Two weeks ago, we kicked off this 30 Day Countdown series (hope you've enjoyed it so far) with a look at breakout defensive player candidates. Today we take a look at the same for the offensive side of the ball.
Picking a breakout on offense is a unique challenge. On the defensive side, there were a plethora of candidates. Not only are the Dawgs breaking in a bunch of young players, but the defense simply tends to rotate more players over a course of a game. These two factors create a lot of opportunities for new or inexperienced players to get noticed (and, oh by the way, I'm kind of kicking myself for not including Scott Lawyer in that debate).
Offensively, the Huskies are replacing fewer overall pieces. The offensive line returns fully intact. The wide receivers have a few new guys ready to make a difference, but are mostly set at the top of the rotation. Even the running backs are a widely known commodity with three of the guys competing already having recorded 100 yard games (as measured by receiving + rushing and rounding Jesse Callier up by four yards). The good news is that the Huskies have some very high profile positions to fill which does make this list a little more compelling to debate.
As before, we are limiting our options to players that we haven't seen much of on the field. This would exclude guys like Dwayne Washington, Shane Brostek and Joshua Perkins - all guys that have been on TV. With that, I offer these three candidates. Have at 'em:
Option 1 - Troy Williams, QB
Yes, I'm aware that he may very well lose the QB competition. However, somebody needs to win that thing and the other two guys have at the benefit of taking FBS snaps, thus I'm putting Troy's name here (Lindquist would qualify as a candidate given that I do not think that he has ever thrown a pass in an FBS game). If you are like me and you think that this QB competition will actually extend through and past the Week 1 Hawaii game, then you have to imagine that Troy is going to have a great chance to show what he can do. I'm fairly convinced that he's going to get some PT in that Hawaii game and, if he does, he's going to get the extra benefit of having coaches see how he reacts under live fire. Of all the positions on the field, there is an "it" factor for some QBs that can only be observed when you see how they handle a live game situation. If Troy has that "it" and it comes out at Hawaii, look out. We all know what kind of tools he has and with the abilities of the Washington receivers at his disposal, he could have a monster break out.
Reasons he will be: Tremendous natural abilities; QB always is a spotlight position; He's got a real chance in the QB competition
Reasons he will not: There won't be an opportunity (theoretically) if he doesn't win the job outright; His competition includes two other 4-star talents including one that has excelled in P12 play; His youth may make him the underdog to win the competition
Option 2 - Lavon Coleman, RB
We've already had a great debate about the Running Back situation thanks to a series of previews and 30 Day debates (check out our Rushing Yards debate right here). This angle on the running back discussion is a little different in that Coleman doesn't necessarily have to win the first carry in order to still have a breakout season. Last season, you could argue that four Huskies got "notable" on-the-field action despite the fact that we had one of our all-time great workhorses out there for the majority of the season. By its nature, running back is going to see a lot of players rotating through and Coleman is sure to get his opportunities. What happens when he gets those opportunities could be pretty special.
Already noted by the coaching staff as one of the players that really "showed up" during the spring, Coleman is poised to make his presence known in 2014 as a RS freshman (thank you, Sark, for red-shirting this man). At 5'11" and 220 lbs, this guy runs like a bowling ball covered in razor blades. Coleman, who hails from the same school as Husky great Napolean Kaufman (Lompoc) was the scout team MVP from a year ago and has done nothing but impress this new staff. If he can establish himself as a decent pass blocker, Coleman is poised to see significant playing time in 2014.
Here is a spring game clip to whet your whistle:
Reasons he will be: Running backs get lots of opportunities over the course of a season; His production in practice has been lauded by two different coaching staffs; He has Napolean Kaufman roots...'nuff said
Reasons he will not: There is exceptional RB talent around him that could steal his reps; Coaches are likely to value experience to a higher degree given the youth of the QB situation
Option 3 - Darrell Daniels, TE
Husky fans are salivating over the prospect of seeing Daniels take the field in Week 1 at Hawaii. Daniels, who played only last season on Special Teams, has already established himself as a physical, aggressive player with a penchant for winning any matchup involving contact with an opponent. Originally recruited as a big receiver, the 6'4" 240 lb athletic beast made a mid-season position switch to TE under the previous coaching regime. Now a true sophomore, Daniels, who runs a legit 4.5 40 and has petitioned fellow receivers Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall and John Ross to join the so-called "Legion of Zoom", is poised to not only take the field as the starting tight-end but to also replace Austin Seferian-Jenkins as the big receiver option in the Husky red zone offense. Given his physical skills, Daniels has the flexibility to play in-line and split out. This versatility almost assures that he'll be the TE on the field when Petersen switches to up-tempo and will provide Daniels with a tremendous opportunity to compile some eye-popping stats.
Reasons he will be: Athletic freak; Huge hole open with the departure of ASJ; A long and athletic TE can often become a young QB's best friend
Reasons he will not: There are a lot of other options in the receiving game; For all we know, Jonathan Smith may de-emphasize TE in his offense; If this team is run-oriented to a great extent, Daniels may be left on the bench in favor of Michael Hartvigson
The Verdict - Darrell Daniels, TE
This was a pretty difficult call. If Troy Williams wins the QB job, then he will almost certainly be the breakout player of this cadre. But, of the three candidates, Troy is the least likely to see significant opportunity on the field in 2014. If Lavon Coleman simply is in the top two or maybe even three of players receiving carries in this year's offense, his chance of being the breakout guy is outstanding. However, Lavon will be splitting reps no matter how well he does this fall as I expect that the coaches will explore using a committee approach for most of the season. That leaves Daniels.
Daniels by no means has the TE job locked up. Senior Michael Hartvigson and junior Joshua Perkins both have the advantage of game experience and accomplishment behind them. RS frosh David Ajamu will also have a say in this competition. All that said, Daniels is the best positioned to provide that balance of experience with blocking and receiving skills. His athleticism is off-the-charts and makes him particularly valuable when the Huskies go up-tempo. Finally, he has the ability to really make a difference in the red-zone, especially if opposing D's are focused on double covering Kasen Williams. I could see 5-7 TDs out of Daniels this season. If he has that kind of impact, he's my guy as the offensive breakout player for 2014.