Earlier this week, we counted down the top 5 questions that Chris Petersen and his Huskies seemed to have answered during their productive 2015 Spring Football camp. Among those things, we noted the emergence of a surprisingly cohesive offensive line, the escalation of Jake Eldrenkamp at left tackle and the identification of some future stars in the defensive front seven.
But not every question that UW fans had going into the spring resulted in a definitive answer. In fact, it is safe to say that some questions that we didn't even know we had were raised and left unanswered. In today's offseason list, we look at all of those questions - the new ones and old ones alike - that will remain open as we trudge on through the summer and into fall.
1. It All Starts With the QB
You have to go a little ways back in UW history to find a time when there was such a lack of clarity at the QB position going into a summer time offseason. Keith Price wasn't a sure thing going into the spring of 2011, but he pretty much was coming out of it. Even last season, there was a definite sense that Cyler Miles was still "the guy" after a pretty lackluster spring battle between Troy Williams and Jeff Lindquist in Chris Petersen's first spring with UW. Looking further back, you probably have to go all the way to 2004 and the short-lived Casey Paus era to find a time when there was so much uncertainty for the Huskies going into a fall.
There are a couple of ways to look at the results of this QB competition. First of all, we can all probably agree that Jake Browning is destined for a redshirt assuming the health of both Lindquist and KJ Carta-Samuels holds up. Browning definitely showed his upside at various moments throughout camp. But concerns about his grasp of the offense and his overall conditioning were somewhat validated. The lack of arm strength he exhibited as the camp wore on gave credence to the opinion that he'd benefit from a year of prep and conditioning.
Beyond that, we are left with nothing but points to debate. On one hand, you could argue that the competition between Lindquist and Samuels was neck-and-neck resulting in an elevation of both of their all-around games and feeding the motivation of both to continue to push themselves throughout the summer. The flip side could support the argument that neither player really played at a high enough level to seize control of the job and that both had too many moments of sloppiness and inconsistency with interceptions, in particular, being a red flag for each. However you'd like to interpret the results, it is clear that QB is the top unanswered question going into the fall.
2. The D-Line rotation is far from set
One of the bigger surprises in the camp was the move of the presumed heir apparent to Andrew Hudson over to the BUCK position. JoJo Mathis was viewed prior to the spring as a breakout defensive line candidate given how well he flashed in his limited snaps in 2014. His move to BUCK looks like it will be a brilliant fit, but it does disrupt and limit DC Pete Kwiatkowski's options when it comes to constructing a defensive line rotation going into the fall.
The biggest question that Mathis's move raises is whether or not there is an implication here that sees the presumed backfill for DT Danny Shelton, Elijah Qualls, moving to more of a 3T role a la Evan Hudson, going forward. If so, the follow up questions coming from that just start to roll:
- Are both (or either) of our redshirt freshmen in Vita Vea and Greg Gaines ready to take on that NT role?
- Did either of the upperclassmen ends in Jarret Finau or Damion Turpin, players who up to now have contributed very little, somehow distinguish themselves this spring?
- Where will Will Dissly ultimately play and is now considered an every down starter?
- Should we assume that incoming true freshman like Benning Potoa'e and Jason Scrempos are destined to burn redshirts and to be in the rotation?
There is talent here to be sure and options for filling out a rotation. But there is also a ton of youth here and growing pains to endure no matter how it all works out.
3. Four receivers walked into a stadium ...
We've been going around on the issue of the receiving corps in several of our other comment threads. However, I don't think that it can be argued that there is a position group in a greater state of chaos anywhere on the roster than UW's receivers. The injury to presumed starter John Ross leaves UW with just four scholarship guys in place going into the summer. To put that number in perspective, both Cal and WSU list four receivers as starters in their weekly depth charts during the season.
The implications that come along with this dearth of receivers are numerous and raise a ton of questions that will take some time to answer:
- Will pass-catching TEs like Joshua Perkins and Darrell Daniels be asked to play more on the outside?
- Are either of Dante Pettis or Brayden Lenius - both of whom are true sophomores - developing fast enough to be an effective starter (as one or both is sure to become)?
- Will UW really have to play all four incoming freshmen?
- Are there walk-ons, perhaps players like Drew Before, who will have to play in the rotation?
This is not a good situation for Chris Petersen and one that is definitely going to have to drive changes in both offensive playcalling and role assignment. It may even eventually drive some future position changes - especially if there is any kind of attrition due to injury. Guys like Budda Baker, Jomon Dotson and Daniels may very well see themselves working out as receivers just to ensure that there is enough depth to run the offense in case of an emergency. This is definitely a situation to watch in the fall.
4. We can all get a kick out of this
Not surprisngly, there was very little chatter about the three kicking specialists during this past spring. Punter Koree Durkee, PK Cameron Van Winkle and PK Tristan Vizcaino all have relevant experience under their belts with Durkee and Van Winkle both carrying the added distinction of being upper classmen. But that experience hasn't translated into overwhelming success so far into the Chris Petersen era.
For UW to have any success given the projected struggles that we should all expect from this team offensively in 2015, it will be critical for the Huskies to be able to flip the field and to score when drives stall outside of red zone. It doesn't take a huge leap in imagination to envision the kicking game quite literally deciding the outcomes of two to three games (or more!) for UW in 2015. Can our punting can be consistent? Can our kickoffs can translate into touchbacks? Can our ability to consistently hit FGs from 45 yards out can be established? These are all critical questions still unanswered.
5. The upper class kids are alright
A lot of Husky fans don't want to hear this, but with only 27 scholarship players listed as juniors or seniors, UW is clearly one of the youngest rosters in all of the Pac 12. We are right there with Colorado and Oregon State amongst not just the least experienced in the Pac, but also in the nation.
If UW is going to put together a bowl campaign, they are obviously going to have to get outrageous contributions from the talented young players who are poised to play key roles. But young players going against the grown men who are showing up on other teams are bound to get beat on occasion, even before their inevitable mental mistakes are accounted for.
There are a number of UW upper classmen who have yet to distinguish themselves who simply must step up and make meaningful contributions in 2015. Top of mind for me are guys like Lindquist, Finau, WR Marvin Hall, OL Shane Brostek, DT Taniela Tupou and LB Psalm Wooching. We don't need them to be stars, but we do need them each to step up, some of them as starters, and fill key roles for this team. Their contributions will help to balance the scales against older, more physically developed opponents and, importantly, help us to continue the process of red shirting as much of the young talent as we can afford. Whether or not these veterans can serve those roles remains to be seen.
I'm sure that there are more questions that you have and would like to discuss. Join the conversation below and let us talk about them.