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Week 8 Mailbag: Oregon On the Mind

It's Oregon week, and the Ducks are on the minds of many of our readers as we open the mailbag for week 8.

WR Kasen Williams has been a forgotten man in the 2014 Husky offense - will he break out this week?
WR Kasen Williams has been a forgotten man in the 2014 Husky offense - will he break out this week?
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently Chris has something called "work" which has distracted him from his more important blogging duties this week, so for this edition of the mailbag you get yours truly answering your questions.  Hopefully it's more fun than this:


So without further delay, let's get to the questions:

Dawg_Blogger: The known recipe to beat Oregon is:

  • A run game that can consistently move the ball, which we don't have.
  • A d line that can pressure Mariotta, which I think we could do but if it's Shelton on Grasu and Kikaha on Fisher all game, our pressure wouldn't be as dominant.
  • And you need a front a seven which can limit the run, which I still have questions about.
I don't think we have the recipe, do you agree?

UWDP: Those are all key elements in beating Oregon, and they just so happen to be elements that make for a pretty good football team in general - if you have a strong running game, can get after the QB and can stop your opponents running game, you are probably going to win a lot of games.

Washington can bring pressure on QB's, that's clear.  With one of the premier edge rushers in the country in Hau'oli Kikaha (10 sacks) and a pocket-collapsing man-mountain in the middle in Danny Shelton (7 sacks), they are going to be a test for any OL they face.  Hroniss Grasu is a very good C, but he's not going to contain Shelton by himself - he'll need help.  And while Jake Fisher is certainly an upper-tier OT when healthy, I wonder how close he really is to 100%.  For all their raw talent, UCLA hasn't been much of a pass-rushing threat this year, so I don't know that they were a major test for Fisher.  Consider too that Washington moves Kikaha around and will flip the orientation of the defense depending on situation and offensive formation, so Kikaha will certainly get some opportunities vs. Tyrell Crosby too.

I have my doubts that the Huskies will get the same kind of heat on Marcus Mariota that they did against Jared Goff, but I also am not convinced that the return of Fisher immediately rights what had been some very shaky pass-protection in his (and Tyler Johnstone and Andre Yruretagoyena's) absence.  So I think Mariota will feel some pressure.

It's harder to get a good read on how good this group is at stopping the run, in particular a good zone-read attack.  They haven't been outstanding vs. the run, but neither have they been overpowered.  Stanford did a reasonably good job running the ball, but their power attack is a much different beast than what Oregon does.

As for the Husky run game, this is probably the weakest link in your list - the Huskies have done alright, and at times have been able to mount sustained drives built off the running backs, but it's a significant step-down from what we saw when Bishop Sankey was here.  Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington have shown little ability so far to make yards on their own and basically get about what the OL creates for them.  This would be a good game for Cyler Miles to make a big dent with his feet and for one of the backs to show us something more than we've seen so far.

But the good news is the Ducks have not shown themselves to be particularly stout against the run this year, so this game presents that opportunity for the Husky run game to take a step forward.

So that's all a long-winded way of saying that while the Huskies don't fit all three of your criteria in an ideal fashion, they are good enough in those areas that they have a fighting chance if some other factors break in their favor.

Howling Husky: Psalm Wooching is amid a growth spurt (though probably the end of it). He was being recruited as a full back and was 6’1" – 6’2" during his recruitment. Coach Pete eliminated that position. Now Psalm’s around 6’6". He’s been moved to the LB spot but at that height he’s, again, the odd man out. He’s, by all accounts, an CPKG. Is there a spot for him on the DL? At TE?

UWDP: Wooching is listed on the depth chart at the BUCK position, so I'm not so sure his height necessarily works against him there.  As we've seen with Kikaha, that role is mostly about rushing the passer like a traditional DE, with the occasional need to flex wide to play some underneath zone.  His height could actually work to his advantage there IMO giving him greater ability to get his hands on the throw.  He's always been an aggressive big-hitting player, so I see him as better suited on defense then trying to convert him back to offense as a TE, so whether he stays at BUCK or moves over to the other DE position likely depends on his weight and how much agility he retains.

Purrrkee: What is keeping the staff from utilizing Cyler more as a rushing threat? His explosiveness when he takes off is obvious, but the zone read is almost completely out of the playbook. Are they afraid of injury? Turnovers? Maybe just getting him going as a passer?

UWDP: Without being the film room with the coaches, it's hard to know how many of the shotgun handoffs we've seen have been zone-reads and how many have been called plays.  It does seem like Cyler has run less after the Eastern game, and you have to wonder if the comments from Miles and the coaching staff afterwards talking about how sore he was from the hits he took was a sign that he was not going to be as involved in the run game.  It may also be that Cyler is still learning to read his key properly.

Kirk's Conscience: Name one player on the roster that isn't now, but will be a household name by the end of the season. Why?

UWDP: Hmm, that's a good question, and a tough one.  You might even say the questioner is getting the better of me (rimshot!).

The guy with the greatest potential to emerge as a significant player is TE Darrell Daniels - his size and speed combination puts him in rare company.  It's been frustrating seeing the TE position be mostly an afterthought in the offense so far this year, though that may be in part due to Josh Perkins being dinged-up.  Daniels has had a few targets on the year, but he's a guy that you'd love to see OC Jonathan Smith make a more concerted effort to get involved.

ElvislovesUW: Will Husky playbook open up vs Oregon? (utilizing Kasen, Shaq, Jeff, & our TE's) Fans would love to see another complete game from ST, Off., Def., & Coaches.

UWDP: I'm not sure if opening up the playbook on offense is necessarily the right approach so much as focusing on a core group of plays and learning to execute them at a high level.  We saw more slants and posts and a willingness by Miles to throw those over the middle routes vs. Cal, and it was nice to see the tunnel screen make another appearance.  I'm with you on wanting to get Kasen & the TE group involved.  If Shaq plays on offense, I hope Smith mixes things up and uses him as a decoy, because so far his presence in the backfield has been a dead giveaway.

Coach Petersen is a guy that's always going to have a wrinkle up his sleeve, so we should expect at least one trick play out of the offense.

As far as the defense, I thought DC Pete Kwiatkowski did a nice job of mixing a variety of coverage looks against Cal, and I would expect (hope?) that he's got more ready for Oregon.  I suspect the defense won't be able to get by all game rushing just 4 and will have to send an extra man or two at times as well as dedicate a spy to Mariota at other times.

Kirk in Kent, WA: Duck fan here. Watching the UCLA-Oregon game, UCLA had a lot of success running stretch plays and letting their RBs find open cutback lanes. They consistently gained 5-8 yards and exploited the inability of Oregon's LBs to fill gaps. Does Washington have the scheme and talent to similarly exploit Oregon's bad linebacker play? If so, I think Oregon's defense will spend a long time on the field, which is key to beating Oregon.

UWDP: Unfortunately for Husky fans this group of backs have not shown themselves to be cutback runners of note, and certainly a far cry from Bishop Sankey who thrived on cutback lanes behind a zone blocking scheme.  This group gets a lot of their yards on power runs behind pulling guards.  I think the offense is going to need Miles to be a legitimate threat on the zone-read plays, and they may also need to mix in some fly sweep looks with Mickens & Ross flashing across the formation before the handoffs to the running back to test the eye discipline of the Duck linebackers.

RBinOR: We put a man on the moon some 45 years ago. When will we perfect personality-transplant and intellect-enhancement technology so that normal human interaction is possible with Duckfan? I have a younger brother who has graduated our UDub Medical program. He now practices in Tacoma. I ask him this frequently and he has no answer. Is there any hope, Dawgpound?

UWDP: In this time of every dollar being stretched more than ever, there's only so much we can do with the limited resources at hand.

Running.Faster: Have you noticed any walk-on players accumulating significant playing time/having a significant impact for the team this year?

UWDP: I believe long-snapper Ryan Masel is still a walk-on player, which would make him the only walk-on with significant playing time so far.

UDubHusky23: This is another recruiting question for Kirk.

Do you feel Coach Pete's OKG approach in recruiting is slowing UW's recruiting a little bit? I don't see guys like Porter Gustin or Canton Kaumautle taking official visits to UW. These guys were initially interested but it seems for whatever reasons they are not taking officials or focusing on schools like USC or Oregon.

UWDP: I don't think you can trace any waning interest from prospects like Gustin or Kaumatule to Petersen's "OKG approach".  To my knowledge Petersen hasn't pulled back from recruiting those guys, so if they aren't considering taking official visits to the UW it's not due to Petersen not recruiting them.  Both of those guys are top-flight prospects with offers from elite programs - those are always going to be tough recruiting battles, especially if they're not local kids.  The same thing happened with Sark too - there were plenty of 4 & 5 star prospects that talked about Washington early in the recruiting process, but by the time official visits came around they had moved on and were focused on other schools with greater recent success.

Oregon Dawg: I might be crazy but I think we can win. Good D line against suspect Oregon O line. Both the UW running game and QB play are getting better and are "finally" showing signs they are a good team. Huskies are in midseason form, 5-1, with no major injuries. Good Husky O line vs. average to good Oregon D line. Yes it Oregon and Yes is Mariota but I believe the Huskies want it more. Peterson finds ways to win and he has proven that against the Ducks in the past. So with that all being said; go ahead and destroy my dream, tell me I am crazy, let me know that we have no chance. I can take it, but I still believe. Question: Do we have a chance?

P.S. I hate the Ducks. Go Dawgs!

UWDP: You are definitely not crazy.  Washington has the kind of defensive line that can cause problems for the Ducks, and the performance of the entire defense last week vs. Cal gave hope that this unit is quickly coming together and buying in to what Kwiatkowski is teaching them.  And while the Husky offense has yet to really dominate a game with their offense, this is also the most vulnerable we've seen the Oregon defense in several years.  Add in the Chris Petersen factor and there are good reasons to think Washington has a shot at pulling off the upset this weekend.

That said, this is still a terrifically talented Duck roster, and Mariota is a legitimate Heisman candidate fully capable of dashing the hopes of optimistic Husky fans.  I would also feel much better about our chances if Fisher hadn't returned to the lineup for Oregon.  If Washington wins this one, they'll have earned it with a terrific effort.