Washington finished the first half of the season as well as the most optimistic Husky fan would have predicted with a 3-3 record. What has been very surprising is the Huskies could be very well 5-1 at this point. A few correct bounces of the ball or officials flags and they could have also beaten LSU and Notre Dame.
Who among us predicted a win against USC or a loss against Stanford? Who could have predicted the miracle comeback against Arizona in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter?
Mid Season Position Ratings
Jake Locker has been about everything we could have hoped for as a pro style QB this season. The change in his passing game has been remarkable in comparison to his performance under the last regime. We did expect him to run more but Sarkisian has been very blunt about that aspect of his game. He doesn't want Jake to risk injury. Saturday against Arizona was the first time all season that Sarkisian unleashed the running aspect of his game. You can understand why the NFL is enamored with Jake. In a collegiate year not distinguished with stand out QB's Jake has elevated his game above all his peers.
Chris Polk has carried the load well this year and is on track for a thousand yard campaign. Polk does a lot of this on his own by creating yards after contact. Chris also has good hands and has created some nice plays in open space when catching passes out of the backfield. Johri Fogerson also has added a good set of hands and has picked up some good yards as a receiver out of the backfield. We haven't seen much production out of the FB position. Homer should get more touches in the second half of the season.
A key factor going into the second half is durability and depth. Chris Polk's shoulder popped out on Saturday night and even though he returned to the game that is definitely something to keep an eye on. Demetrius Bronson played a series on Saturday night. Look for him to get more regular play in the second half of the season.
Grade A minus
James Johnson will be a four year starter an an All Pac 10 player before he leaves UW. It is hard to believe he is only a freshman. Jermaine Kearse gets better every week and when Locker needs a clutch reception he is one of the guys he goes to. His clutch grabs against USC were a serious key to that victory. Devin Aguilar has been solid all season even though he missed the ND game with an injury. He may not catch as many balls as Johnson and Kearse but the team looks better when he is on the field. He does the little things that go unnoticed such as blocking and running crisp routes that help out the overall offense when he isn't being targeted. D'Andre Goodwin has taken a step back this year. He was injured this spring and came back slowly. He is a tough kid with great talent that should be more of a factor in the second half. What this units lacks and can only be corrected by recruiting is some big fast targets to compliment the guys that already are here. Help is on the way for next season.
Grade B Plus
Kavario Middleton has the softest set of hands I can remember on a Washington TE since Jeremy Stevens. In some ways Kavario is even a better receiver. What he needs to work on is his blocking. He and the other two TE's have missed way too many blocks this season that have put undue pressure on the QB. Since blocking is such an important part of a TE's game the unit gets graded down a bit.
Grade C plus
The weakest link on the team has performed beyond expectations during the first half of the season. UW has the top passer in the conference and a potential 1000 yard running back. That doesn't happen if the offensive line is a failure. Even though this group has exceeded expectations the goal line series at Notre Dame expose them for what they are. They need a lot of help from a mobile QB and a great running back.
A season ending injury to Greg Christine on Saturday means Nick Wood is the new starter at offensive guard. This erodes the already fragile depth. Wood was buried on the DL only a month ago. His rise to starter shows how depth challenged this unit is going into the second half of the season.
Grade C plus
After the first two games of the season I had high hopes for this unit. They have not played as well since which has given opposing QB's the time needed to pick apart the secondary on occasion. Against Stanford they were exposed against the run after doing pretty well against LSU and USC.
Darion Jones has played sparingly again because of injury. That has hurt things out on the end. In the middle Elisara is improved but Ta'amu after a fine first game hasn't done much. What has resulted these factors is more of a platoon situation going on around Teo Nesheim who frankly hasn't made a lot of noise this season. In his defense the double and tripe teams continue. You think that would open up opportunities for others but it hasn't.
Jones saw his first significant action of the season against Arizona and it bodes well for this unit. He had his best game as a Husky against Arizona. If he can stay healthy the res tof the second half it is going to help unleash DTN on the other side.
Expect to see a lot more of Everrette Thompson at DT as time goes on. His speed seems to be a better fit for the defense than the bulk of Ta'amu.
Donald Butler is having his finest season as a Husky and he is playing himself into a potential draft choice which is nice to see. Mason Foster as usual has been solid to spectacular at times. EJ isn't the same player he was two years ago. Injuries, rust, and getting used to a new defense have slowed him down. He isn't the most cerebal player on the field. I do think he will have fine seconf half. Cort Dennison has had a great year. The coaches love him and he will be a full time starter in 2010.
Grade B Plus
The secondary is improved which is good news but the lack of pressure up front is creating opportunities for opposing QB's. Desmond Trufant is going to be a fixture at one of the CB spots over the next four years. He just gets better every single game. He just may be Washington's one true corner. Quinton Richardson has had good games and some not so good games like at ND. Nate Williams leaves it all on the field every single play at safety. He plays so hard that he has to rest most of the week to get ready for the next game. Justin Glenn was off to a fine start until he suffered a season ending injury. What this secondary lacks is a true CB to match up opposite of Trufant and a true thumper in the middle. Williams thumps just fine but he lacks the size to hold up t the thumping. We need an enforcer like Lawyer back there. Once again help is on the way in 2010.
Grade B Minus
Erik Folk has proved himself to be a clutch FG kicker from 48 and in this season. What Folk lacks is a strong enough leg to help his team on kickoffs. He hasn't put one kick into the endzone this season. You don't help your defense when the opposing offense starts drives on the thirty. Will Mahan knows how to target his kicks well enough that the opposing punt returns are far and in between.
Return coverage has been fine this season with the exception of the Owusu retrun in the Stanford game. The return game has been almost non existent. We have speed and sure hands back there but the blocking has not been good enough to spring anyone lose. UW continues to look for the right pieces in that area.
Mid Season Predictions
As we head into the last six games of the season Washington has to win three more games to finish at .500 and become bowl eligible. Lets take a quick look at the upcoming schedule and makesome predictions.
At Arizona State - Win
I didn't have this one down as a win when I did my pre-season projections. Pulling out a win at Sun Devil stadium is rough. I have been there and it can be a tough venue to play in. What has changed going into this game is that ASU is struggling big time on offense. They turned the ball over six times against WSU on Saturday. Will Danny Sullivan get the start against Washington? Another big change is that the mercurial fan base in the desert hasn't been packing the stadium like they did two years ago. This young UW team did fine in South Bend and even though it was a close loss it got the team ready to excel on the road. I think we can pull out a win in Tempe. I think we are the better team at this point of the season.
Oregon - Toss Up
I had this as a loss when the season started. After the Ducks played their first three games I had this one back in the win column. After watching them destroy Cal and WSU I had my doubts about our ability to keep up with them again. Injuries have evened up the score once again. I still have to favor the Ducks but injuries, suspensions plus playing these guys at home make this game a toss-up.
Oregon found a way to win on the orad against UCLA on Saturday. The Duck offense stalled under Costa at QB against a tough Bruin defense. Special teams and defense won this one for the Ducks with an explosion in the third quarter.
At UCLA - Win
Even though we have never played well against UCLA in the Rose Bowl I have always had this one marked as a win. Nothing I have seen so far has changed my opinion. I don't think the UCLA offense can score enough points to beat Washington. The Bruin offense is terrible right now and liable to self destruct at any moment. The Huskies with Jake Locker making plays should be able to pul out the win.
At Oregon State - Loss
I had this one marked as a loss and I still do at the mid point. The Beavers haven't played very well this year but history is always on their side in the second half of the season. If you saw the dominating win over Stanford on Saturday you had to come away impressed with the way the Beavers are playing. The Beaver defense just shut down the Stanford offense which isn't an easy thing to do. Offensively the Rodger's brithers had a field day against the tree.
Washington State - Win
This one won't be close. They say you can throw the record book out in the Apple Cup but this Cougar team won't be in any shape to give the Huskies a game this late in the season.
California - Win
I had Cal pegged as a top ten team this season. I started to doubt it after the second game. With the exception of Jahvid Best something wasn't clicking on either side of the ball. I had this pegged as a sure loss and at the mid season point I have to go with Washington. Cal has a history of diving once they fall out of contention. No way do they want to be in Seattle this late in the year with nothing to play for but respect.