Washington Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Washington Huskies
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Washington Huskies Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Run to win – When Vince Lombardi coined the phrase “Run to Daylight”, he could’ve easily have changed the word ‘daylight’ to ‘win’ and no one would’ve blinked an eye.  And, what’s become apparent in the formerly pass happy world of the Pac-10 is that Lombardi may finally be on to something.  Think of the great runners that came out of this conference last season.  Bush.  White.  Harrison.  Drew.  Lynch.  Washington didn’t have a guy that stood out like the aforementioned quintet, but check the numbers – there’s a distinct, direct relationship between run game output and W’s (or competitive performances).  Washington won one game in the Pac-10, and ran for 333 yards in that game.  The Huskies also battled UCLA to the final gun and Arizona State into the fourth quarter (when ASU blew the roof off with 20 points in the fourth quarter) – they ran for 213 yards in each game and four touchdowns total.  Contrast that with the performance, or lack thereof, in games where they got blasted – Notre Dame – 41 yards.  Cal – 68 yards.  USC – 59 yards.  Now, in games where teams get blown out, the running attack often goes by the wayside, but the point is that the Huskies have to continue to ‘grow’ the running game and should be able to do just that with the components they have in the backfield.  Louis Rankin returns after missing the last few games of the season with an injury, and more than likely will be the starter going into fall camp.  Kenny James won’t remind anyone of former great Napoleon Kaufman, but #8 should be healthy coming into the fall and should push Rankin for his spot.  The linchpin, though, might be redshirt freshman J.R. Hasty, who spent all season destroying the defense as a member of the scout team.  The former Bellevue, WA product was a key in Ty Willingham’s first recruiting class in 2005, and if he’s the real deal, he could become a carry hog by midseason.  Remember when you run to win, you, well, win.

2nd and Seven – Safety Support – Safeties CJ Wallace and Dashon Goldson provide solid support against the run, but the Huskies need the same support against the pass.  The secondary gave up over 270 yards per game through the air, and if a team can’t stop teams throwing the ball in the Pac-10, a perennial bottom half of the conference finish is on the horizon.  But, that’s where Wallace, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 honoree in 2005, and Goldson can help provide that leadership for the Huskies.  These two totaled 166 tackles, but only had one interception between them.  This duo will be key for the Husky defense this fall, but they have to be key against the pass, as well as the run.

3rd and Three – Stand back for Stanback – After Ty Willingham took over in Seattle, the question of whether Isaiah Stanback could maintain the starting QB position with the West Coast offense on its way to the Northwest rang loudly.  Well, although Stanback wasn’t a dominant force, he did show that he could throw and run well enough to become an offensive weapon, not a liability.  Stanback threw for over 2,100 yards and ran for 353 as well and was voted the team’s most outstanding offensive player in 2005.  He’s got speed to burn (he’s on the track team as well) and that puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses to account for him.  With the emergence of, at least, one rushing threat, Stanback could be that much more dangerous – perhaps making more like Vince Young and less like Carlyle Holiday.

4th and One – Closer than you think? – So, after one season, how would you ‘grade’ Willingham on his and his team’s performance?  How would you project this team for the future?  Well, the first year had its share of the good, the bad and the ugly.  The good being the blowout win over a rising Arizona squad.  The bad being the last second loss to a previously undefeated UCLA squad.  The ugly?  Well, there were a few more of those – Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon and USC.  But, then again, there were a bunch of teams who struggled against that foursome.  The Huskies are still a few years away from being at the top of the Pac-10, and a bowl game isn’t in the near future.  However, the continued progress and consistency of this bunch could build back up a program that was once the jewel of the northwest.  It just might be more like a five year plan, than an overnight success.

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