The Huskies, looking to replace 14 regular starters from last season, begin their first of 15 spring workouts at 8:15 a.m. Monday inside Husky Stadium. Here are five storylines to follow throughout the spring.
There is comfort and continuity with Washington’s coaching staff and its roster. Now, the internal competition begins.
The Huskies, looking to replace 14 regular starters from last season, begin their first of 15 spring workouts at 8:15 a.m. Monday inside Husky Stadium. Here are five storylines to follow throughout the spring:
1. The QB question
There are two new quarterbacks in the mix, but little has changed in the past year at the most important position on the field. A year ago, the Huskies were also breaking in two young quarterbacks with no real college experience. Then, it was Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams. Now, it’s K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning.
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Williams has since transferred to a junior college. Lindquist, a junior, remains … and remains a candidate to start the 2015 season opener at Boise State on Sept. 4.
Carta-Samuels, a 6-foot-2, 219-pound redshirt freshman, and Browning, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound true freshman, are participating in their first spring with the Huskies. Expectations are high for both.
Three times a week during winter conditioning, the quarterbacks worked out with receivers in 7-on-7-style passing drills. It’s typically an informal but important time for players to establish camaraderie.
“Jake and K.J., they’ve been looking really good, actually,” senior tight end Joshua Perkins said earlier this month. “Jake, he’s learned the playbook very fast. He knows how to work it.”
Even before UW announced earlier this month that junior Cyler Miles, the regular starter in 2014, would be taking an indefinite personal leave from the team, UW coach Chris Petersen had said the quarterback position would be up for grabs. The competition kicks off in earnest Monday.
2. The depleted defensive front
Gone are six of the seven regular starters from the Huskies’ defensive front. That includes the entire defensive line and three All-Americans in Danny Shelton, Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. That’s a lot of beef, and a lot of production, to replace.
The Huskies are fortunate to have good depth returning on the D-line, with 10 scholarship players expected to be available for the spring. Another five freshmen are scheduled to join the D-line this summer. The top-flight talent may be headed for the NFL, but in its place should be a high level of competition for the next wave.
At linebacker, the Huskies not only have to replace the versatile Thompson, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, but also John Timu, a three-year starter at middle linebacker and a respected team leader. Senior Travis Feeney will not participate in spring practices while recovering from offseason surgery.
3. Secondary concerns
No longer is the defensive secondary the Huskies’ biggest question mark. A year ago, UW faced the challenge of replacing three starters in the defensive backfield, and did so without any obvious solutions.
Ultimately, UW had to turn to two true freshmen — free safety Budda Baker and cornerback Sidney Jones — as regular starters last fall, and the results were mixed: The Huskies finished 10th in the Pac-12 in allowing 286.6 passing yards per game. That group, however, seemed to turn a corner late in the season, and there’s reason to think the secondary could turn into the strength of the defense in 2015.
One notable position change: Junior Kevin King, the regular starter at strong safety, will get a shot to take over at one cornerback spot this spring. At 6 feet 3, 182 pounds, he’s an intriguing option out wide.
4. Line ’em up
The offensive line competition looks as wide open as any position for UW. Fourteen linemen are expected to be available this spring as the Huskies look to replace four regular starters.
The competition at center and both tackle spots will be particularly interesting all the way through fall camp. Senior Dexter Charles, a three-year starter at guard, and senior Siosifa Tufunga — a candidate to start at center or guard — are UW’s most experienced linemen returning.
5. Zooming again
After splitting time on offense and defense the past two years, UW’s most explosive player, John Ross III, is back at wide receiver. That gives UW’s receiving corps, The Legion of Zoom, its full complement of veteran speed, along with seniors Jaydon Mickens and Marvin Hall. Ross, however, seems unlikely to do much, if anything, this spring as he continues to recover from January surgery to repair two meniscus tears in his right knee.
Sophomores Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius emerged as starters at the end of last season, and their continued development will be important for an offense that finished 11th in the Pac-12 in passing in 2014.