The football season is getting closer, and while our Bruins are getting ready for the 2015 season, the rest of the Pac-12 is too, so we're taking a quick look around the conference to see how the other 11 teams are stacking up. We posed the same 4 questions to each of our Pac-12 conference mates so we can get to know their team and expectations a bit better, and added a 5th question geared for each school individually. We add some notes on the teams key losses and returns after the Q&A, as well.
Our Pac-12 preseason previews continue with our friends way up north, the Washington Huskies. Our friend Chris Landon is one of the Managers at UW's outstanding SBN site UWDawgPound and he was kind enough to share his time and insights with us at BN. Check out his thoughts in the Q&A below, and for the best inside look at Washington football anywhere, head on over to UWDawgPound and join in the conversation there.
BN: Who are the players on offense we don’t know about, but should?
Chris: UW's offense is a mess thanks in part to a lack of depth at WR and an experienced OLine. The two names you ought to watch out for are RB Dwayne Washington and TE/Y Darrell Daniels.
Washington is a big back (6'2, 215) with explosive speed. After recovering from an injury, he exploded on the scene in the second half of the season last year scoring 5 TDs from 40+ yards out. He needs a crease to operate as he has a hard time getting his pads down, but he is a true game breaker.
Daniels is another wildcard. A former four star WR prospect, the junior is one of the most physical guys on the roster at 6'4 240 lbs. He has track star speed as he demonstrated on a 68 yard TD catch and run vs OSU last year. Hands have always been his issue. But he's turned himself into a good blocker and given UW's lack of WRs he is sure to be on the field a lot in 201(.
BN: Who are the players on defense we don’t know about, but should?
Chris: UW is replacing six starters among their front seven, so there will be a lot of new names to watch out for if you are a discerning opposing fan. Assuming you already know about sophomore Budda Baker and the star path he is on, I'd focus your attention on two of those front liners: DT Elijah Qualls and DE JoJo Mathis.
Qualls is an uber athletic 310 lb man with a low center of gravity. He's not Danny Shelton from a strength perspective, but he's much more agile. When he's not crushing RBs, he dies standing backflips to stay limber. He's also a very vocal leader who has had plenty of banked reps as a reserve.
Mathis is the best bet as UW's next sack man replacing the nation's leading sack artist from a year ago, Hau'oli Kikaha. Mathis will play both as an OLB and a 5T lineman and will lineup on both sides of the ball. He's more strong than fast and he has very violent hands. He also played a lot a year ago and flashed every time he was on the field.
BN: What game has the biggest circle on the calendar and why?
Chris: Boise State. UW fans have no delusions. While the baseline talent is the best we've seen here in two decades, it is still very young. In fact, it is one of the youngest teams in the nation by average age of scholarship players. Bowl eligibility is the goal and to get there, beating Boise State on the blue turf in Week 1 is a must-have. The drama associated with the return of Chris Petersen just adds to the intrigue.
BN: What is your prediction for your season record?
Chris: I haven't done my full game-by-game analysis as I do every year in my Gekko Files series (update: here it is, and Bruin fans will not love it) but I think that there are six wins out there for UW if they stay healthy. The good news is that the second stringers in just about all positions are nearly as good as the first, so there is little downside with this team. A few lucky breaks could net UW seven wins.
BN: This will be Chris Petersen’s second year in Seattle and everyone has high expectations for Washington under his guidance. Although no one develops talent like Petersen, the recent loss of QB Cyler Miles and a roster with few returning starters makes 2015 look like it could be a tough year for the Huskies. Will Washington fans be as understanding as the rest of us if the team slips a bit relative to last season and what are your longer term expectations for Petersen and the team?
Chris: I've already addressed the youth issue. Fans will be looking for growth out of a young team and are sophisticated enough to know it when they see it. Last year, UW failed to beat a winning team all season even with two All Americans and a Hornung Award winner. While most understood that the depth behind UW's front line starters was very thin, fans expected a little more magic than what they got from Petersen. Bungled clock management and player rotations didn't help matters. That said, UW fans are still ecstatic about having Petersen at the helm and finally feel like that there is a responsible adult managing the program. There isn't a safer seat in the Pac than coach Pete's.
Head Coach: Chris Petersen, 2nd year
2014 season: 8-6, 4-5 (conf), 3rd in Pac 12 North
2014 Bowl: Lost to Oklahoma State 30-22 in Cactus Bowl
Key returnees: S Budda Baker (So), LB Travis Feeney (Sr), RB Dwayne Washington (Jr)
Key losses: DT Danny Shelton, DE Hau'oli Kikaha, LB Shaq Thompson, QB Cyler Miles (injury/retire), WR/KR John Ross (injury) OL Dexter Charles (injury/retire)
AP Preseaon Rank: NR
Matchup with UCLA: none
Thanks again to Chris and all the folks at UWDawgPound