Dashon Goldson, Jake Locker, Bishop Sankey, and Desmond Trufant are just a few of the NFL players that the Washington Huskies have churned out in the last few seasons, and last year’s team had four players drafted in the first two rounds (although Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team before the end of the season). However, despite the high volume of players that Washington Huskies has put into the NFL season, they haven’t won ten or more games in a season since 2000. It’s almost as if there is an invisible ceiling on this program that exists regardless of the talent level or coaching. Chris Petersen needs to find a way to break through that ceiling, but with so much departed talent that may be a pipe dream for the 2015 season.
The strength of this Husky offense will be a trio of reliable running backs. Lavon Coleman, Dwayne Washington, and Deontae Cooper combined to rush for almost 1,600 yards and ten touchdowns last season. (It’s worth noting that Dwayne Washington rushed for nine of those ten touchdowns). That’s pretty solid production out of the running game, and even if the offensive line is facing turnover it’s comforting to know that the guys behind them are more than capable. One caveat for this group though is that they only lost two fumbles last season, but coughed it up seven total times. That’s pretty fortunate, and if the backs fumble the ball that many times this season they may not be so lucky.
Washington’s offensive line suffered a major blow on Monday when left guard Dexter Charles decided to retire from football due to a lingering knee injury. Charles was far and away the most experienced lineman with 31 career starts. Sophomore Coleman Shelton is now the most experienced starter on the line with seven career starts at right tackle. The only other linemen with starting experience are guards Siosifa Tufunga and Shane Brostek.
Cyler Miles decision to leave the program after last season was another harsh offseason blow for the Huskies and left a pretty big hole at quarterback. Jeff Lindquist and K.J. Carta-Samuels are the primary competitors for the starting gig, along with true freshman Jake Browning. My money is on Lindquist to eventually win the job as he is a little bit older and based on recent media reports has looked a little bit stronger than the other two. He’s also the only one of the three with in-game college experience.
Other than Jaydon Mickens, the new quarterback won’t have many proven options to get the ball to either. Mickens caught sixty passes for 617 yards last season, and has been a top target in fall camp. Joshua Perkins also could be a solid option at tight end after catching 25 passes for 315 yards last season. Sophomore Dante Pettis is a potential breakout candidate at receiver. He turned 17 receptions into 259 yards a season ago.
Budda Baker and the rest of the Washington secondary are both the most experienced and the strongest unit on the whole team. Baker had 69 tackles, and interception and six passes broken up as a freshman last season. Cornerback Sidney Jones is another sophomore who contributed as a freshman last season hauling in two interceptions and five pass break-ups. Baker, Jones and Kevin King, another returning safety, all topped 50 tackles in 2014.
With the loss of first-round pick Danny Shelton and both defensive ends, it’s unsurprising that no returning defensive lineman had more than twenty tackles last season, and the group combined for only three total sacks. Joe Mathis is the top returner and he recorded two of those three sacks as a backup defensive end last season. Sophomore Elijah Qualls is the most likely candidate to fill the massive, literally and figuratively, left behind by Shelton.
Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha also leave behind some pretty big shoes that need filling. Kikaha had 19 sacks a season ago. Travis Feeney did top the fifty tackle mark last season, and is easily the most experienced member of the front seven. Feeney also had two interceptions and a forced fumble last season. Sophomores Keishawn Bierria and Azeem Victor seem like the probable starters at the inside linebacker positions.
This is not going to be a fun college football season in Seattle in all likelihood, but hey the Seahawks should be awesome yet again. Chris Petersen has proven himself as a head coach at this level, and he will be the man to get this team back to the ten-win mark when it indeed gets there, but there is just too much inexperience and attrition from last season for that to happen in 2015. We will know a lot about Washington really early on when they travel to Boise to take on Petersen’s former team on the “Smurf Turf”. Road trips to USC, Stanford and Arizona State will all be tough too, especially since the Huskies have to sandwich a home date with the Oregon Ducks in-between the trips to USC and Stanford.