A veteran O-line and a deep secondary give Huskies hope they can live up to preseason hype.

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The Washington Huskies open fall camp on Friday afternoon. Here are 10 reasons for optimism about the Huskies this year:

10. Auburn

You’ve heard the grumbling. Heck, you probably did the grumbling. Grumble no more — the Huskies finally have a premier Power Five opponent on their nonconference schedule. The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic against Auburn in Atlanta might be the biggest opener the Huskies have ever had, and it could not have come at a better time. The Huskies have top-10 talent and one of the most experienced rosters in program history. That the Huskies are going into SEC country to play a top-10 team gives them a primetime platform to prove they belong among college football’s best. (It’s a 12:30 p.m. PT kickoff for an ABC national broadcast, so those East Coast elitists can’t use late kickoffs as an excuse for not seeing UW play.) It should also give the Huskies added credibility late in the season when the College Football Playoff Committee begins weighing resumes of playoff contenders. A win over Auburn immediately puts the Huskies in the driver’s seat in that conversation. (And remember — this isn’t a pessimistic outlook, just a reminder — that a “good loss” is now part of the (unofficial) vernacular for the CFP committee, so as long as the Huskies don’t completely tank Sept. 1 they can remain in the playoff picture if they do what they’re supposed to do during the Pac-12 season.)

9. Here comes Stanford

Led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love, Stanford is expected to be UW’s top challenger in the Pac-12 North. ESPN has the Cardinal No. 14 in its preseason power rankings, and having another highly ranked opponent on their schedule — particularly late in the season — would give the Huskies’ resume a boost. Most importantly for UW, Stanford has to travel to Husky Stadium on Nov. 3, and Husky fans no doubt remember well what happened last time Stanford came to Seattle.

8. Eager receivers

UW’s wide receivers know they have been labeled by some as the “weak link” on this roster, and they know they need to emerge after an inconsistent 2017 season from the passing game. Chico McClatcher’s return from injury will be a major factor, and the likes of Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia and Ty Jones got a taste Pac-12 play last season. There is uncertainty, sure, but also enough talent here to think this group could surprise some this fall.

7. Tight end depth

There’s no other way to put it: The loss of Hunter Bryant to a potentially season-ending knee injury is a huge blow to the UW offense. Bryant was going to be counted on as one of Jake Browning’s top targets this season, but the good news for the Huskies is they do have strong depth and promising young talent at tight end. That starts with senior Drew Sample, who might be the ideal sixth offensive lineman in the Huskies’ multiple-tight-end formations. Sample has experience and he, at the very least, is a capable contributor in the passing game, and could be one of the team’s top breakout candidates in 2018. Throw in Jacob Kizer, Cade Otton, DeShon Williams and incoming freshman Devin Culp.

6. Recruiting buzz

This speaks more to the general momentum of the program, but the Huskies are again building one of the Pac-12’s top-rated recruiting classes, with 13 known commitments for 2019. This comes on the heels of a 2018 class that finished as the highest-ranked class Chris Petersen has ever signed, and several of those recruits — linebacker Ale Kaho, wide receiver Marquis Spiker, defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa, safety Julius Irvin, among others — could have an immediate impact this fall.

5. Bush Hamdan returns

The UW offense is, at its roots, Chris Petersen’s offense. And Bush Hamdan might know Petersen’s offense as well as anyone, and now Hamdan gets his chance to run it. Hamdan, entering his first season as a major-college offensive coordinator, will add new wrinkles to the offense here and there, but the fundamentals of the system will largely stay the same. “It always starts with running the football,” Hamdan said this spring. “By nature, we are pro-style guys, if you look at it (from) 20 years ago. I want to be downhill, I want to be able to run the ball and establish things off the run, but this tempo has been really good for us as well and being able to do a lot of different things. The theme, hopefully, stays exactly the same. We’ve had some success here the last couple years, and it’s the ability to do a lot of different things — show a lot of different things — and just keep this thing going.”

4. Jake Browning

Browning, in an interview with The Seattle Times last week, certainly sounded motivated and determined entering his fourth season as the starting QB. He spent considerable time this offseason breaking down every snap he took last season, and he’s aware that he needs to do less with his feet and more with his arm (and head) this season. Hunch here is his senior-season production will look closer to his 2016 than his 2017.

3. A veteran O-line

There is a lot of excitement about Trey Adams and his return from knee surgery, and rightfully so. Adams, when healthy, is everything you want in a left tackle. The same could be said of what the Huskies have at right tackle, and what they have in Kaleb McGary is a first-team all-Pac-12 selection with 39 games’ worth of experience under his belt. Adams and McGary might be the best bookend combination in college football, and between them is a third-year starter in Nick Harris, the new center, and a left guard, Luke Wattenberg, who came into his own as Adams’ fill-in in the second half of 2017.

2. A veteran secondary

All five defensive backs who started the Fiesta Bowl are back in UW’s secondary … and the Huskies return 6-foot-1 senior cornerback Jordan Miller from a broken ankle … and bring in three more highly touted freshmen defensive backs. Rich get richer and all that, right? “Our culture in our DB room is to be the best in the nation,” senior safety JoJo McIntosh said last week. “Nothing less. Not to be the best in the Pac-12. Not to be the best on our team. But to be the best in the nation, and that’s what we push toward and that’s what I feel like we are. We are the best in the nation, because that’s our culture and that’s what we live by and that’s what we continue to live by.”

1. Myles Gaskin

Is there a more underrated running back in college football? The Huskies have had running backs who were faster (Napoleon Kaufman comes to mind), backs who were bigger (Greg Lewis), backs who were flashier (Corey Dillon) and backs who had greater prestige (Hugh McElhenny), but never have the Huskies had a back who has been as productive, as durable, as dependable as long as Gaskin has been. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Gaskin great — it’s a whole-lot of little things that add up to one complete package — but this much is clear: The Huskies won’t be great in 2018 without a great senior season from Gaskin.