The Washington Huskies will have a turnover at several positions from a season ago, most glaringly on the defensive side of the ball. Several underclassmen will be given an opportunity to prove themselves to coaches and in the eyes of Husky faithful. While youth can be a valuable asset to any program, a veteran presence both on the field and in the locker room can't be understated. Which Husky upperclassmen might make the jump to become a leader and impact player in 2015? Could a hidden gem emerge from the shadows of a former Husky standout? We look at some possibilities from the ranks of the upperclassmen in this edition of 30 day countdown as we gear up for the 2015 season.
Option #1- Jeff Lindquist (QB) (Jr.)
With the sudden departure of Cyler Miles in June the Huskies head into the 2015 season with unanswered questions at the quarterback position. The competition is a three horse race between junior quarterback Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and true freshman Jake Browning. If head coach Chris Petersen's track record of preferring experience opposed to youth at signal caller holds true, Lindquist would appear to be the leader in the clubhouse to take the reins behind center this season.
Lindquist saw action for the Huskies in all but two games a season ago, and was the team's starting quarterback in their 2014 opener against Hawaii. Lindquist completed only 33% of his passes for 162 yards in that game and was used sparingly in 11 out of the teams next 13 contests. Unless Petersen and the Huskies decide in favor of a complete youth movement this season, for better or worse Lindquist will likely be behind center against Boise State in the first game of the season.
Lindquist has been underwhelming for Washington thus far, but he could be poised to correct his path in 2015, if given the opportunity. At 6'3", 225 pounds the junior has all the physical tools of a classic pocket passer, but also possesses undervalued athleticism. Even with the loss of Receiver John Hall to injury, Lindquist will still have seniors Jaydon Mickens and Joshua Perkins, along with emerging sophomore Dante Pettis as targets, and with their help could be in position for a breakout season.
Option #2- Taniela Tupou (DT) (R-Sr)
Redshirt senior Taniela Tupou, with a mere 40 career tackles in his career at Washington, enters 2015 with an opportunity and something to prove. Tupou is one of the elder statesmen on a defensive unit that as been turned upside down following a 2014 season which saw several Husky defenders move onto the NFL. He will be one of several new starters on the team's front seven, and looking to prove his value as his time in Seattle comes to a close.
Tupou will see action at defensive tackle on a Husky defense that will now be more of a true 3-4 scheme, providing ample opportunity for the senior to shine. At 6'3", 290 pounds Tupou isn't the fastest player, but should be able to use his strength in the middle to stop the opposition. If featured prominently in the Huskies new look defense Tupou could push his career tackle total at Washington during the 2015 season.
Option #3- Joshua Perkins (TE) (Sr)
How can a player that already caught 25 passes for over 300 yards a season ago be considered a candidate for a "breakout" season in 2015? Senior tight end Joshua Perkins was already a valuable asset to the Huskies offense a season ago, and has seen his value increase exponentially this off season with the aforementioned loss of Ross at receiver and uncertainty at quarterback. Perkins not only has the ability to help carry the Washington receiving unit this season, but could move from the local to national spotlight.
Some national attention has already been bestowed on Perkins as he was named to the John Mackey Award list, hoping to be only the second Husky to be named the nations top tight end (Austin Seferian-Jenkins the first in 2013). Perkins will be called on frequently by Lindquist, or whichever player ends up as the starting quarterback this season, and shouldn't disappoint. Perkins should finish well above his 25 receptions and 315 yards from 2014, and could finish as the most productive tight end in the Pac-12, if not the nation.
Verdict- Jeff Lindquist
Perkins will no doubt have a breakout season, and one that should far surpass his production from 2014, but the player with the most pure breakout potential for a upperclassmen is Lindquist. The junior didn't impress in his one start a season ago, but should now be given a second opportunity to prove himself as the lead of the Husky offense in 2015. With the likes of Perkins and a solid receiving corps, in addition to a solid ground game, Lindquist has the potential to do big things for Chris Petersen and the Washington offense.
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