Exactly four months from today (May 1st) is when the Washington Huskies take to the gridiron at CenturyLink Field to face the Aztecs of San Diego State. Now, four months may seem like a long time, but they will come much quicker than you think. What will the 2012 Huskies look like this season? Well, we got a first glimpse at them on last Saturday, April 28th, at the annual UW Spring Game.
In what was quite a surprise, the Defense was the side that impressed, beating the offense 36-10. The scoring system was not what you would expect (3 pts for a defensive stop, etc.), but that’s beside the point. The offense couldn’t get anything going against the new look defense.
In regards to the offense, there are several things I noticed. First was the play of the offensive line: awful. The Huskies lost senior left tackle, and captain, Senio Kelemete to the draft, right tackle Colin Porter to career ending shoulder injuries, and left guard Colin Tanigawa was out for this game due to a knee injury he sustained last season against Oregon State. Therefore, I’ll cut them some slack this time around, but things must improve. Due to the poor line play, the Huskies only rushed for 20 yards on 35 attempts for the game. Save yourself the time doing the math on that yards-per-carry, it’s just flat out terrible. Bishop Sankey led all ball carriers with 34 yards on 11 carries. Jesse Callier handled only 2 carries for 4 yards, but was limited due to injury earlier this spring. There seems to be a glaring need of power running for this group, so don’t be surprised if you see prized recruit Shaq Thompson get a carry here and there each game to mix up the tempo on offense.
As for Keith Price, he didn’t impress either, not being the accurate passer that we grew accustomed to last season. This is mostly due to the poor line play that flushed him out of the pocket and made him throw on the run, so don’t read into it to much, but overall a disappointing day for the QB. Kasen WIlliams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were not factors either, but Sark said not to read into this too much either. As for the other receivers, especially the second team, there were more drops than you would have liked to see.
On the defensive side of the ball, I think everyone in the building would say they were impressed with what they saw. With the addition of new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, among others, you could see a difference right from the get go, with a totally new base defense: the 3-4. Andrew Hudson and Talia Crichton started at the defensive end postions, Danny Shelton at nose tackle, and Josh Shirley at the hybrid LB/DE spot. I love this spot for Shirley, as this sort of position is made for players like him. He is explosive off the edge and can quickly close to the quarterback. Don’t be surprised if you see him amass a double digit sack total this season. He’s primed for a breakout. Also, don’t forget about Hau’oli Jamora, who is still recovering from a season ending knee injury four games into last season. He has the ability to be very disruptive in the offensive backfield as well.
At linebacker, the starting three were Nate Fellner at strong side, Johnny Timu at middle, and Princeton Fuimaono at weak side, along with Shirley at his hybrid position. I absolutely love the transition that Fellner has made from strong safety to linebacker. He has always been a heavy hitter, so why not start him in the box in the first place. He also brings an added dimension in his coverage abilities against the pass, where he will be the best out of the unit. I look for him to excel at this spot and bring a new sort of swagger, if you will, to a group that has been lacking one for awhile.
In the defensive secondary we saw Greg Ducre and Desmond Trufant start at corner, which was no surprise, and we also saw a fair amount of Marcus Peters, who is considered the best cover corner on the team. At safety was Sean Parker and Justin Glenn. A solid unit in my opinion, that will only get better with the addition of Shaq Thompson. I think it is safe to assume Glenn will be the individual losing playing time due to the inclusion of Shaq, but that’s quite alright with me. I have high hopes and expectations for these guys, but then again I said that last year and look at what happened. As for now, the fingers are crossed.
Not much to say about special teams as there was really only one play that included them due to the odd rules in the game this year. That play was the 37 yard field goal by walk-on Erik Nothstein. Junior college transfer Travis Coons will most likely take over the place kicking duties once Fall practice rolls around in August.
Overall, some good and bad things to take away from this season’s Spring Game. As I noted above, the offensive line must get better if the offense wants to see the production of last season. The loss of Chris Polk is a huge void to fill and I’m not sold that Callier and Sankey can fulfill that task, but I do believe Keith Price can assist them by again being the passer that he was last season. The receivers are an up and coming group led by Kasen Williams, and i really believe they have the potential to make some noise this year, but everything depends on the line play. As for the defense, there’s nowhere but up for them. I truly think that they have already made some progress and are on the right track. I mean 7 sacks and only 10 points conceded in the spring game? That’s what you call making a statement. I have my full confidence in Justin Wilcox and his staff to turn them around and make them into a respectable group come September 1st. In the meantime, keep thinking good thoughts about the 2012 Huskies. This just might be the year folks!