Washington opens season against a new offense, new quarterback and new coordinator for the Scarlet Knights.
For the first time in a decade, the Washington Huskies will open a season in the Eastern time zone when they travel to Piscataway, N.J., for the game Friday against Rutgers.
The environment won’t be the only unfamiliar aspect of the trip for the No. 8 Huskies.
Rutgers will be unveiling a new offense Friday, featuring a new quarterback, a new running back and a new offensive coordinator calling the plays.
All of that makes game-planning more of a practice in guesswork for the Huskies’ defensive staff.
Studying film of Rutgers’ 2016 offense will be mostly a futile endeavor. Instead, UW coaches have spent time looking at Louisville’s 2015 offense. They might even peek at film of Minnesota’s offense from 2014, Northern Illinois from 2010, and if they could somehow find it, they could perhaps benefit from studying what a little-known Division II program in Kansas, Pittsburg State, was doing some 25 years ago.
In other words, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what the UW defense will be facing Friday night.
“The first games are always tough,” UW coach Chris Petersen said.
Let’s start with the quarterback: Senior Kyle Bolin won a three-man battle for the starting job after only arriving at Rutgers in June. A part-time starter at Louisville in 2015, Bolin lost his job to 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, and earlier this spring he had fallen to No. 3 on Louisville’s depth chart, prompting his transfer.
Washington defensive players over the past week have acknowledged they knew almost nothing about Bolin, but expected to learn more about him this week.
Another senior transfer, 225-pound running back Gus Edwards, is expected to join Bolin in the backfield. Edwards rushed for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons at Miami.
More puzzling is what kind of plays Rutgers will be running.
Jerry Kill is in his first season as the Rutgers’ offensive coordinator. The 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year, Kill had to step down as the Minnesota head coach midway through the 2015 season because of his ongoing battle with epilepsy. Kill hasn’t called plays since his time as the head coach at Northern Illinois (2008-10), and he hasn’t been an offensive coordinator since his days at Pittsburg State in 1993.
The Rutgers offense needed the makeover after it finished last in the Big Ten in nearly every major category last season. (The Huskies, meanwhile, return seven regular starters from a defense that ranked as the best in the Pac-12 in each of the past two years.)
Kill has sounded eager to call plays again.
“I feel like calling plays, that’s been my gift, to be honest with you,” he said during his introductory news conference at Rutgers.
Kill has declined to classify his style of offense. It’s apparently not a spread offense, but does have the quarterback line up in shotgun and the running back(s) in I-formation. Curious, indeed.
“It seems like we always stumble on to new coordinators,” Petersen said. “For like 15 years in a row, I think there might have been one or two times that we had the same set of coordinators that we opened with. It is just par for the course.
“It makes it a little more challenging, but everybody has new wrinkles anyway that they’re coming out with in the first couple of games. We just have to play our game. We have to just trust our rules. We have enough offense, defense and special teams that if we do our job, we’re going to be fine.”
• The Huskies opened the 2007 season in the Eastern time zone with a 42-12 victory at Syracuse. UW has played just two other games on Eastern time since then: at Notre Dame in October 2009 (a 37-30 Notre Dame victory) and the College Football Playoff game last season in Atlanta (a 24-7 Alabama triumph).
• The Huskies are scheduled to release their first depth chart of the season Monday morning. Petersen will then hold his weekly Monday news conference starting at noon.