2014 CFN Preview - Washington Huskies
Washington WR Kasen Williams
Washington WR Kasen Williams
Posted Jul 8, 2014

Preview 2014 - The Dawgs got their man, and now Chris Petersen has to deliver. (Getty Images)

Washington Huskies

Preview 2014

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By Rich Cirminiello
- 2014 Washington Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

Head coach: Chris Petersen
1st year
9th year overall: 92-12
Returning Lettermen
Off. 26, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19 
Ten Best UW Players
1. DE Hau’oli Kikaha, Sr.
2. LB Shaq Thompson, Jr.
3. CB Marcus Peters, Jr.
4. WR Kasen Williams, Sr.
5. LB John Timu, Sr.
6. DT Danny Shelton, Sr.
7. WR Jaydon Mickens, Jr.
8. OG Dexter Charles, Jr.
9. LB Cory Littleton, Jr.
10. OT Micah Hatchie, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 at Hawaii
Sep. 6 Eastern Wash
Sep. 13 Illinois
Sep. 20 Georgia State
Sep. 27 Stanford
Oct. 11 at California
Oct. 18 at Oregon
Oct. 25 Arizona State
Nov. 1 at Colorado
Nov. 8 UCLA
Nov. 15 at Arizona
Nov. 22 Oregon State
Nov. 29 at Washington St

Chris Petersen is out to prove he’s not the next Dan Hawkins or Dirk Koetter. Doing so will require him to elevate his new program to a higher level.

Ballyhooed former Bronco coaches have not typically fared well outside of the cozy confines of Boise State. Hawkins flopped at Colorado, and Koetter flirted with mediocrity for six seasons at Arizona State. Petersen, though, plans to become a trendsetter. He’s fully committed to picking up where Steve Sarkisian left off by taking the Huskies from a good team that can bank on a bowl game to one that competes for Pac-12 titles.

Sark did not leave the cupboard bare on his way out to USC, especially on defense. Years of sound recruiting and employing younger players have positioned U-Dub to build on last season’s first nine-win campaign since 2000.

In that regard, Sark’s efforts, both as a coach and a recruiter, will be felt on Montlake for the next couple of seasons. But now it’s up to a new regime to take what the old guard manufactured and perfect it, because the Huskies have gone 2-17 versus Oregon and Stanford over the past decade.

Petersen is widely considered one of the dozen or so best head coaches in college football. He reached iconic status while at Boise State, going 92-12, with five league titles and two Fiesta Bowl wins, over an eight-year span. His Bronco teams were always inventive on offense and well-coached on both sides of the ball. And for a time, he appeared content to be the big fish in a small pond, until Washington finally pried him away.

Petersen and his new staff have a lot on their plates in 2014. From a schematic perspective, they’re installing new systems on both sides of the ball, led by offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. In terms of personnel, Coach Pete’s top priority will be to locate playmakers on offense.

Kwiatkowski’s defense will have a chance to rank among the best in the Pac-12. And the O-line boasts the reinforcements to finally be considered an asset. But who’s going to move the ball for Petersen’s first offense in Seattle now that QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins are gone?

An already muddled quarterback situation was further clouded when a suspension cost frontrunner Cyler Miles the spring, when the new offense was being installed. Stay tuned, because the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers will resume jockeying for position in August.

Only time will tell if the Huskies traded up when Sarkisian’s departure created an opening for Petersen to finally accept a Pac-12 offer. Two things, though, are certain at this point: Sark’s stabilizing work over the course of five years made it possible for Washington to be an enticing destination for a coach of Petersen’s caliber. And if the new boss is going to compete right away with Oregon and Stanford out of the North Division, he’ll need to whip the offense into shape this summer.

What to watch for on offense: Who gets the ball from Petersen? All eyes this summer will be on a two-man competition that became three when Cyler Miles’ suspension was lifted on May 14. Neither strong-armed sophomore Jeff Lindquist nor athletic redshirt freshman Troy Williams was able to pull away, though Lindquist excelled in the spring game. Hey, at this point, don’t rule out rookie K.J. Carta-Samuels, a four-star gem from San Jose. Miles is the favorite now that he’s back, but Petersen has plenty of diverse options, and he’s in no rush to announce who’ll be under center when the team travels to Hawaii on Aug. 30.

What to watch for on defense: Rebuilding the defensive backfield. The Huskies lost three veterans to graduation, CB Greg Ducre and safeties Sean Parker and Will Shamburger. The staff has been busy auditioning new partners for holdover Marcus Peters, one of the Pac-12’s better cornerbacks. The good news is that the early returns have been positive. The young guys, like redshirt freshman CB Jermaine Kelly and sophomore safeties Brandon Beaver and Trevor Walker, have not acted like underclassmen so far this offseason. And Hawaii transfer Brian Clay is poised to be a factor. So far, so good, but now this group needs to keep the momentum going in the spring.

The team will be far better if… the O-line blocks up to expectations. After steadily improving the past two seasons, the offensive line needs to make a quantum leap in 2014. Every member of the Fight Hunger Bowl two-deep returns, so excuses won’t be accepted. The foundation is set with Mike Criste at center, Dexter Charles and massive James Atoe at guard, and Micah Hatchie and underrated Ben Riva at tackle. It’s incumbent upon this group to pool their talent together and serve as a platform on which the rest of an uncertain attack can build.

The Schedule: If all goes well, the Huskies should go 4-0 without breathing hard with a home date against Illinois the only real concern and the lone road game at Hawaii to kick things off. And then comes the statement game against defending Pac-12 champion Stanford at home before getting a week off to prepare for the absolutely brutal remaining slate.

No, playing Cal and Colorado on the road isn’t anything to get into a twist over, but the Dawgs have to go away from Seattle for five of the final eight games and have no layups among the home dates hosting Arizona State, UCLA and the high-powered Oregon State offense. Worst of all, there aren’t any weeks off to rest up, and there’s an extra game to deal with. That and having to play Oregon on the road and facing a dangerous Arizona team in Tucson will make it a tough first year for Petersen.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Kasen Williams. Now more than ever, the Huskies need Williams to be the receiver he was two years. With the offense losing its quarterback, its All-Pac-12 running back and its Mackey Award-winning tight end, Williams has to deliver. He’s still recovering from a lower leg injury that ended his season last October, but he should be fine in August. A healthy Williams gives the new Husky quarterback a can’t-miss 6-3 target, who’ll into the clouds to pluck balls out of the air. He’s the closest thing to a sure-thing that U-Dub has right now at the skill positions.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Hau’oli Kikaha. Every team has a player who operates with such a high level of passion, intensity and determination that he motivates those around him without saying a word. In Seattle, Kikaha is that guy. Beyond his team-high 13 sacks last year, he has a contagious motor that compels opposing teams to commit multiple blockers to contain him off the edge. Kikaha is also a natural leader in the locker room, a tone-setter who has inspired his teammates with a triumphant return from multiple knee injuries.

Key player to a successful season: The new quarterback. Sure, there are also questions at running back, wide receiver and tight end. But none that rise to the level of the situation under center. Chris Petersen has never had success without the help of a competent signal-caller. To keep that trend going, he and his staff will have to flatten the learning curve for at least one of four contenders, sophomores Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman Troy Williams and true freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels. Miles is the only one to attempt a pass in 2014, but he recently finished serving a suspension for a Feb. 2 altercation.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskies win nine in Chris Petersen’s first season. Asking too much from a team with a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback? Maybe not. Washington will be strong at the line of scrimmage, maybe be as strong as it’s been in a number of years. Plus, a fast start should be built in versus an opening quartet of Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Illinois and Georgia State. Getting Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State at Husky Stadium won’t hurt the cause either.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Stanford. By the end of September, Washington should be 4-0, but what will really have been learned about this program? Not a whole lot because of the quality of the opponents. A visit from the Cardinal, though, will answer a ton of questions about the 2014 Huskies. If U-Dub is going to climb a little higher in the North Division, it’ll have to handle the likes of Stanford and Oregon, which has happened just once in its last 11 attempts. In fact, the Huskies haven’t beaten the rival Ducks since 2003.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Washington 37.9 – Opponents 22.8
- Sacks: Washington 41 – Opponents 30
- Red-zone touchdown %: Washington 75% - Opponents 59%

- 2014 Washington Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players