Washington concluded spring practice yesterday in front of 10,000 of the faithful with a game style scrimmage which cemented the impression that this program continues to head in the right direction going forward. Despite the losses of Jake Locker and Mason Foster this team may just end up being better in 2011 than it was in 2010.
Keith Price appears to be the guy that will take the first snap against Eastern Washington to kick off the 2011 season. Over the spring he has been able to put some separation between himself and Nick Montana. He will have more tools at his disposal than Jake Locker, but will he have the time to use them while he, and a young offensive line gain experience to adjust to this level of play?
Obviously there is going to be some fall off when you graduate a kid directly into the first round of the NFL draft. That being said Keith Price is a pretty cool customer. One of the biggest tasks a young QB has is simply getting comfortable and making the players around you comfortable. Price has been able to do that this spring.
Price was an impressive 20-28 for 212 yards and three touchdowns during the spring game. He also ran well enough to rack up an additional 53 yards on five carries. Price is visibly ahead of Nick Montana who was 9-20 for 146 yards and two TD's. Montana still has a bright future but that extra year of experience for Price is a big deal at this point.
I love the way Price has performed this spring. He has come out and won the job even though Sark isn't quite ready to announce a winner yet. I do predict both QB's will play this coming season because I don't think either can stay healthy for 13 games.
Chris Polk is one of the best running backs in the country and in Husky history. He was good last season and he will be even better this season. Callier and Cooper will provide the change-ups to keep Polk fresh who picked up some extra speed in the off season. Zach Fogerson will get his first shot at being the starting FB and also a big single back in certain formations.
The spring game didn't show us much since the Husky offensive line was missing some key components and the defensive line has been playing extremely well. The leading rusher in the spring game was Johri Fogerson who picked up 53 yards on eight carries. It appears Fogerson has played himself back onto the team again after having some legal problems earlier this year.
Kearse and Aguilar return for their senior seasons. Both have been productive players over their careers but they need to take it to the next level in 2011. Devin Aguilar is the solid number two receiver but he was not a world-beater as a junior. Kearse needs to take it to the next level and eliminate the costly drops. Williams, Smith, Johnson, Bruns, and Campbell will all be pushing for playing time in the fall.
Washington's goal in 2011 is to become more physical at these positions. Williams, Smith, and Campbell all have the potential because of their size and athleticism to elevate the position over the next 3-4 years. Kearse and Aguilar remain the go two guys but they will be pushed. Overall the position should be improved this coming season.
James Johnson was the leading receiver during the spring game leading the team with six catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns. Cody Bruns also had a good day with 102 yards on four catches.
Washington finally seems to have found the answer at tight end. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Mike Hartvigson are the type of big time targets the Husky offense has been missing for a decade. It is hard to believe that Jake Locker spent the majority of his career without an real option the throw to at TE and FB. That certainly does suck away percentage points from your completion percentage.
Cody Habben, Greg Christine, and Ryan Tolar have graduated and while the players replacing them are better athletes with a higher upside it is impossible to replace the experience that these kids brought to the line up. The young guys are going to be learning on the job when the season starts.
To be fair the line is much better when a healthy Senio Kelemete is inserted in the lineup but Washington is going to be challenged while Ben Riva learns the ropes at RT this fall. Kohler has struggled at tackle this spring but has been pretty competent when lined up inside at guard along side Porter who is just a beast.
Kohler either sprained or tore the MCL of his left knee during the game. He will be back by the time practice resumes in August. Ben Riva and Senio Kelemete both missed the game with injuries but will also be fine once fall camp opens.
Alameda Ta'amu is nearing the top of his game right now. I think he may be the most dominant defensive linemen in the Pac 12 this coming season. He has worked incredibly hard to get where he is at and all that effort will pay off this season.
The return of Semisi Tokolahi beside him would be a huge plus but fans shouldn't count on that. He is still in rehab and there are some serious question marks about his ability to play in 2011. Sark remains confident that he will be ready to go when camp begins.
If Tokolahi can't go Thompson and Potoae will have to pick up the slack at the three technique. I think that also would mean more three man fronts which would play more toward Washington's strengths. The Huskies are loaded and deep at defensive end. Jamora, Shirley, and Hudson are the best looking speed pass rushers Washington has had in some time.
Chris Robinson's career could be coming to an end according to Sark because of continual knee problems that have plagued him since his senior year of HS. That could signal early playing time for incoming frosh Danny Shelton. Definitely not good news because Robinson is a definite player when healthy.
Cort Dennison returns to anchor the linebackers. Cort is Washington's leading returning tackler. I think he is going to have a big year. Last season he was a little dinged up with a knee injury and he was getting used to a new position. This season I think he is really going to blossom.
The big question of course is who is going to line up beside him. Garret Gilliland seems to have sewn up the WIL position. JUCO recruit Thomas Tutogi was slated to grab that position but he appears to be better suited as a MLB. Look for him to back up Dennison this season and compete to assume the starting role in 2012.Tim Tucker played well in the spring game picking up eight tackles.
Gilliland is a bright kid who is solidly built. He catches on quicker than most so that is what has propelled him toward playing time over the last year. I guess I would compare him to Fellner and Dennison who rose out of the depth early to start because they simply had better field awareness than the kids they were competing with.
Nobody has stepped up and taken over the SLB spot this spring. The coaches seem to have Princeton Fuimaono in mind for that starting spot. Cooper Pelleur is also in the mix. Sark commented that the linebacker positions are his biggest concerns heading into fall camp.
Richardson and Trufant really turned it on at the end of last season. Richardson really took his game to another level and it was good to see. Trufant's injury like so many others on the team was undersold. Those two corners combined with a better pass rush present a lot of problems for Pac 12 offenses.
Depth is a bit of a problem right now. Adam Long may miss the season because of a knee injury. Greg Ducre is out this spring while his shoulder is healing. Antavius Sims and Marcus Peters will most likely see immediate playing time.
The coaches have really liked what they have seen out of the starters this spring. The key going into fall camp is getting the backups healthy and developing some quality depth behind the starters. Anthony Gobern had a solid spring game picking up eight tackles.
Nate Williams has moved on. He wasn't very fast and he wasn't very big but he had a great understanding of the defense and had almost four full years of starting experience. Sean Parker and Taz Stevenson are being groomed to replace him this fall. Both are limited this spring with shoulder injuries. Both of these kids are bigger, better, and faster athletes than Williams...all they lack is experience.
Nate Fellner has the other safety position absolutely locked down. Will Shamburger who has had a solid spring will be backing him up. Justin Glenn will be the designated nickel back in 2011. He has the ability to fill in at safety and CB which is a big plus. A health Glenn is a huge addition to this defensive backfield.