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2008 Washington Preview - Offense
Washington QB Jake Locker
Washington QB Jake Locker
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Washington Husky Offense

Washington Huskies

Preview 2008 - Offense


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

What you need to know: Jake Locker is the undisputed franchise, a well-sized triggerman who fell just 14 yards short of becoming the first quarterback in Pac-10 history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Reaching another level will require better decisions as a passer, improved accuracy, and more support from a rebuilt supporting cast. Hard-running Brandon Johnson is the likely backfield option after rushing for 196 yards and two scores as Louis Rankin’s backup.  Considering the attrition taking place at wide receiver, gifted newcomers Anthony Boyles, Devin Aguilar, and Chris Polk will be asked to contribute right away. The line brings back three starters, but has lost All-Pac-10 C Juan Garcia for an extended period of time, a crushing blow to the entire offense.            

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jake Locker
155-329, 2,062 yds, 14 TD, 15 INT
Rushing: Jake Locker
172 carries, 986 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Michael Gottleib
12 catches, 136 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Jake Locker
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR D’Andre Goodwin
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RT Cody Habben
Best pro prospect: Locker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Locker  2) Goodwin  3) Sophomore RB Brandon Johnson
Strength of the offense: The ground game, run blocking
Weakness of the offense: The passing attack, inexperience at the skill positions

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Now that the program has lifted the lid on the Jake Locker era, the sophomore is the unchallenged catalyst of the attack. Not your typical dual-threat quarterback, he’s a 6-3, 225-pound sophomore in a linebacker’s body. The Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, he bulldozed his way to 986 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, while completing 155-of-328 passes for 2,062 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. While he obviously needs to make strides as a passer before becoming a complete quarterback, his trademark grit, competitiveness, and open field running were on display every time the Husky offense was on the field. 

Projected Top Reserves: Considering how often Locker lowers his shoulders and absorbs punishment, the backups would be wise to keep their helmets close by. Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch is the new No. 2, coming off a strong spring session and after being named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year. While the 6-1, 195-pounder isn’t in Locker’s league physically, he’s the most polished passer on the roster, a poised distributor who throws accurate, catchable passes.

Behind Fouch is another redshirt freshman, former walk-on Taylor Bean. To be used only on an emergency basis, the 6-1, 202-pounder is the clear-cut No. 3 in the pecking order, and could be passed in the summer by true freshman Luther Leonard or Dominique Blackman  

Watch Out For… Locker to make immense progress as a passer in his second season as the starter. Although he was spotty in his execution last year, what freshman isn’t as a rookie? Locker has worked hard in the offseason to improve his reads and touch, and if the spring is any indication, the game appears to be slowing down.
Strength: Locker. He’s special as that rare quarterback who can elevate a floundering program and make top recruits want to play with him. Locker can’t do it all by himself, but he’s young and upwardly-mobile, exactly what Washington and Willingham need these days.
Weakness: Inconsistency in the passing game. While things should begin stabilizing, there’s still too much inexperience throwing the ball. Locker is just a sophomore with plenty of fine-tuning left to be done, and all three of his backups are freshmen.
Outlook: The best is yet to come for Locker. After laying the groundwork of his much-anticipated Husky career, he’s about to add a new floor in his sophomore year. The centerpiece of the Washington offense, he’d be wise to learn when to slide and step out of bounds, or else Fouch will endure a baptism under fire.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: It’ll be up to sophomore Brandon Johnson to replace 1,000-yard rusher Louis Rankin and prop up a running game that’s starting from scratch. One of just seven true freshmen to play last year, he was Rankin’s backup, rushing 51 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns. At 5-11 and 195 pounds, Johnson is a tough, downhill runner who hits the hole quickly and doesn’t waste much movement dancing around the backfield. In an audition for this job last November, he ran 23 times for 121 yards and a score in an upset of Cal.  

Although he’s listed as the fullback, 6-0, 222-pound junior Paul Homer has the quickness and vision to be used as an occasional change-of-pace out of the backfield. More important, however, he’s a tough lead blocker, team leader, and one of the smartest players on the field.  

Projected Top Reserves: While it might be a tenuous hold, 5-8, 200-pound redshirt freshman Willie Griffin exited spring as the backup to Johnson and a candidate to log a handful of carries.  What he lacks in straight-line speed, he makes up for with quick feet, good vision in the hole, and the pad level to run through defenders.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Yakaboski is listed behind Griffin, but is well-positioned to move up a notch with a strong summer. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he’s a good inside runner who has the loose hips and change-of-direction to make people miss in the open field. He also has the best hands of the backs, making him a strong candidate to be used on third-and-long.

The Huskies’ short-yardage back is senior FB Luke Kravitz, a veteran of 22 games with the program. Primarily a blocker and special teams standout before last year, he turned his first 17 carries into 34 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. 

Watch Out For… the fate of junior J.R. Hasty. Destined to be a disappointing footnote in school history, the former can’t-miss recruit is running out of second chances. Physically, he belongs on the field, but more offseason issues have him playing from way behind of the depth chart. If Hasty is still buried at the end of August, it could result in an ugly divorce.
Strength: The future. While there’ll be inevitable growing pains that come with youth, by leaning on Johnson, Griffin, and Yakaboski in 2008, the Huskies will be building depth and experience for the next few seasons.
Weakness: A proven workhorse. Sure, Johnson had a 100-yard day as a rookie, but it was one game and it was against a soft Cal run defense. He had better be ready to shoulder the load because behind him is nothing but a long line of even less-seasoned freshmen.
Outlook: While Johnson will be the every-down back, look for Griffin and Yakaboski to get plenty of reps as well throughout the season. At this point, anything the offense gets from Hasty will be considered an unexpected gift.
Rating: 6.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: After losing last season’s top five pass-catchers, the Huskies are desperately searching for quality receivers who can help get Jake Locker to the next level as a passer. The likely go-to guy will be sophomore D’Andre Goodwin, who caught six passes a year ago and is coming off a breakout spring session. At 6-0 and 170 pounds, he’s one of the fastest players on the roster, but he needs to do a better job of getting off the line and running tighter routes. 

Joining Goodwin in the starting lineup will be redshirt freshman Alvin Logan, the most physically imposing of the receivers at 6-2 and 215 pounds. Big enough to make catches in traffic and break free from jams at the line of scrimmage, he’ll quickly become the quarterback’s best friend near the end zone. 

Senior Michael Gottlieb has started six games at tight end in each of the last two seasons, becoming a big and reliable target in the passing game. A sure-handed 6-5, 245-pounder, he caught 12 passes for 136 yards, numbers he should surpass considering the uncertainty at wide receiver.

Projected Top Reserves: Midway through last season, sophomore Curtis Shaw was relocated from running back, a move meant to get him more chances in open space. A terrific all-around athlete at 5-11 and 190 pounds, he caught four passes for 46 against Oregon State and will earn more reps as soon as he gets more comfortable at the position.

True freshman Devin Aguilar was supposed to be a part of last year’s recruiting class, but he never qualified academically. Now, he has taken part in spring practice, quickly rising to the second team behind Goodwin. A smooth and speedy receiver at 6-0 and 185 pounds, Aguilar has the explosive traits to be a star in this offense before very long.

Watch Out For… true freshman Chris Polk to be an immediate and versatile contributor. One of the gems of this year’s recruiting class, he’s a genuine playmaker who’ll be used in a multitude of ways. He’ll initially line up in the slot, and be used on fly sweeps, much the way USC did with Reggie Bush and Oregon State does with James Rodgers.
Strength: Athleticism. While they may be raw as pure pass-catchers, the young receivers are going to be far more dynamic and explosive than last year’s corps. If Charlie Baggett can coach these guys up on the finer points, they’ll be exciting to watch.
Weakness: Experience and depth. A position strength less than a year ago has quickly degraded into a major concern. Besides Gottlieb, none of the receivers has starting experience, and a lot will be expected from underclassmen with little or no practical experience.
Outlook: While there’s tremendous potential, it’s going to take time before it all gets realized. For every eye-popping play one of the thoroughbreds makes, there’s going to be a blunder or two that stalls a drive. The best news is that young players like Goodwin, Logan, and Aguilar will be growing up alongside Locker, and the hints of a dynamite passing attack should start to appear in the second half of the year.
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The big and disturbing news regarding the line is that its best blocker, senior C Juan Garcia, suffered a complex sprain to his foot that’ll sideline him for at least the first half of the 2008 season. It’s a major blow to a unit that hoped to four starters back this fall. In Garcia’s place steps untested sophomore Matt Sedillo, a 6-3, 300-pounder who played in just two games last season. The coaches like his upside and how quickly he has adapted to the speed of the college game, but they hoped he wouldn’t be in this position until 2009.

From left to right, the tackles will be junior Ben Ossai and sophomore Cody Habben, respectively. Ossai has been a starter for the last two seasons, playing better as a run blocker than a pass protector. At 6-6 and 300 pounds, he can handle the other team’s most physical rusher, but needs to continue working on his footwork and technique in order to handle speedier ends.

The 6-6, 300-pound Habben performed nicely in his first season of action, playing in all 13 games and earning three starts in league games. Like Ossai, he shows a propensity for knocking people off the line and has the long arms, light feet, and strong base to eventually project as a left tackle.

At left guard, there’s a hotly-contested battle going on between sophomore Ryan Tolar and senior Jordan White-Frisbee. The 6-5, 310-pound Tolar started all but one game a year ago, garnering some Freshman All-American recognition along the way. An effective drive blocker who showed better than expected quickness in his debut, he needs to keep honing his pass blocking skills.

White-Frisbee is a former defensive lineman who struggled with foot problems throughout most of his college career. A hulking 6-6, 320-pounder with three starts on his résumé, he has the upper body strength to occasionally be overpowering.

The right guard will be senior Casey Bulyca, a blue-collar mauler who gets the job done despite not having all-star skills. At 6-6 and 340 pounds, he’s a bear to handle one-on-one, but too often he lacks the quickness to pick up blitzes or seal off some of the league’s faster defensive linemen.            

Projected Top Reserves: Behemoth junior G Morgan Rosborough brings experience, power, and versatility to the second team. At 6-6 and 365 pounds, he has long labored with his conditioning, yet is surprisingly nimble and can also play some tackle if necessary.

The backup tackle spots will be held down by a couple of redshirt freshmen, 6-5, 290-pound Mark Armelin on the left side and 6-5, 280-pound Skyler Fancher on the right. Both have outstanding size and the room to add more weight. Fancher, in particular, has impressed the staff with his athletic ability and his play on last year’s scout team.    

Watch Out For… Garcia’s quest to get back on the field one final time. Before getting injured, this was going to be his sixth, and presumably, best year with the Huskies. He has put off surgery in the hopes he can rehab the foot sprain quick enough to return to action by late October.
Strength: Run blocking. RB Louis Rankin was very good last season, but the bodies in the trenches had a lot to do with his 1,294-yard season. Up front, the Huskies are big, aggressive, and capable of becoming a major strength.
Weakness: Pass protection.  Right on down the line, Washington needs to get better at keeping the pocket secure.  The Huskies lack finesse linemen who can slide down the line and wall off some of the Pac-10’s quicker defensive players.  They tend to lumber, which will be a problem again this season. 
Outlook: While it’s not fair to put the fate of the line on Sedillo’s shoulders, he’ll certainly play a huge role in the unit’s eventual performance.  No matter how well he plays, it’ll be impossible to adequately replace Garcia’s leadership and experience at quarterbacking the Husky front wall.   
Rating: 7