These are some of the questions and arguments that I have seen posted on the boards since the loss to ASU. This is the way I happen to see things right now.
Are the Huskies better than last season?
If you look at the cumulative results of the first five games the answer would be no. Defensively the team hasn't been able to replace DTN, Butler, Savannah, and Wells with equal, or better talent. Despite that the defense has put the team in a position to win the game four out of five times this season.
Offensively the team is struggling to find an identity and still places too much of the load on Jake Locker. The coaches seemed to have the answer against USC but they were unable to put Jake in a mobile pocket against ASU because of a bad case of the influenza.
Play calling and overall game planning have been called into question by not only the fans but the writers who follow the team. The consensus is this team gambles too much on offense. They look to pass first and run second. The fans ask why pass the ball on second and five? Why run a fake FG on a 4th and 15 when you can pin ASU deep in their own territory near the end of the first half?
What does Sark mean when he says this team has a small margin for error?
The Huskies are paper thin at most positions. So if a starter goes down in most cases there isn't someone with close to equal talent and experience to replace him. Washington is going to face a series of teams with similar talent in the starting line for the majority of the season. Expect all the games to be winnable in the fourth quarter with the exception of probably Oregon.
If the team can stay healthy they still have a decent chance at going to a bowl game.
What is the teams biggest challenge?
At this point it is simply buying in and following assignments on every play. It seems like a number of the players have started to question themselves (and the coaches) and are either trying to do too much or are second guessing their decisions during the plays.
There are a number of reasons for this and most of them are simply psychological. Don James had to deal with a similar challenge during his first three seasons. This team isn't going to move forward unless they start trusting the coaching staff and the players they are lining up with.
One day the light bulb simply goes on and there is no looking back. For DJ that happened during the third season against Oregon.
Why isn't Cameron Elisara making an impact?
Elisara has been bothered by stingers which make his entire arm go numb. The problem which forced him to miss two games at the end of last season has not gone away and he will be a limited participant the rest of his senior year. Elisara is challenged as it was going against bigger offensive linemen. Playing with one arm is an even bigger challenge.
What impact has the 2010 class had on this team?
The coaches brought in 29 new players and 14 of them are playing this season. There is a huge learning curve that goes along with that but it will pay dividends during the second half of the season and beyond.
Offensively Erik Kohler is the second or third best offensive lineman on the team. Colin Porter is expected to get his first start this week and is expected to get at least 50 snaps. Jessie Callier has played like a veteran backing up Chris Polk. He has also been playing extremely well on special teams. Kevin Smith has looked good returning kicks but broke his thumb against USC.
Defensively the kids that are currently playing all have one thing in common. They need a year in the weight room to become bigger and stronger. Jamora is probably the guy closest to starting right now. He has had some good moments but he also has been crushed at times.
Sean Parker is another guy that will be starting next season. I think he has been a little tentative while learning the defense but I predict his play will improve during the second half of the season.
DT Sione Potoae has been getting a lot of reps inside but he isn't strong enough to make an instant impact which is noticeable. Honestly you don't see a lot of defensive tackles come in and dominate from day one.
Do you see any improvement?
One area of improvement has been special teams. If you look at the difference between week one and week five the change is actually miraculous. The coverage has been much better the last two games and the return game has become pretty solid enough to be considered a scoring threat. What you are seeing is a bunch of young guys that have learned from their early mistakes who are now playing with more confidence.
Can this team win four more games?
Sure they can!
UCLA and WSU definitely look like two teams we can beat at this stage of the season. We also have a good shot against Oregon State and Stanford. We have the Ducks, Cal, and Arizona on the road. I can still see us picking up one more win on the road.
What are your predictions for the rest of the season?