After No. 17 Washington and No. 21 USC meet inside Husky Stadium on Saturday, one team will leave as a legitimate Pac-12 contender.
The other will have a whole lot of questions to answer.
But until then, we’ll answer any early questions you might have. Enjoy another edition of our UW Huskies mailbag.
I totally agree with you, Joe. And more importantly, the numbers agree with you.
Consider that, in UW junior quarterback Jacob Eason’s start against BYU, he completed 24 of 28 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. That means he attempted a whopping 25 passes that did not result in touchdowns. He utterly failed 25 times. You simply cannot draft a quarterback who allows 89.3 percent of his passes to fall short of the end zone.
And, from another perspective, is Eason even the best college quarterback in the state of Washington? WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon threw for 570 yards and nine touchdowns in his team’s 67-63 loss to UCLA, which is 1.97 times more passing yards and three times more touchdowns than Eason. You could conclude, then, that Gordon was actually 300 percent better than Eason last weekend (and in general?). Forget the system. Forget the facts. Let’s conveniently twist the statistics!
When it comes down to it, Eason’s weaknesses are obvious. He’s too tall. He’s too accurate. His right arm is too strong, potentially endangering the precious hands and fingers of his overwhelmed wide receivers.
Or maybe I’m totally joking, and it’s becoming more and more clear that Eason will be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. You decide.
First, some recognition: UW junior Hunter Bryant is currently tied for the national lead with Western Michigan’s Giovanni Ricci in two categories — tight end receiving yards (285) and receiving yards per game (71.3). The 6-foot-2, 239-pound junior is arguably the most dynamic tight end in the country. It’s tempting to focus on the future, but let’s not disregard the present.
With that said, UW currently has five scholarship tight ends on its roster — Bryant, junior Jacob Kizer (who has missed the first four games with a back injury), sophomore Cade Otton, sophomore converted offensive lineman Corey Luciano and redshirt freshman Devin Culp. Should Bryant enter the 2020 NFL draft, I’d expect the 6-5, 246-pound Otton to be a serviceable replacement, more in the Drew Sample mold of a workmanlike UW tight end.
Beyond that, I’m intrigued about what Culp can bring to the table in the long term. The 6-3, 262-pound tight end from Spokane brings a unique physical dynamic, with a blocker’s build (a la Luciano) as well as the ability to really run. Right now, he’s only sniffing the field on specific heavy run packages. But in 2020 and 2021, he could develop into another dynamic threat.
As for an as-of-yet unsigned future Husky, keep an eye on 6-6, 250-pound 2020 commit Mark Redman. The Corona Del Mar, Calif., product (and high-school teammate of QB commit Ethan Garbers) is physically ready for Pac-12 play. If he can absorb the playbook and showcase competent technique, Redman might earn an opportunity to contribute as a true freshman.
Start seeing? Let’s remember that Richard Newton — UW’s 6-0, 210-pound redshirt-freshman running back — currently leads the team with 45 carries, one more than Ahmed (who admittedly has played one fewer game). The coaching staff’s faith in Newton has been obvious, ever since the young tailback was trusted with a wildcat carry on fourth-and-two in the Huskies’ opening offensive drive of the season. He rewarded Chris Petersen and Co. on that play with a 23-yard touchdown, and has displayed a fearlessness and physicality through four impressive games.
But he also fumbled twice, losing one, in last weekend’s win over BYU. Still, Petersen’s faith in Newton hasn’t wavered.
“Rich Newton did a really good job (against BYU), other than putting the ball on the ground twice, which can cost you the game,” Petersen said this week. “I think he’ll learn from that. He’s real tough, runs tough, struggles for extra yards, twisting and falling forward. That’s when the ball can get away from your body, and that’s what he’s got to learn.”
Through four games, UW has shown that its most effective running back rotation is a true, legitimate committee. Ahmed, Newton and junior Sean McGrew are each averaging at least 5.4 yards per carry. As long as that production continues, all three will earn a role.
Yes, freshman defensive back Asa Turner signed with UW as a safety. And yes, he has spent the first four games as Elijah Molden’s backup at nickel. And yes, he picked up his first career interception at that position late in the fourth quarter last Saturday, when his receiver essentially fell down.
But defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake is exceedingly clear: sooner or later, Turner will be a UW safety.
“He’s going to be a safety for us, like we’ve been saying since day one,” Lake said on Wednesday. “You see his athleticism, how fast he is. He’ll be 210 pounds. JoJo (McIntosh) was 210, 212. Taylor Rapp was up to 210 and got down for the combine to 207. (Turner’s) got even a taller frame, so he’s going to be about 210 to 215 and athletic, fast. Yeah, I’m glad he signed with the Dawgs.”
For now, though, Turner is listed at 6-3 and 187, and Lake specifically likes the length and athleticism he brings to the nickel spot.
“It’s very similar to what we did with Kevin King for a couple years,” Lake said. “That length in the slot … you don’t see that a lot. Kevin King had a lot of production at that position — about three or four interceptions, guys trying to throw the ball down the seams, and you can’t get it there with that type of length.
“Usually those slots are smaller guys, and a lot of times the nickels are smaller guys. So it’s kind of like an equal battle. But when you get a guy like Kevin King, like Asa Turner, with that size and that length and that athleticism, that changes things.”
As for Anthony’s second question, freshman safety Cameron Williams has certainly experienced some growing pains, particularly with missed tackles. But the coaching staff seems set on letting him grow and improve in the starting spotlight. Still, a shorter, less physical safety tandem of Williams (6-0, 191) and senior Myles Bryant (5-9, 185) will undoubtedly be challenged in the vertical passing game against USC’s air raid offense on Saturday.
We’re one-third of the way through the 2019 regular season, and you know what that means.
Let the 2020 UW quarterback competition begin!