The clock is ticking, folks. We have so much football left to talk about, but only five days to go until our season kicks off.
One point twenty-one gigawatts? Oh my. We better get to it.
Today, we are discussing true freshman. In a bit of a handicapped situation, the new Chris Petersen coaching staff came in last winter and inherited an incoming class that featured a lot of players who Steve Sarkisian was flipping commitments on. As you would expect, the staff compensated by leaning heavily on the relationships that they had already established and landed a number of players that originally were thinking that they were heading to Boise State.
But, that wasn't enough. This staff also had to make some quick calls in order to compensate for the situation left behind by the previous staff. They needed to shore up that secondary. They needed to get some beef in place to help offset the losses expected in 2014. They also needed to establish some quick credibility on the Washington state high school scene by getting in on some of the big-time recruits in the state like Budda Baker, Kaleb McGary and Shane Bowman.
With that class now effectively delivered, we are certain to see somewhere between seven and nine true freshman get playing time in 2014. We already have a pretty good idea of who those players will be. But who among them will get the most time? That is today's question. Let's look the three best options.
Option #1 - Budda Baker DB / ST
Bishard Baker was, along with Kaleb McGary, the marquee name landed by Chris Petersen and staff in their inaugural UW recruiting class. Baker has consistently impressed the staff with his speed of play and overall intensity in practice, earning the reputation that his high school bestowed upon him when he called him the "best practice player" that he had ever seen. Baker possesses both elite speed and a natural instinct as a ball hawk. The staff has already committed to playing Baker in special teams and many team observers think that it could well be the case that Baker jumps over Brandon Beaver as the starting free safety by the time Pac 12 play begins. While I don't necessarily share that view, I do see Budda getting plenty of rotation snaps in the secondary as well as ample special teams opportunity.
Reasons for: Viewed by many as UW's most game-ready true frosh; Plays in a particular position of need; Huskies could be in nickel 40-50% of the time in 2014
Reasons against: Coaches may experiment with several lineup combinations early in the season, limiting his snaps; If he emerges as a weapon on special teams, coaches may wish to "save him" presuming secondary is going well
Option #2 - Will Dissly, DE / ST
When Will Dissly got signed by this staff as a consensus "2-star" TE/DE recruit, many Husky fans looked at each other and asked "who"? Those same fans, if they've been paying attention to fall camp, now know the answer to their own rhetorical question. The former Montana State Player of the Year has been a juggernaut in the preseason, impressing both the staff and his fellow teammates with his physical state of readiness and his impressive football IQ. Everybody is raving about what Dissly can do on the field and he is undoubtedly going to enter Week 1 in the two-deeps on that otherwise deep and experienced UW defensive line. Given the fact that DC Pete Kwiatkowski has already acknowledged that "nine or ten guys" are going to rotate on that d-line in 2014, projecting Dissly as the leader in snaps for a true frosh is a defensible position to take.
Reasons for: Clearly in the two-deeps in a position that rotates frequently; Has emerged as a favorite among the coaching staff; the dismissal of Marcus Farria opened a door for an opportunity
Reasons against: Defensive end is the most physically demanding position on the field, particularly for a true freshman; Lots of competition left to be had on that d-line
Option #3 - Vita Vea, DT
The newest Husky to be added to this year's recruiting class is the big man Vita Vea. A true line-smasher at 325+ lbs, Vea is already one year removed from high school and has been biding his time trying to get qualified. It looks like the former 4-star recruit has been able to pull it altogether as he is well-poised to see some playing time as a back-up and rotation player in the middle of that UW d-line in addition to starter Danny Shelton and RS freshman Elijah Qualls. Vea is an absolute load of a man and his physical dimensions, alone, are enough to ensure that he sees playing time in 2014. The staff has to be sensitive to the fact that Vea is still relatively inexperienced and that his physical prowess alone isn't enough to regularly beat the better starting guards and centers of the Pac 12. However, depth at DT is somewhat thin and he could amass the snaps needed to lead all true freshman simply by rotating in to cover breathers and the occasional minor injuries to those in front of him..
Reasons for: Dearth of big interior d-linemen; Physical readiness
Reasons against: Lack of experience can be a real limiter given the two in front of him; If depth is required, Greg Gaines is still a factor.
The Verdict - Budda Baker
I'm not really going out on a limb with this one. Baker is likely to be the overwhelming choice in this particular poll given what we have already heard the coaches say about him and how inexperienced the secondary projects. I don't think that Baker really even has to win the starting free safety job in order to still lead his class in overall snaps. His special teams play, his role in the nickel (which may just become our base defense) and his rotations in to give other guys breathers or to cover up for injuries may be just enough to do the trick.
One thing is for certain, Husky fans are literally jumping out of their skins in anticipation of seeing this electric playmaker get on the field in a real game. That comes in just five days.