2008 CFN Washington Preview
Washington QB Jake Locker
Washington QB Jake Locker
Posted May 20, 2008

Once a college football superpower, Washington is now trying to keep its head above water as it tries to avoid yet another losing season. Is this Ty Willingham's last shot? Can QB Jake Locker save a young team that's still rebuilding? Check out the CFN Washington Preview.

Washington Huskies

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

Interested in blogging about Pac 10 football?  Let us know

2008 CFN Washington Preview | 2008 UW Offense
- 2008 UW Defense | 2008 UW Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Washington Preview | 2006 CFN Washington Preview 

Head coach: Ty Willingham 
4th year: 11-25
14th year: 76-76-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 12, Def. 15, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best UW Players
1. QB Jake Locker, Soph.
2. DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Jr.
3. LB E.J. Savannah, Jr.*
4. C Juan Garcia, Sr. (INJ.)
5. CB Mesphin Forrester, Sr.
6. LB Donald Butler, Jr.
7. FS Nate Williams, Soph.
8. RB Brandon Johnson, Soph.
9. SS Darin Harris, Sr.
10. OT Ben Ossai, Jr.

*Academically ineligible, but he could be back later in the year.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Oregon
Sept. 6 BYU
Sept. 13 Oklahoma
Sept. 20 OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 Stanford
Oct. 4 at Arizona
Oct. 18 Oregon State
Oct. 25 Notre Dame
Nov. 1 at USC
Nov. 8 Arizona State
Nov. 15 UCLA
Nov. 22 at Washington State
Dec. 6 at California

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Aug. 31 at Syracuse W 42-12
Sept. 8
Boise State W 24-10
Sept. 15 Ohio State L 33-14
Sept. 22 at UCLA L 44-31
Sept. 29 USC L 27-24
Oct. 13 at Arizona St L 44-20
Oct. 20 Oregon L 55-34
Oct. 27
Arizona L 48-41
Nov. 3 at Stanford W 27-9
Nov. 10 at Oregon St L 29-23
Nov. 17
California W 37-23
Nov. 24 Washington St L 42-35
Dec. 1 at Hawaii L 35-28

After four consecutive losing seasons, there’s an unmistakable sense of urgency to win right now at Washington, a program saddled with lagging interest and too many empty seats in Husky Stadium. If, however, things are going to turn around, it’ll require all the young players in a lineup littered with underclassmen throughout the two-deep, to grow up in a big hurry. That’s not a plus in the solid Pac 10. 

The face of the Huskies, QB Jake Locker, is only a sophomore, and freshmen will be needed to bolster the depth on both lines and at wide receiver, where five seniors were lost from last year’s 4-9 team that, even with a little bit of experience, struggled to close out games. It figures to be a precarious position for Tyrone Willingham, who no longer has AD Todd Turner in his corner, and who’ll be leaning on a slew of untested players to fortify his tenuous job security. 

On the flip side, if there can be just a little more patience, which won’t be easy to provide considering the time Willingham has already had to try to resuscitate the former powerhouse. It has been five years since the last winning season, 2000 was the last bowl victory, the Rose Bowl win over Purdue, and seemingly eons since UW was a true player in the national title hunt.

To remember just how disappointing the last four years have been, Washington went from to 1977 to 2003 without a losing season. Unfortunately, it might take a few minor miracles to break the current streak of futility.

With so much at stake this season for the direction of the program, and Willingham’s career, it’s the worst possible time to be reshuffling the depth chart while inserting a bunch of new starters into the lineup. Unfortunately, there’s no other choice. Unless Locker can hoist the entire team on his shoulders, an unlikely scenario, the Huskies are staring down the barrel of another disappointing, sub-.500 season.                  

What to watch for on offense: True freshman WR Chris Polk. How good is Polk? Good enough that USC had to have him. Good enough that coordinator Tim Lappano is searching for new ways to design the offense. Polk is the kind of playmaker the Huskies haven’t had for years, a versatile athlete who’ll be used plenty as a runner and a receiver. In other programs, he might spend a year on the scout team, getting a little bigger and a lot wiser. At Washington, however, players of Polk’s caliber have to be prepared to take off the training wheels shortly after arriving on campus.   

What to watch for on defense: The evolution of the secondary. While the Huskies are loaded with veterans and quality athletes, that’s hardly enough to begin predicting a turnaround for the leaky pass defense. Washington’s response to its struggles has been to shift Mesphin Forrester from strong safety to cornerback, slide Darin Harris over from free safety, and promote talented neophytes Nate Williams and Quinton Richardson into starting role. The defense is noticeably bigger, but will it be better at stopping opposing quarterbacks? It’ll have to be if the overall defense is going to improve.  

The team will be far better if… it learns how to win a few more close games. Five of last year’s nine losses were by a touchdown or less, including a pair to teams, USC and Hawaii, that went on to play in BCS bowl games. If the young Huskies can mature in a hurry and stop blowing games in the second half, it could be the difference between a .500 season and a sixth consecutive bowl-less postseason.      

The Schedule: On the plus side, the Huskies only have to leave the state of Washington twice for three months, but that's about the only real break. The non-conference games against BYU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are in Seattle, but the Cougars are loaded, the Sooners will be in the national title hunt, and the Irish will be better. Oh yeah, and the season kicks off with a Pac 10 killer at Oregon. The Huskies have five league road games to deal with playing at Washington State and at California wrapped around an off week. There are plenty of breaks to stay relatively fresh throughout.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Jake Locker. While his freshman season was predictably sporadic, Locker showed enough in 2007 to be labeled the Husky savior. A powerful runner and emotional leader, he fell just 14 yards shy of becoming the first Pac-10 quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. A possible Heisman contender, if everything goes right, Locker will be borderline unstoppable if he can make the necessary growth as a passer.            

Best defensive player: Junior DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Don’t tell Husky fans that Te’o-Nesheim doesn’t possess the size or speed of some of the nation’s elite pass rushers. All that matters to Washington is that the junior produces results and plays harder than just about anyone in the league. In his second season as a starter, he led all linemen with 57 tackles and all Huskies with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. 

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore C Matt Sedillo. Sedillo was scheduled to enter the starting lineup in 2009, but that was before Juan Garcia suffered a debilitating injury in the spring. Now the sophomore will be thrust into the huddle and asked to coordinate a line lacking consistency, especially in pass protection. If Sedillo can’t deliver and take on a leadership role, it’s going to reverberate throughout the Washington offense.           

The season will be a success if ... the Huskies can reach .500. A bowl game would be fantastic, but it would also be a reach considering the question marks that dominate everywhere but at quarterback and linebacker. Plus, Washington will probably spend the last two months of the year trying to dig out of a hole after opening the season with Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma.       

Key game
: Oct. 25 vs. Notre Dame. With a large TV audience in attendance, there’ll be sub plots galore on this Saturday night. It’ll be a big game for the program. It’ll be an even bigger game for the coach. The Huskies might be 2-4 by this point, which means the Willingham death watch will be in full bloom. If Washington loses, forget about the postseason. If Washington wins, it could be the springboard needed to land a bowl invitation.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Opponents 100 for 825 yards – Washington 81 for 613 yards
- Average yards per catch: Washington 14 – Opponents 11.5
- Kickoff return average: Opponents 24.6 yards – Washington 20.9 yards