No college football team in recent memory has had an offseason quite like the University of Washington. Despite being a seven win team in 2015, Washington’s tremendous collection of returning studs have the College Football world buzzing about their potential. So, why has a seven win team created an unbelievable amount of hype?
First off, the Pac 12 has no clear contender to win the conference. Kevin Hogan finally departed the Cardinal after what seemed like a dozen years, leaving the Rose Bowl champs with major questions at quarterback. Oregon and USC are breaking in new QB’s as well. UCLA lost two major offensive weapons and face major defensive question marks. It seems logical that the talented Huskies would take advantage of their dynamic offense and stingy defense and run their way to a conference championship, and possibly more.
Don’t let the weak conference fool you. Ever since Washington poached Chris Petersen away from group of five powerhouse Boise State in 2013, Petersen has created a sleeping monster in Seattle.
It looks like this will finally be the year the monster awakes and wreaks havoc on the college football world. Despite only winning seven games last season, Washington is number 14 in the AP poll, 17th in Sports Illustrated's Top 25, and 18th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. After their demolition of Rutgers, they rose to 8th in the AP poll.
Their offense, while still developing, is one of the most experienced offenses in the Pac 12. The sophomore tandem of Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin remains one of CFB’s most potent duo’s.
Gaskin, a darkhorse Heisman trophy candidate, ended his freshman season on a tear, rushing for 181 yards and four touchdowns in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Despite not being named the starter to begin his freshman season, he still managed to run for 1300 yards and 14 touchdowns, while gaining 100 yards in 7 of his last 8 games.
Gaskin’s cohesion with fellow sophomore QB Jake Browning was impressive, and should only continue to strengthen with added reps. In addition, Washington returns four starters on the offensive line, ensuring that Gaskin will be given plenty of running room next season.
Speaking of Browning, the talented quarterback was arguably the best freshman QB last season. He rated 15th overall by Pro Football Focus. His production will only grow as he continues to get more comfortable in Chris Petersen’s offense. Washington’s manageable early season schedule will enable Browning to pick up where he left off last season. Despite losing his top two receivers to the NFL, UW returns TE Darrell Daniels and regains John Ross, an electric wideout and kick returner who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
However, the ever improving offense is just the tip of the iceberg. Head coach Chris Petersen has assembled an uber talented defensive unit complete with the speed, power and swagger to overwhelm the high octane Pac 12 offenses next season.
The defensive firepower starts with Budda Baker, the face of the ball hawking Washington defense. A preseason All American, Baker is a hard hitting, playmaking safety with tremendous pass coverage skills. His ability to patrol the middle of the field combined with his less than ideal height is reminiscent of a young Earl Thomas III. This year, Washington plans to unleash his considerable talents on offense as well.
Joining the dynamic Baker in Washington’s elite secondary is Sidney Jones, Kevin King, and Darren Gardenhire. Jones is a standout cover corner with elite athleticism and instincts. He parlayed his considerable talents into four interceptions, good for 5th in the Pac 12. Jones figures to be a high pick in next year’s NFL Draft. The 6’3, 190 pound King has all the talent in the world, but he’s been plagued by injuries. This year, King is healthy and ready to roll.
Beyond the secondary, Washington has tremendous talent on the front seven. Athletic linebackers Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria were Washington’s two leading tacklers last season. Eight defensive lineman return, including Elijah Qualls. A high school running back, Qualls is a nose tackle at UW, but his athleticism, power and pass rush skills allow him to play all three downs well.
The Washington defense was the stingiest defense in the Pac 12. The Huskies had the number one defense in the Pac 12 in yards per play, yards per game, scoring defense and total defense last season. With another year of experience, the only way to go is up for the talented, experienced Huskies.
Beyond this, Washington has one of College Football’s great coaches in Chris Petersen. He has an underwhelming record so far, but his track record at Boise State combined with the significant strides UW has made over his tenure cements his status as an elite coach.
If you need more evidence, Washington completely steamrolled Rutgers on CFB’s opening weekend. Browning was efficient, leading to one of the better performances of his young career. John Ross quashed all concerns about his health and the ball hawking defense was as dominate as advertised. They dominated in all three phases of the game.
The Washington Huskies are ready to crash into the upper echelon of the college football world. Look out College Football, the #PurpleReign has begun. Choo Choo!
Written by Jacob Sosler
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