back up Price, and possibly succeed him, is an interesting one that'll trickle into the summer. Three young, talented and untested, 6-2, 245-pound sophomore Derrick Brown, 6-4, 223-pound redshirt freshman Cyler Miles and 6-3, 234-pound Jeff Lindquist were unable to build any separation in the spring. Touted true freshman Troy Williams is not out of the running, but he is playing from behind. Brown has some college reps, completing 2-of-5 passes for 23 yards and a pick in three games. Of the redshirt freshmen, both former four-star recruits, Lindquist has the stronger arm, while Miles is the better all-around athlete.
Watch Out For …Price to relish an opportunity to play in a more fast-paced, up-tempo attack this season. He's a very good athlete who does nice work on the move. The talent is there for No. 17 to go out and flash a lot more of the sophomore form that gained him so much national notoriety in 2011. Now Price just needs to remain healthy, works on his decision-making and scrub last season from his memory.
Strength:The state of the position. The Huskies have a third-year starter behind center, and blue-chippers from each of the last three Signing Days fighting for playing time. The quarterback position, both present and future, hasn't looked this promising in Seattle in a very long time.
Weakness: Consistency. There's a lot of hope, but no one really knows for sure which Price will show up. In 2012, the country's 80th-ranked passer made way too many mistakes through the air, getting picked 13 times and struggling to connect on downfield throws. And if head coach Steve Sarkisian wants to go to his bench, he'll be staring at a cadre of wide-eyed underclassmen.
Outlook: Yeah, the position has been downgraded from this time last year, but there's still plenty of cause for optimism. Price has done it before, and he's looked comfortable so far in the new system. Ideally, he relocates his rhythm in the passing while, while the quartet of young quarterbacks uses the fall to mature and become more comfortable in the system. Their time to compete for a job comes in the spring of 2014.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Life after Chris Polk? Not so scary after all thanks to the unexpected heroics of 5-10, 200-pound Bishop Sankey, who thrived as the successor to the Huskies' star back. The junior picked up where his predecessor left off, rushing for 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns on 289 carries to go along with 33 catches for 249 more yards. The hard-nosed, blue-collar runner gave Washington an attitude on the ground, breaking tackles and rarely going down on initial contact. Sankey is the kind of determined downhill back whose toughness, vision and pad level will wear down defenses in the second half. He's poised this fall to shed what's left of his anonymity.
The competition for touches behind Sankey will intense and likely protracted this summer. The two primary competitors are 5-10, 200-pound sophomore Kendyl Taylor and 6-1, 205-pound redshirt freshman Dwayne Washington. Washington is making last December's move from wide receiver to the backfield a permanent one. He has good size and enough speed to work outside the tackles. Taylor, too arrived as a wide receiver, yet he led the team with 12 carries in the spring game. This is the kind of battle for playing time that could continue after the season starts.
Starting at fullback will be 6-3, 219-pound redshirt freshman Psalm Wooching. The 6-3, 219-pound Hawaiian is a long and lean athlete who is tough enough to do the dirty work, yet will also surprise with his running and pass-catching ability.
Watch Out For …the status of the injured knee of 5-10, 211-pound junior Jesse Callier. He was no worse than the No. 2 last September when an ACL tear curtailed his season before it ever got off the ground. He didn't play in the spring, but expects to be back for the summer, and possesses the veteran experience that this backfield covets off the bench.
Strength: Sankey. He runs hard, he swings out smoothly as a receiver and he wears down defenses with his toughness. What's not to like about No. 25? Sankey is one of the game's most dependable feature backs, a perfect focal point and complement to the passing game.
Weakness: Proven depth. Callier is coming off a serious injury, and Taylor and Washington are converted wide receivers still learning the nuances of being a Pac-12 running back. Sankey had more than 300 touches in 2012, a level of production that might leave him running on empty if repeated this fall. The Huskies need someone to ably step into the backup role to give Sankey occasional breathers.
Outlook: Sankey was every bit as good Polk, with added durability, and he's just getting started in his development as a big-time back. He'll build on his starting debut, again rushing for at least 1,000 yards, while climbing higher on the postseason honor roll. Callier bears a close watch between now and the opener. If he's healthy and rust-free, the Huskies will feature a dynamite one-two punch out of the backfield.
Unit Rating: 8
As QB Keith Price attempts to rebound from a rocky junior year, quality targets don't figure to be a major concern … unless, of course, the off-field problems of All-Pac-12 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins complicate the situation. The junior was arrested on a DUI charge in March, and was subsequently suspended from all team activities. It remains to be seen if he'll miss any time during the season. Huskies' fans are holding their collective breath, because Seferian-Jenkins is arguably the most talented and most dangerous pass-catching tight end in the game. The 6-6, 266-pound Mackey Award finalist caught 69 balls for 852 yards and seven touchdowns, showing why he's a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers and defensive backs.
Regardless of the status of Seferian-Jenkins, junior WRKasen Williams is going to be an integral part of the passing attack. The former can't-miss recruit has lived up to expectations so far, making a team-best 77 receptions for 878 yards and six touchdowns last season. The former high school triple jump, high jump and long jump champion is unexpectedly explosive for a 6-2, 216-pound athlete. Not only can Williams fly, but he'll spring over and past defenders in order to make a decent play great. The honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection is looking to become more of a homerun hitter after failing to produce a play of more than 40 yards in 2012.
Sophomore DiAndre Campbell has had the kind of offseason that's going to land him a starting job in just his second year. Raw and unpolished a season ago, when he came off the bench for 16 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns, he's become a more polished student of the game. And at 6-1 and 198 pounds, Campbell has good size on the outside.
Sophomore Jaydon Mickens is the kind of multi-dimensional playmaker who'll entice the staff to use him in myriad different ways. The 5-10, 170-pound weapon can be employed in the slot, out wide and even in the backfield from time to time. He caught 20 passes for 190 yards and a score in 2012, and is at his best when out in space.
Now that he's returning from last year's season-long wrist injury, 6-1, 197-pound senior James Johnson is going to be the program's most experienced wide receiver off the bench. Steady and hard-working, he's had an up-and-down career, with the peaks coming in 2009 and 2011. He'll be ready to come off the bench this fall to catch 25-30 passes.
While there's only one Seferian-Jenkins, Washington still likes its depth at the tight end position. Junior Michael Hartvigson, junior Evan Hudson and sophomore Josh Perkins are ready to go if the starter misses any time, or when two-tight end sets are used. The 6-6, 255-pound Hartvigson has great size and the soft hands to be a threat in the passing. At 6-3 and 216 pounds, Perkins is a glorified wide receiver coming off a notable spring.
Watch Out For …the impact of the newcomers. The Huskies' latest Signing Day haul included one of the country's best collections of wide receivers. All three of this year's signees, 6-3, 215-pound Damore'ea Stringfellow, 5-11, 175-pound John Ross and 6-3, 210-pound Darrell Daniels, were rated four stars. At least one of the precocious rookies is sure to be an instant hit on offense, with Stringfellow in the best position to deliver.
Strength:The tight ends. The receivers are good, but the tight ends rank among the best in the country. Obviously, the assumption is that Seferian-Jenkins will return to the field before too long. The junior is one of the more unique pass-catching weapons around, and a likely high draft choice next April. Not to be forgotten, Hartvigson would start for plenty of schools that didn't have ASJ on the roster.
Weakness: Big plays. The Huskies' receiving corps was among the least explosive in the Pac-12 a year ago, averaging a league-low 10.4 yards per pass attempt. Although the quarterback certainly shares some of the culpability, it'll also be up to the wide receivers to locate open spaces, break tackles and pick up additional yards after contact.
Outlook: Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, assuming he gets reinstated, are a pair of terrific playmakers who can be counted on throughout the season. In order to go from really good to really great, though, this unit needs there to be all hands on deck. The sophomores, Campbell and Mickens, are fresh off solid springs and appear ready to contribute on a more consistent basis.
Unit Rating: 8
Lots of returning starters. And lots of uncertainty for a group that continues to struggle, especially in pass protection. Eight linemen with starting experience from 2012 are back, but that figure can be very deceptive. The lone departure was C Drew Schaefer, a long-time veteran. His successor will be 6-5, 295-pound junior Mike Criste, a converted right guard who started the final six games last year. It was only spring, but he looked very capable in practice, displaying leadership and the strength to stand up at the point of attack.
To the left of Criste at guard will be 6-4, 292-pound Dexter Charles . The sophomore started 11 of 13 games as a rookie, earning the team's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2012. While built like a guard, he has the footwork and the agility of a left tackle if the need to shift ever arose. Charles also harbors a nasty streak, bringing some much-needed to attitude to the front wall.
Exiting spring, massive junior James Atoe held a lead at right guard. The 6-6, 335-pounder started six games in 2012, three at guard and three at tackle, but his talents are much better suited for the interior of the line. He's strong and powerful, especially as a run blocker, but needs to do a better job working on his feet and his bend.
The Husky with the highest ceiling at tackle is junior Ben Riva, who the staff feels is ready to bust out in 2013. He was on the brink of a breakthrough last fall, but broke his arm in the opener, and wound up missing half the season. The 6-6, 302-pounder's long arms, athleticism and demeanor provide clues that he's capable of blooming into one of the line leaders this fall.
Back at left tackle is 6-5, 293-pound Micah Hatchie, one of just two Huskies linemen to start every game of 2013. It's his job to lose, but that's exactly what he'll do if he fails to improve as a pass blocker. The junior showed flashes of brilliance, and still has half a career to go, but he was also whipped regularly, an underlying problem for a passing game that regressed. If Hatchie fails to evolve, Riva or Charles could be forced to switch positions.
Watch Out For … the injury report. The line's depth and competition is going to get a boost as soon as three veterans return from injury, 6-4, 280-pound sophomore G Shane Brostek, 6-4, 299-pound junior G Erik Kohler and 6-3, 291-pound junior G Colin Tanigawa . All have starting experience and the versatility to play multiple positions. Tanigawa was looking as if he might be the best of the unit before suffering a serious knee injury.
Strength: Experience. After being forced to use so many different linemen and combinations in 2012, the Huskies are suddenly a season bunch up front. They're also versatile, being able to mix and match different combinations depending on the personnel. A number of players can play multiple positions, a good thing considering the unit's history with injury problems.
Weakness: Pass protection. Feel free to insult durability into this space as well. U-Dub ranked 102nd nationally in sacks allowed in 2012, helping fuel the regression of QB Keith Price in the passing game. The Huskies need Riva to blossom as expected and Hatchie to raise the level of his blocking a notch or two higher. Improving pass protection is the single most important objective of 2013.
Outlook: The good news? The Huskies are seasoned in the trenches. The bad news? The same blockers that return this year are the ones that had so many problems staying healthy and protecting the pocket last year. The line is ground zero for the offense in 2013, if not the entire team. If this unit can gel, led by the likes of Riva and Charles, the attack will be among the most prolific in the Pac-12.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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2013 Washington Offense
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