CFN Preview 2013 - Washington Huskies
Washington RB Bishop Sankey
Washington RB Bishop Sankey
Posted May 6, 2013 2013 Preview - Washington Huskies

Washington Huskies

Preview 2013

- 2013 Washington Preview | 2013 Washington Offense
- 2013 Washington Defense | 2013 Washington Depth Chart
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- By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Steve Sarkisian
5th year: 26-25
Returning Lettermen
Off. 27, Def. 29, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Washington Players
1. RB Bishop Sankey, Jr.
2. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr.
3. QB Keith Price, Sr.
4. WR Kasen Williams, Jr.
5. LB John Timu, Jr.
6. SS Sean Parker, Sr.
7. NT Danny Shelton, Jr.
8. LB Shaq Thompson, Soph.
9. DE Andrew Hudson, Jr.
10. LG Dexter Charles, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Boise State
9/14 at Illinois
9/21 Idaho State
9/28 Arizona
10/5 at Stanford
10/12 Oregon
10/19 at Arizona State
10/26 California
11/9 Colorado
11/15 at UCLA
11/23 at Oregon State
11/29 Washington State 
The renaissance season is here for Washington. At least that's the hope around Montlake.

U-Dub's first 7-6 season in 2010 was a triumph. The second 7-6 campaign was a tolerable. Last year's third in a row began to get a little irritating.

The Huskies, which enter their fifth season under Steve Sarkisian, are pining for the kind of breakthrough moment that propels them out of mediocrity and into Pac-12 North contention. And they absolutely have the talent to get it done.

Sark and his assistants have methodically done an outstanding job in Seattle, even if the program has seemingly hit a wall in the standings. They've dramatically raised the overall talent level, endured the growing pains of young kids and incited the interest of an already passionate fan base.

Last season was a disappointment, with the upshot being that Washington employed a ton of underclassmen on both sides of the ball. Yet, it's a senior, not one of the many rising juniors, who holds the key to the Huskies success in 2013.

QB Keith Price suffered through an unexpected regression last year. It took about two weeks to realize that his grassroots Heisman push would never get out of the weeds. He just wasn't the same player who'd accounted for 36 touchdowns in the prior year, the result of poor decisions and even worse blocking.

However, there's reason to believe Price can swiftly rebound. He's proven in the past that he can lead an offense, and he's surrounded by some of the best skill position players in the conference. RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins form as dynamic a trio as there is in the Pac-12. Now, if only the blockers can stay healthy and do their job, Washington might be downright unstoppable.

Fueling the excitement is the fact that the defense may be harboring as much talent as any point in the previous decade. Yeah, consistency has proven elusive, especially in marquee games, but coordinator Justin Wilcox was the architect of a remarkable turnaround in 2013.

Using a sophomore-laden lineup, the Huskies went from sieve to solid practically overnight. And now that those sophomores are upperclassmen, there's every reason to believe that the D will narrow the gap on the offense. Again, line play will be critical to success this season.

There was a day not too long ago that Washington fans dreamt of six-loss seasons. Not any longer. This is a new era of Huskies football, a rebirth, including the anticipated return to renovated Husky Stadium, that the program hopes is about to reach a crescendo.

What to watch for on offense: More help for the primary targets. WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins are certainties in the passing game. But one of the underlying reasons for the passing game's problems in 2012 was that no else stepped up in the receiving corps. That ought to change this fall. Young Jaydon Mickens has big-play potential out of the slot, and DiAndre Campbell began to emerge in the offseason. Oh, and steady senior James Johnson is back in the fold after missing all of last season with a wrist injury.

What to watch for on defense: The battle at the "other" cornerback spot. Marcus Peters won't immediately make folks forget Desmond Trufant, a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons, but he's firmly set on one side. His partner, though, remains somewhat up in the air. While senior Greg Ducre has a slight edge, he's been a journeyman up to point. Travell Dixon once received an offer to play for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, and rookie Cleveland Wallace didn't play like a rookie in the spring. The Huskies need to develop a pass defender who won't be picked on relentlessly by opposing quarterbacks.

The team will be far better if… the O-line stays healthy. The D made a quantum leap in 2012, yet the team remained just a game over .500. Why? The offense failed to elevate. Why? Because the injury-depleted line did a poor job of protecting the pocket. If this unit can stay healthy, it has a chance to be better and deeper than at any point in recent years. All but one starter is back, and LG Dexter Charles and RT Ben Riva both have the potential to blow up into all-stars in 2013.

The Schedule: The Huskies have a good enough team returning to beat anyone on the schedule, but they're going to be tested from start to finish with Boise State coming into Seattle to kick things off and a trip to Illinois potentially tougher than it might seem. Fortunately, there's a week off before the game against the Illini and there's a week off against Idaho State before starting the Pac-12 season with Arizona from the South. Missing USC is always nice and getting Colorado is a break, but having to play Arizona State and UCLA on the road is a bad interdivisional break.

The conference fates could be determined by mid-October with a trip to Stanford and a home game against Oregon sandwiched in between the games against the Arizona schools. There's a good midseason break with California, a week off, and Colorado before having to go on the road to face UCLA and Oregon State. As last year proved, the Apple Cup against Washington State to close out the regular season is never a layup.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Bishop Sankey. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins may have the higher NFL ceiling, but Sankey is by far the most important cog in the offensive machine. He was an unexpected sensation out of the backfield a year ago, replacing Chris Polk without skipping a beat. Sankey is a tempo-setter on the ground, the kind of weapon that helps control the clock and wear down opposing defenses. In just his first year as a starter, he carried the ball 289 times for 1,439 yards and 16 scores, adding 33 catches for 249 more yards.

Best defensive player: Junior LB John Timu. The good news for the Huskies is that three or four other defenders could easily stake claim to the top spot this year. Timu, though, is much more than just a producer in the traditional sense of the term. Yeah, the 6-1, 231-pound captain delivered a team-best 91 tackles, 3.5 stops for loss, two sacks, four pass defended and two picks in 2012. However, it's the way he prepares, leads and motivates that really has such a profound impact on the players around him and the program as a whole.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Keith Price. With an average Price, Washington is, well, average. He no longer needs to be as prolific as he was in 2011, but a repeat performance of last year's mediocrity is just not going to cut it. Price is a catalyst, the kind of Charlie Ward-esque quarterback who's capable of elevating the play of those around him. He has to forever file away the nightmare of 2012, and once again be the MVP of this program.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskies finally move beyond the rut of seven-win seasons. Enough is enough. This is a nine-win program, even when faced with a rugged schedule that includes a wicked four-game against Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Washington would naturally love to cop the North Division for the first time, but the Cardinal and the Ducks represent enormous roadblocks. It's more likely to be aiming for an 8-4 or 9-3 regular season, setting the stage for an improved bowl invitation.

Key game: Aug. 31 vs. Boise State. This year's opener will serve as the unveiling for Husky Stadium's $250 million facelift. It'll also give the Huskies a chance to exact revenge on the Broncos for last December's excruciating 28-26 Las Vegas Bowl loss. Maybe most important, though, is the topic of momentum. Washington, like every other team, will be looking to get out of the gate quickly so that it can build a head of steam before conference play starts a month later.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Rushing touchdowns: Washington 19 – Opponents 17
- Red-zone touchdown %: Washington 63% – Opponents 49%
- Third-quarter scoring: Washington 99 - Opponents 77
- 2013 Washington Preview | 2013 Washington Offense
- 2013 Washington Defense | 2013 Washington Depth Chart