The Huskies are now in game week mode which means that 100% of the teams attention is now focused on the opener against Eastern Washington.
The Huskies are an 18 point favorite over the defending FCS champion Eagles according to the odds makers in Las Vegas.
Practices will be closed to the general public going forward. The media, Tyee's, family, and invited guests are welcome Monday thru Thursday. Everything will be closed down on Fridays before the games.
So what exactly did we learn about this team during camp? Lets focus on the trenches since most games are typically won there.
One thing that really stood out in camp is the play of the defensive line. I think this could be the best defensive line the Huskies have fielded since the early 1990's. That's right I think this line is much better than the one that helped lead the 2000 squad to a Rose Bowl win and an overall ranking of third in the country. You may have to go back to the days of Steve Emtman and DeMarco Farr to find a better Washington defensive line.
This line is deep, talented, and experienced from the inside out. Coach Nick Holt is going to be able to rotate these guys in and out all game keeping the team fresh for the fourth quarter. Teams with depth up front win more football games than they lose and this squad will not be the exception.
Ask any defensive back and they will tell you that pressure up front is one of the keys to any defenses success. UW is going to get after it in a way we haven't seen since Jim Lambright was running this defense. When Josh Shirley is unleashed on third and long it will rekindle the days of "all I saw was purple".
Washington is going to be a run first team in 2011 and the performance of this offensive line is going to make or break this team.
Coach Dan Cozzetto has put together what he feels will be his nastiest and most explosive offensive line since he has been at Washington. The line returns center Drew Schaefer, guard Colin Porter, and left tackle Senio Kelemete. The new additions to the starting line up are guard Colin Tanigawa and tackle Eric Koehler.
Koehler started a few games last season until he came down with mono. Porter jumped into the lineup when he went down and quickly became Chris Polk's favorite guy to run behind. Tanigawa was impressive on the scout team last season and he played well enough this past spring to move Kohler outside to play tackle.
Depth is an important facet to any offensive line and Washington finally has developed some after suffering from lack of numbers and talent her for most of the past decade. Cozzetto still thinks he is one or two recruiting classes away from having the overall numbers he needs but a solid core has been developed for the future.
As long as we are talking about running first there is some concern about healthy depth at running back headed into the opener. Chris Polk is recovering from arthroscopic surgery and most likely will sit out. Johri Fogerson aggravated an old hip injury and is also questionable for the opener. Deontae Cooper blew out his ACL a second time during the summer and will be lost for the season.
That leaves Jessie Callier and true frosh Bishop Sankey as the remaining backs available for the Eastern game. Callier has been impressive ever since he hit campus. One national writer who caught a glimpse of him predicted stardom for him. Sankey made the same type of impression this fall. One look at Bishop and you know he has the ability to be special.
To sum things up we really don't know how good or bad this team will be until they go out and play a few games. That being said I am inclined to believe that the team will do better than most think which means eight to nine wins isn't out of the questions this season.
This isn't a veteran laden team even though there is some solid veteran leadership. The bulk of the talent and numbers on this squad is young which means their best days are ahead of them. Give Sark and company two more years and this program will be competing for national championships again.
Steve Sarkisian shared these thoughts with a number of former players during an event this summer. He said that this team was close...very close to breaking through. He feels that the chemistry on this squad is excellent and that in its self is the type of magic that turns close games into wins and not losses.