Huskies Stocks: Gekko's Post-Spring Picks

Steve Dykes

If you had to some Purple Bucks to invest in a Husky Stock Market, who are you buying and selling?

"Buy low, sell high".

You know the phrase.  To some of you, it is the driving philosophy behind the secret to your wealth and success.  To others, it is an aspirational goal that, like the Tooth Fairy, sounds like a great way to make money but, in reality, is just another myth.  For the rest of you, it is likely a catch-phrase picked up in your Finance 101 class or during your review of Mel Kiper, Jr.'s 2014 NFL Draft materials.

In other words, it means something different to everyone.  So, for that very reason, it makes for a great article Husky Football offseason article topic on a sunny Saturday morning where, with all due respect, I have a strong preference to be out on the golf course as opposed to in front of this computer screen.

The passing of the Huskies spring practices provides us a great milestone to take stock of where various Huskies stand relative to where we thought they would be.  Many players have showed an upside through the course of the practices that belies whatever inert value we placed on those players before.  Some of them showed a maturation that exceeded expectations, others took advantage of injuries to incumbents, and the rest simply benefited from the presence of a new staff.  These players are my "Buy Picks".  Many other players failed to demonstrate the upside that the fanbase overall were expecting them to step into.  Some of these folks struggled with injury while others the system.  Some of the others simply were overtaken by fast risers despite faring well themselves.  Regardless of the reason why, these are my "Sell Picks".  Finally, there was a group of players who simply held serve - neither hurting or gratuitously helping themselves.  They simply stayed the course and delivered on expectations.  These are my "Hold Picks".

Let's take a look at my top three picks in each category as we march into the long, speculative offseason.

Hold Picks

The "Hold Picks" is often the most controversial set because they often comprise picks that investors think could go in either the "Buy" or "Sell" buckets.  These are the people who either satisfied or disappointed - depending on the perspective of the investor - simply because they made par and met overall expectations that the market (in this case, the Husky fans and coaches) had already established.  My top three holds following the Spring Practices:

1.  Hau'oli Kikaha, Defensive End

The value of Kikaha's stock is like Apple's - it is well-understood by the market and already set at a premium value.  Many already know that Kikaha is the nation's top returning sack man which, considering that his road has been blocked by two major ACL operations, is a remarkable accomplishment for the RS Junior.  The Market expected him to return this spring both healthy and as a one of the vocal leader's on the entire team.  He did not disappoint.  Hau'oli, as you all know, was healthy all throughout camp and, more importantly, was amongst the first to embrace the philosophy of the new coaching staff which, undoubtedly, set the tone for many other players.  In addition, Hau'oli made every Husky fan proud when, earlier this month, he was named one of sixteen finalists for the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award which recognizes the best amongst minority student athletes for their in-class and in-the-community efforts.  Kikaha is a premium stock that everybody should have in their portfolio as a "Hold".  It is unlikely that his production can get any better than what we've seen, but there is still some upside both in the leadership impact that he can have on the team as well as the potential for an extra year of eligibility that, at this point, appears to be his if he wants it.

2.  Jaydon Mickens, Wide Receiver

Given what we knew about the Chris Petersen / Jonathan Smith offense based on having played Boise State twice in the last two years, it was widely expected by the market that Jaydon - who was used extensively by Steve Sarkisian in the short and lateral passing game - would step into a similar role for the new coaching staff.  Mickens did just that and cemented himself as a "bread and butter" option.  Jaydon's feel for space, his "jitterbugginess" and his his ability to get behind a blitzing or overly aggressive defense were all on demonstration ... as the Market expected ... this spring.  His role is pretty much set and Mickens is poised to become a true staple in the offense, with the potential to catch up to 90 balls this season if the running game can't take on the load of Bishop Sankey.  There is a little upside in this stock.  Mickens got a lot more rotation as an outside receiver due to a numbers crunch this spring and, by all accounts, acquitted himself better than expected as a blocker and a burner.  In addition, his bright personality, as detailed in this ESPN.com article, has made him a natural leader and the new torch-bearer for positivity now that Keith Price has graduated the program.  He's a solid hold if you have him in your portfolio, but beware paying a premium for him in the open market given that his stock is likely right-priced.

3.  Lavon Coleman, Running Back

Let's get this out of the way right now:  Lavon Coleman had a tremendous spring.  No doubt about it.  Reports coming out of camp were that Coleman was sporting an NFL-ready physique - thick and compact - and that he was translating that physical prowess into on-the-field performance.  The thing about this stock, however, is that this was the baseline expectation for Coleman given how much praise had been heaped upon him by the previous coaching regime.  In a Sirius XM radio interview, I once heard Sark call Coleman in a "human bowling ball covered in razor blades" (or something like that).  I think I heard Dick Baird repeat the same thing.  Needless to say, expectations were high and the value was built into the slot.  Furthermore, the rise of Deontae Cooper as a legitimate threat to take the first handoff at the Hawaii game casts a slight pall over Coleman's premium-priced stock.  Work into the mix the fact that Shaq Thompson has earned himself a few carries every game and it is not hard to see that there is a risk of one overpaying for Coleman on the open market.  If you are lucky enough to have his stock in your portfolio - hold.  The man has "Beast Mode 2.0" written all over him.

Other Candidates:  John Ross, John Timu, Danny Shelton, Mike Criste, Marcus Peters, Koree Durkee, Dwayne Washington, Joshua Perkins, Ben Riva

Sell Picks

Now we arrive at the most difficult section of the article:  the Sells.  Do keep in mind that there could be any number of reasons that the value of a player - were he actually a stock - might be trending less than his previously perceived value and that many of those reasons may have more to do with the abundance of options at his position moreso than his actual performance.  These are not criticisms as much as they are simply a reading of current value to trend.

1.  QB Stocks (Jeff Lindquist, Cyler Miles, Troy Williams)

Investors need to beware the UW QB situation as there is a lot of uncertainty in this market.  While both Lindquist and Williams benefited in the form of extra reps which will, undoubtedly, boost the long-term potential of both, neither player was able to seize the reigns and separate themselves as a clear #1 option.  Furthermore, the most battle-tested QB on the roster remained embroiled in the murkiness of a very opaque suspension.  Husky fans were all disappointed that nobody was able to demonstrate more of a mastery of the Petersen offense than they did.  The good news is that we all have now seen definitive demonstration of the unique physical skills of each player in action:  Miles with his uncanny combination of touch and footspeed, Williams with his cannon and his accuracy and Lindquist with his leadership and physical skills.  The Huskies clearly have great options available to them, but trying to bet on any one of these options at this time is a fool's errand.  Sell.

2.  Travis Feeney, Outside Linebacker

So, here is where we get to one of those situations where it is less about the player and more about the situation.  Travis Feeney had a great spring.  In fact, this was his first full spring as a completely healthy player.  Travis demonstrated the ferocity and emotion of his game all throughout the spring and the coaches, no doubt, took notice.  However, it cannot be overlooked that Travis arrived to camp still on the light side at about 212 pounds.  This playing weight is only about 10 pounds more than what he weighed when he arrived on campus a few years back and this has been one of the challenges he's had while trying to stay healthy.  Work into the mix the emergence of a ridiculous amount of talent and depth at the outside linebacker position (see Keishawn Bierria, Sean Constantine and Connor O'Brien) and Feeney, who wasn't able to hold of Princeton Fuimoaono last season, looks like a Sell candidate.

3.  Colin Tanigawa, Offensive Lineman

Projecting the value of Panda relative to the pre-spring value of his stock is a difficult exercise to begin with given the fact that we are talking about an offensive lineman.  The task gets even more complicated by the fact that we are talking about an experienced, senior lineman who has tons of starts under his belt as an Offensive Guard.  However, the overall state of the Husky offensive line is in flux given the development of some bright young players - many of whom have been in the program in three years now - the presence of a new OL Coach in Chris Strausser and the experimentation that ensued this spring as a result of the absence of some key injured players.  Tanigawa, in particular, was rotated across each of the three interior positions throughout the spring and, right now, may be a key player without a true starting position to step into.  There is still a long way to go and, as we all know, Panda is one nasty offensive lineman.  It is hard to bet against him ... but given the uncertainty, I have to call him a "Sell".

Other CandidatesJosh Shirley, Micah Hatchie, Evan Hudson, Kasen Williams, Jesse Callier, Kevin King

Buy Picks

It's spring and, let's face it, everybody is optimistic.  Even the coaches.  In fact, it may be the only time of the year any coach is optimistic ... when the prospect of hitting somebody for real is still months and many practices away.  As such, whittling this list down to three is a foolish endeavor.  Keep in mind, the idea here is to single out picks of stocks whose trending value may now be exceeding whatever inherent value was perceived by the market prior to the spring.

1.  Shaq Thompson, Linebacker

Steve Sarkisian often gave lip-service to the notion that Shaq would be an amazing two-way player.  However, that promise never materialized.  Perhaps Sark was concerned about putting too much on the plate of a guy who already had sky-high expectations surrounding him.  Perhaps Justin Wilcox was too prickly about it.  Whatever the reason, we never saw a gameplan that involved getting Shaq the ball.  That is all about to change.  Shaq saw several reps on offense this spring and demonstrated that, if given the opportunity, he is probably the best RB on the team.  The prospect of Shaq having packages built for him is now a certainty.  But the value of Shaq's stock is more than just the incremental value he adds on offense.  The new staff seemed to use Shaq a lot more in pass coverage and flexed him in and out of the Safety position throughout the practices.  Whereas the old staff wanted to get Shaq more involved as a blitzer and a rover, this staff appears to be tweaking that strategy with an emphasis on utilizing his versatility to generate more turnovers and to create pass rush opportunities for other players.  This strategy could unlock the "breakout" we've all been looking for.  Oh, and did I mention his leadership?  Shaq has embraced both his celebrity and his role on the team by, surprisingly, asserting himself as a leader in a way that is both surprising and exciting.  He has been very vocal, very present and active in leading the charge on the "buy in" of the new staff's philosophies.  It was a pleasure to see Shaq be the last guy to leave the field while signing autographs and meeting the fans during the Spring Event.  This stock is the Facebook of the Husky Stock Market and is blossoming right before our very eyes.

2.  Andrew Hudson, Defensive End

If you are looking for a good penny stock that has the potential to triple your income, look no further than Andrew Hudson.  Six months ago, this "suddenly senior" looked like he was going to be a victim of the scholarship crunch that Steve Sarkisian knew was coming as he was planning out his recruiting class.  Hudson, along with S Taz Stevenson and WR DiAndre Campbell were essentially cut from the team in order to make room for new additions.  However, the exporting of Sark's recruiting class to USC, the hiring of Chris Petersen and the presence of a few key injuries created an opportunity for both Hudson and Campbell to return to the team this spring.  While both have shined, Hudson has put himself in a particularly strong position to reclaim his Husky career from the scrap heap.  Hudson, showing his trademarked versatility and willingness to do anything, has endeared himself to Pete Kwiatkowski and his defensive staff this spring.  He has rotated through the two end positions in addition to providing some depth on the interior.  This is essentially the role he played last year, but this staff seems to value it much more than the last.  As such, Hudson has run with the ones much of the spring.  His future isn't assured:  there are healthy players yet to return and a scholarship crunch yet to resolve.  However, Hudson's value, even as rotational depth, is much greater than what it was prior to the spring.

3.  Darrell Daniels, Tight End

Nobody has ever questioned the potential of Darrell Daniels.  Now a true sophomore, Daniels arrived at UW as a high-level WR recruit who featured remarkable physical skills with unreliable hands.  During the season, Daniels, who was excelling as a special-teamer (don't forget how many Husky fans were chapped about him getting his redshirt burned just to play special teams) was switched to Tight End.  His stock fell due to the fact that he was viewed as a little too small, he was not too accomplished in blocking and he was still having difficulty with his hands.  In fact, many wondered openly whether or not Daniels should be switched back to WR.  Fast forward a month and look at Daniels now.  A clear "breakout" player of the spring, Daniels came to camp with a clear TE physique (this guy is an absolute creature) retaining all of the elite physical skills he had showed before and sporting a new set of JUGS trained hands.  In addition, he also showed that he had found a way to translate the ferocity he has on special teams into a ferocity for blocking.  While it is unlikely that he's ready to be all-world as an inline tight end, Daniels' stock is skyrocketing as he is clearly in the mix to be a top five playmaker and a mismatch nightmare for this Huskies offense.  Buy, Buy, Buy!

Other Candidates:  Elijah Qualls, Deontae Cooper, Brandon Beaver, Budda Baker, Coleman Shelton, Naijiel Hale, Dane Crane, Demore'ea Stringfellow, Cameron Van Winkle, Azeem Victor, Keishawn Bierria

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