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2009 Washington Preview - Offense
Washington QB Jake Locker
Washington QB Jake Locker
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 29, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Washington Husky Offense

Washington Huskies

Preview 2009 - Offense


- 2009 CFN Washington Preview | 2009 UW Offense
- 2009 UW Defense | 2009 UW Depth Chart
- 2008 UW Preview | 2007 UW Preview | 2006 UW Preview
 

What you need to know: Hey, Steve Sarkisian, you’re not at Troy any longer. Surrounded by future pros while at USC, the new coach takes over a program that was 116th nationally in total offense and 117th in scoring offense. Yup, his hands will be full. The good news is that QB Jake Locker returns after missing most of 2008 with a thumb injury. Sarkisian is installing a pro-style offense, with a few alterations to take advantage of Locker’s mobility. If the junior truly evolves into a multi-threat quarterback, he’ll have no shortage of exciting underclassmen to utilize. RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse, and TE Kavario Middleton are just a few of the kids, who were nationally recruited a couple of years ago. The staff knows it inherited a ton of potential, but all bets are off if the line doesn’t make marked improvement. One of the worst units among the BCS programs, it’s replacing three starters and painfully unproven on the right side.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ronnie Fouch
113-250, 1,339 yds, 4 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Willie Griffin
63 carries, 219 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: D'Andre Goodwin
60 catches, 692 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Jake Locker
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LT Cody Habben
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Jermaine Kearse
Best pro prospect: Locker
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Locker  2) Goodwin  3) Habben
Strength of the offense: Locker’s return, speed and potential at the skill positions
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line, running game, red zone scoring, turnovers

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: The single most important Husky, junior Jake Locker, is back in action after missing the final three-quarters of 2008 with a thumb injury. The forecasted breakthrough season never materialized, as the franchise quarterback was limited to less than four games and 93 passing attempts. With Steve Sarkisian and assistant Doug Nussmeier monitoring his every move, he could be ready to turn the corner and become a more complete player. In his first spring with the new staff, he was sharp with his throws, making better decisions and completing more than 60% of his passes, a Sarkisian mandate. At 6-3 and 222 pounds, he remains a load to bring down outside the pocket and one of the team’s best all-around athletes. Remember, back in 2007, he rumbled for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns, en route to being named  Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

Projected Top Reserves: The only upside to Locker’s injury was that it forced 6-1, 203-pound sophomore Ronnie Fouch off the sidelines, improving the overall depth and experience at the position. He performed to mixed reviews, starting fast before tailing off and finishing 113-of-250 for 1,339 yards, four touchdowns, and 13 picks. While he doesn’t have Locker’s arm strength or athletic ability, he does throw a soft ball and is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 guy in the pecking order.

Watch Out For… less running from Locker. Yes, he’s still going to use all of his tools, but the Huskies want No. 10 to be a little more patient, checking down his receivers before leaving the cozy confines of the pocket. Locker needs to remain healthy for all 12 games, and running the ball 15 times a game decreases that likelihood. 
Strength: Locker. He’s a special athlete, that rare quarterback, who can help elevate a floundering program and make top recruits want to play with him. No, Locker can’t do it all by himself, but he’s young, upwardly-mobile, and exactly what the Huskies need to rally the troops and restore some sense of stability in Seattle.
Weakness: Inconsistency in the passing game. A lack of accuracy—it’s the single biggest issue that’s dogged Locker since the moment he stepped foot on campus. While he can do just about everything, his passing skills remain unpolished and in need of some fine-tuning by Sarkisian and Nussmeier. In his first 16 games, he’s thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns and is below 50% in completion percentage.
Outlook: Although Locker is expected to improve as a passer, no one knows just how far along he’s progressed since last September. As he grows, so grows Washington, so his development will be closely monitored as the opener approaches. Even if he tucks and runs a little less frequently this fall, he remains the centerpiece of the Husky offense, if not the entire program.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Husky fans got teased by 5-11, 200-pound redshirt freshman Chris Polk, who appeared in the first two games of 2008 before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. One of the gems of the 2008 recruiting class, he’s a versatile runner, who’ll beat defenses in a multitude of different ways. The potential is there for him to run through tacklers, catch passes out of the backfield, and accelerate past defenders. While he’ll have to continue earning it this summer, the opportunity is there to emerge from a crowded and competitive backfield.

Washington boasts one of the better fullbacks in the Pac-10, 6-1, 239-pound Paul Homer. Used mostly as a lead blocker over the last three seasons, he has the quickness and good hands to be used as a change-of-pace and north-south option in short yardage. The fullback has a bigger role in the new offense, which suits the senior’s varied skill set.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming out of spring, 5-8, 198-pound sophomore Willie Griffin was in a dead heat atop the depth chart with Polk. Not the fastest or the biggest runner in the stable, he’s a tough, low-to-the-ground back, who has the leg drive and north-south style to be effective in short yardage. In his first taste of action a year ago, he logged 63 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown.

One of the breakout players of the spring was 5-10, 215-pound true freshman Demitrius Bronson, an academic non-qualifier from a year ago. He immediately made up for lost time in April, running with outstanding power and showing off his hard work in the offseason conditioning program. Between the tackles, he has the potential to be a very effective runner.   

A spot starter a year ago, 5-9, 207-pound junior Brandon Johnson is getting swept up in the youth movement at running back. He’s lagging behind the kids, but has the experience and tough running style to provide valuable depth for the Huskies. Third on the team in rushing in 2008, he ran 76 times for 194 yards and three scores.

Watch Out For… Polk. One of the parting gifts of the Ty Willingham era, he has the physical tools to be the most explosive Husky runner in some time. Can he deliver with just two games of experience in the bank? If not, there are enough insurance policies to pick up the slack.
Strength: Depth. Unlike a year ago, the Huskies enter the season feeling pretty good about their backfield depth. Three returners logged at least 25 carries in 2008, and Polk would have made it four had he not gotten hurt. If there’s an injury this fall, the offense has multiple options capable of shouldering the load.
Weakness: A proven workhorse. New year. Same story. The new staff hopes it has more than one feature guy, but with three underclassmen topping off the depth chart, it has no way of knowing for sure. Last year’s leading rusher was Terrance Dailey, who had just 338 yards and is no longer with the program. 
Outlook: The outlook could be a whole lot brighter in October if Polk blossoms and Bronson’s spring was no fluke. For now, however, the nation’s 106th-ranked rushing team is putting an awful lot of stock in unproven underclassmen. As the team tries to keep QB Jake Locker from having to run too much, the opportunity to make plays will be there for whichever back steps up.
Rating: 6

Receivers

Projected Starters: Everyone is back for another season, and last year’s kids are a year older. Yup, there’s hope for the future at wide receiver in Seattle. Junior D’Andre Goodwin delivered on his promise to be the Huskies’ go-to guy in his starting debut, catching a team-high 60 passes for 692 yards and one touchdown. A 5-11, 175-pounder, with blinding speed, he can get separation on defensive backs and projects as the offense’s top deep threat. The fact that he averaged just 11.5 yards a grab was more of an indictment of his battery mate than his wheels.

Sophomore Jermaine Kearse laid a foundation in his rookie year, and appears set to approach the lofty expectations that preceded his arrival last February. He played in every game a year ago, making 20 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns. While not the fastest receiver on the roster, he has a great burst off the snap, and will play more physically than his 6-1, 180-pound frame.  

In three-wide sets, 6-0, 195-pound sophomore Devin Aguilar is the favorite to be on the field. Like Kearse, he played extensively as a true freshman, making 20 grabs for 246 yards and earning the start for the Oklahoma game. A fluid and agile athlete, he has a great future with the program, provided he limits the drops and improves at reading coverages.

The surprise of the spring among pass-catchers was 6-3, 249-pound sophomore TE Chris Izbicki, who has unexpectedly risen to the top of the depth chart. A member of the Dawg house under the last regime, he’s taking advantage of a clean slate with a new staff. One of the program’s highest rated recruits of 2007, he has good hands and can be a dominant as a run blocker.  

Projected Top Reserves: Although it took a year longer than expected, the Huskies are excited to finally get redshirt freshman Anthony Boyles on the field. One of the gems of the 2007 class, he has ideal triangle numbers, blending great speed and quickness with a 6-3, 190-pound frame. A big-play threat, who’ll gobble up yards after the catch, he has a huge ceiling with the program.

A counter to all of the explosiveness in this group is 5-11, 168-pound sophomore Cody Bruns, more of a possession receiver, who has great hands and really knows how to run the tree. He lettered as a true freshman, playing in seven games and being used as a receiver, runner, and passer.

Yet another true freshman to letter in 2008 was 5-8, 161-pound Jordan Polk, who has sprinter speed and the leaping ability to play much bigger than his size. After catching four passes for 58 yards and leading the team in kickoff returns, the staff realizes he needs to be used more and released into space, where he’ll do most of his damage.

Just because sophomore TE Kavario Middleton is No. 2 on the depth chart does not mean his trajectory toward stardom has changed. It hasn’t. The 6-5, 255-pound former blue-chip recruit has tremendous potential, especially as a fluid, seam-busting pass-catcher. He broke the seal on his Husky career, avoiding a redshirt season and catching a dozen passes for 82 yards.

Watch Out For… there to be a premium on big, physical receivers, who can create mismatches. It’s the type of pass-catcher Steve Sarkisian clearly favored at USC, which means Kearse and Boyles, in particular, have an instant edge.
Strength: Athleticism. Yeah, they are still pretty raw as pure pass-catchers, but the young Husky receivers have a dynamite upside and more explosiveness than any group here in years. If Jimmie Dougherty can coach these kids up on the little things, they’re going to be a very exciting bunch to watch. 
Weakness: Consistency. With youth comes problems, like poor routes, missed assignments, and dropped balls. These Huskies are no different. They still make too many mistakes, which isn’t entirely unexpected when a junior, Goodwin, is the senior member of the unit.
Outlook: If you can get passes the occasional dropped pass and poorly run route, it’s hard not to get excited about this ensemble of wide receivers and tight ends. They’re young, fast, and brimming with upside potential. If they can shed the training wheels and grow up alongside Locker, the passing game will be much tougher to defend than a year ago.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Could things get anyone worse up front for the Huskies? Yup, the team must replace two starting guards and C Juan Garcia, its most consistent blocker. The most interesting battle is the one taking place at center, where 6-5, 321-pound junior Ryan Tolar and 6-3, 291-pound redshirt freshman Mykenna Ikehara have gone toe-to-toe and exited spring deadlocked. Naturally, Tolar has the edge in experience, having started 19 games and lettered at guard over the last two seasons. He has the size and the strength to simply maul opponents, but needs to remain in shape, improve his footwork, and get comfy at a new position.

Ikehara is the future at the position, but is he the present? He’s looked the part in practice, beefing up in the offseason and holding his ground at the point of contact. He also holds an edge over Tolar in terms of quickness and hand speed, getting out to the second level in a hurry. If he can continue maturing in the summer, he’s liable to push the junior back to guard.

The responsibility of keeping Jake Locker from getting blindsided is 6-6, 316-pound Cody Habben, who is moving from right tackle to left tackle. A candidate to be the line’s top performer, he has the long arms to wall off edge rushers and the good feet to be a solid overall pass protector. If he can improve his technique, like becoming more of a knee-bender, he could be an all-leaguer before he’s through.

Next to Habben at left guard will be either Tolar or 6-6, 332-pound senior Ben Ossai, a three-year starter making the move inside from left tackle. Miscast on the outside, the thinking is that his poor footwork and pass protecting won’t be as obvious with a man on each side. When he gets locked on to a lineman, he can engulf him with his size and strength.

Over at right guard will be 6-4, 260-pound sophomore Senio Kelemete, a converted defensive lineman, who had four starts and four stops at tackle a year ago. A good athlete and promising run blocker, it’s going to be at least a year and another 30 pounds before he approaches his full potential on this side of the ball.

Leaving spring, the favorite at right tackle was 6-5, 275-pound redshirt freshman Drew Schaefer, another young recruit with loads of potential. Still a bit of a project, the staff is excited about his ability, particularly as a pass blocker. A basketball player throughout his youth, he hasn’t lost the footwork or quickness as he’s gotten bigger.

Projected Top Reserves: If Tolar is not in the starting at guard or center, he’ll be the unit’s top backup on the inside and a key member of the rotation.

Senior Morgan Rosborough is a veteran body on the second team, and a large one at that. The 6-6, 382-pound giant has seen action at guard the last two seasons, and will provide insurance in the event that Kelemete struggles. Conditioning has long been an issue that’s limited his ability to play an even larger role.

Bucking to be the top tackle off the bench is 6-5, 294-pound sophomore Skyler Fancher, who overcame a broken leg in the spring of 2008 to appear in 10 games and earn a letter in his first season. He’s impressed the staff with his athletic ability, and still has the room on his frame to add some more weight.

Watch Out For… better conditioned linemen. As a group, the Huskies were slow and out of shape, which the new staff immediately attacked upon arrival. You’ll notice this season a trend toward leaner and more athletic blockers, who aren’t so easily gassed late in games.
Strength: The left side. All things being relative, the strength of this line will be to the left of the new center. Habben is a proven player, with an all-star ceiling, and both Ossai and Tolar are massive veterans capable of excelling as pile-driving guards.
Weakness: Pass protection. It’s been a familiar cry for the last few years around these parts. The Huskies simply can’t keep the quicker pass rushers out of the backfield and off the quarterback, finishing 104th nationally in sacks allowed. With a new center and rebuilt right side, different results are unlikely.
Outlook: At a program with issues, this remains the biggest need area. Whipping the linemen into shape and putting a premium on quickness are positive steps, but the results won’t deviate much from the last few years. The Huskies will again have problems creating daylight for the backs and breathing room for Locker.
Rating: 5.5