A suitable defense combined with an offense featuring some unquestioned elite talent would seem to give the Huskies what they need to finally scratch their seven-year-long bowl itch.
While it may have sputtered a bit at times in the Spring Game on Friday, there’s little worry that Washington’s offense won’t be among the best in the Pac-10 next season. Not with the return of Jake Locker at quarterback, as well as a 1,000-yard rusher in Chris Polk, and a receiving corps that could be among the most talented in the conference.
And as spring ended, some of the questions on the other side of the ball also appeared on their way to being answered. On the day before the Spring Game, defensive coordinator Nick Holt assessed his side of the ball and said, “I think we have a chance to surprise some people on defense.”
If so, a suitable defense combined with an offense featuring some unquestioned elite talent would seem to give the Huskies what they need to finally scratch their seven-year-long bowl itch.
Coaches also left the spring feeling good that there were no new significant injury issues, meaning UW could have a full complement of 85 scholarship players healthy and ready to go for fall camp, a depth the Huskies haven’t had in years.
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As spring ends, a quick position-by-position look at the team:
No question about the starter. The battle between redshirt freshman Keith Price and true frosh Nick Montana figures to go well into fall camp — if not into the season. That Montana has a redshirt season available while Price doesn’t also figures to factor in. UW coach Steve Sarkisian gave no hint of who had a lead throughout the spring, generally saying, “I’m not worried about it” when asked if there was a depth chart behind Locker. Montana had bigger numbers in the spring game than Price, due in part to the fact that Price shared snaps with Locker’s team. While both backups showed some flashes at times in the spring, there’s no question the biggest determiner of UW’s success next year remains keeping Locker upright.
UW ended the spring with as much depth at tailback as they’ve had in years. Polk sat out spring to recover from shoulder surgery. That opened the door for true freshmen Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who, like Montana, graduated early from high school to enroll in time for spring, to get significant carries, and each played well enough they figure in the rotation for next season. In the Spring Game, however, it was veterans Johri Fogerson (50 yards, eight carries) and Demitrius Bronson (72 on 11) who stepped forward, appearing to give Washington five capable tailbacks heading into the fall. Fullback remains more uncertain but senior Austin Sylvester appears in the lead to replace Paul Homer.
In one of the more interesting battles of the spring, sophomore Chris Izbicki has a slight lead on junior Kavario Middleton. Coaches said Izbicki was simply more consistent. Both, however, will play significantly.
UW has a starting three that will rival any in the Pac-10 in juniors Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar and sophomore James Johnson. But depth was an issue as D’Andre Goodwin, Jordan Polk and Cody Bruns all missed significant time in the spring with injuries. That had walk-on William Chandler working for a time as the No. 4 receiver. If all the backups return healthy in the fall, this should be a pretty deep group.
Four of five starters remained constant throughout the spring — left tackle Senio Kelemete, left guard Ryan Tolar, center Drew Schaefer and right guard Mykenna Ikehara. As spring ended, walk-on Daniel Kanczugowski was running with the ones at right tackle ahead of Skyler Fancher. However, that spot is expected to be occupied in the fall by senior Cody Habben, a two-year starter who sat out spring to rehab a shoulder injury. Two true freshmen, notably Erik Kohler and Colin Porter, could contend for playing time in the fall.
A big concern as spring started due to depth issues, Holt was feeling better about it as spring ended. It is also expected that injured ends Everrette Thompson and Kalani Aldrich will recover fully for the fall. Senior tackle Cameron Elisara spent some time at end, giving the team more options up front, and sophomore Talia Crichton had a good spring at the rush end spot. Alameda Ta’amu also had a good spring at tackle, and guys like Tyrone Duncan and Semisi Tokolahi also showed improvement at tackle.
Two of three spots were constant throughout the spring with Mason Foster at weakside linebacker and Cort Dennison in the middle. Converted safety Alvin Logan ran with the ones throughout spring at strongside linebacker ahead of Matt Houston, but both will face competition in the fall from Victor Aiyewa, who was limited in the spring due to a shoulder injury. True frosh Victor Burnett had eight tackles in the spring game to loom as a future stalwart in the middle.
Lots of mixing and matching here throughout the spring with the only real constant being senior Nate Williams at strong safety (where touted frosh Sean Parker will play in the fall, as well). Redshirt frosh Will Shamburger was one of the stars of the spring, finishing as the starter at free safety ahead of Nate Fellner. Competition at cornerback remains fierce. One starting cornerback, Desmond Trufant, sat out most of spring after having sports hernia surgery but figures to again be a starter in the fall. Adam Long, a starter at the end of last season, was surpassed in the spring by veterans Quinton Richardson and Vonzell McDowell Jr. And then there’s converted WR Anthony Boyles, who was a star of the Spring Game with an interception return for a TD. Big picture is UW appears to have more depth there than it has had in years.
Kicker Erik Folk was inconsistent in the spring, but he also was a year ago, then hit 18 for 21 during the season, so coaches profess no concern. Will Mahan returns at punter. Walk-on Brendan Lopez of Bellevue appears to have the snapping job, as does Bruns at holder.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org