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Day 16 - Mid-season Depth Chart

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In which I irresponsibly try to predict what the depth chart will look like heading into Week 8.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We have 16 more days until Husky Football, people. As is tradition in sports, especially those with unbearably long off-seasons, we make bold off-season predictions, crazy projections, and generally anything to help pass the time.

With that, I give you the mid-season depth chart projection. We can all agree that generally, there are players that surprise during camp and don't do much during the season. There's also the opposite effect - those who have a quiet, steady, training camp, but explode during the season after a few games of getting their feet wet.

Looking at the schedule, I picked the Oregon State game as where I feel this depth chart could show up. We'll have already played Stanford and Oregon by this time, so when the Beavers come to Husky Stadium on October 22nd, we should have a good idea of the type of team we have. I'm going to take injuries out of the equation, and will go on what is the perceived current depth chart based on reports from fall camp right now. And away we go...

Quarterback

Current/projected preseason: Jake Browning, K.J. Carta-Samuels, Tony Rodriguez

Mid-season: Jake Browning, Tony Rodriguez, K.J. Carta-Samuels

Don't expect changes at the top here. Jake Browning is QB1 and that won't change unless something drastic happens to his play. The battle is for his backup, who most assuredly will play at some point this season, be it during garbage time, or if Jake takes a big hit and needs to sit for a couple series. Right now it's back and forth between Carta-Samuels and Rodriguez, with the latter making a big push for the backup spot. He is after all one of Coach Pete's "guys," while I would argue Carta-Samuels was more of a last-minute grab to secure a QB for the 2014 class. While K.J.'s very talented, Tony Rodriguez is very accurate, which Coach Pete puts above nearly all else when evaluating QBs.

Running Back

Current/projected preseason: Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman, Jomon Dotson, Sean McGrew, Kamari Pleasant

Mid-season: Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman, Kamari Pleasant, Sean McGrew, Jomon Dotson

Gaskin is the undisputed star and will remain atop the depth chart all season. Coleman I think will stay as the primary backup, and word is he's really improved his explosion and wiggle as a runner. Adding a bit of speed to his already powerful running style should create a 1-2 punch with Gaskin that will be the primary choice. I really like what Kamari Pleasant brings and he could make a move during the season, mostly because of his size. Freshmen running backs typically struggle with pass protection, and especially undersized ones. Pleasant has a similar game to Dwayne Washington and his ability to catch out of the backfield is a skill set that isn't seen strongly in any other current running backs. I like Jomon Dotson in this role too, but towards the end of the season, I think his experience will be outweighed by younger players with more talent.

Wide Receiver

Current/projected preseason: John Ross, Dante Pettis, Chico McClatcher, Brayden Lenius, Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia, Quinten Pounds, K.J. Young, Connor Griffin

Mid-season: John Ross, Chico McClatcher, Dante Pettis, K.J. Young, Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia, Quinten Pounds, Brayden Lenius, Connor Griffin

Washington lists 3 wide receivers on their depth chart (essentially 2 outside and 1 slot) but with so much mixing and matching, and 4-5 WR sets that we'll see, I anticipate it more as a "top 9" rather than carved-in-stone depth at 3 receiving positions.

That said, by week 8, I see the big winners as freshmen Andre Baccellia and Aaron Fuller.  Like his QBs, Coach Petersen looks for 2 things in wide receivers: get open, and catch the ball. Baccellia and Fuller don't bring off-the-charts size or athleticism, but they are adept at finding holes in zone coverage, and they catch everything thrown at them. Petersen even remarked recently how Fuller and Quinten Pounds have really jumped out to him recently.

Chico McClatcher is also poised to make a move up the depth chart after impressing as a freshman. He's bulked up his small frame significantly and now that he's firmly entrenched in the WR rotation, he'll improve greatly and should be one of Jake's top 2-3 targets by this time. He's a big play waiting to happen, and outside John Ross this group really lacks that.

Lastly, K.J. Young deserves a mention as a possible mover-upper. First, at 6-1 190 pounds, he brings size to a group that lacks it.  He also has experience at both the DI level with Oklahoma, and in junior college at Riverside (CA) City. He has two years of eligibility and should be challenging for a starting position by this point in the season. This is a very wide-open group, and perhaps more than any other position, anything can happen here.

Tight End

Current/projected preseason: Darrell Daniels, Drew Sample, Jeff Lindquist, Will Dissly, David Ajamu, Michael Neal

Mid-season: Darrell Daniels, Jeff Lindquist, Drew Sample, Will Dissly, David Ajamu, Michael Neal.

Let me put this out there first: I think Will Dissly and Drew Sample play a lot this year, and we'll see a lot of 3-TE sets to take advantage of their toughness and blocking ability. Where I see the huge move happening is with Lindquist. He's smart, tough, very athletic, and gives it all for the team. Once he gets some live Pac-12 action at TE, I think he'll make a huge jump and by week 8 will be firmly in the TE rotation. Ajamu I think could be getting buried after coming off his injury, and Michael Neal, while physically impressive, is probably a year away.

Offensive Live

Current/projected preseason: Trey Adams/Andrew Kirkland (LT), Jake Eldrenkamp/Michael Kneip (LG), Coleman Shelton/Matt James (C), Shane Brostek/Jesse Sosebee (RG), Kaleb McGary/Andrew Kirkland (RT)

Mid-season: Trey Adams/Andrew Kirkland (LT), Jake Eldrenkamp/Michael Kneip (LG), Coleman Shelton/John Turner (C), Matt James/Jesse Sosebee (RG), Kaleb McGary/Andrew Kirkland (RT)

I think the OL stays intact all season, but I know the coaches have been experimenting with Matt James at RG instead of Shane Brostek. I really like Shane at the RG position, but with his injury history and position changes throughout his time on Montlake, I think the coaches like going with a younger guy to hold down that spot for the next 2-3 years.

Defensive End

Current/projected preseason: Elijah Qualls, Benning Potoa'e, Levi Onwuzurike

Mid-season: Elijah Qualls, Benning Potoa'e, Levi Onwuzurike


Elijah Qualls is a beast and nothing will change with this depth chart, other than position changes for the young guys. I know the coaches like Benning's size for a DE, but also like his athleticism at the BUCK spot, so he could move around until they find his best position.


Nose Tackle

Current/projected preseason: Greg Gaines, Vita Vea, Ricky McCoy

Mid-season: Greg Gaines, Vita Vea, Ricky McCoy

Greg freakin' Gaines is your man here all season, backed up by Vita Vea. Wouldn't expect any movement here during the season.

Defensive Tackle

Current/projected preseason: Jaylen Johnson, Damion Turpin, Shane Bowman

Mid-season: Jaylen Johnson, Shane Bowman, Damion Turpin

This is really the only spot on the D line with any questions. Who will replace Tani Tupou? Jaylen Johnson is probably the penciled-in starter most of the season, but I think Shane Bowman will make a big move for his backup spot. He's bulked up to 290 pounds and already plays the position with a tenacity and blue-collar work ethic. I like Damion Turpin to have a nice senior year after not having an impact his first 4 years here, but Shane Bowman will overtake him by the Oregon State game.

BUCK Linebacker

Current/projected preseason: Joe Mathis, Connor O'Brien, Myles Rice, Jusstis Warren

Mid-season: Joe Mathis, Myles Rice, Connor O'Brien, Jusstis Warren

I don't anticipate much movement here, expect maybe O'Brien being overtaken by a younger player. There's also the possibility of Benning Potoa'e moving to BUCK as he's been tried there this fall camp. That said, this spot is Mathis's. With the absolute tenacity and motor he plays with, he'll remain as the #1 BUCK.

WIL Linebacker

Current/projected preseason: Keishawn Bierria, Ben Burr-Kirven, D.J. Beavers, Brandon Wellington

Mid-season: Keishawn Bierria, Ben Burr-Kirven, D.J. Beavers, Brandon Wellington

Can't see much in the way of changes here. Like a lot of spots on the defense, the WIL linebacker spot is locked down by a known quantity. I could see Brandon Wellington moving up a bit, but he would have to overtake D.J. Beavers first. Beavers had a really good spring camp filling in for injured guys and is great "form tackler" and pretty much always gets his guy to the ground. Wellington's got some great athleticism but will need to prove he can tackle before overtaking Beavers.

MIK Linebacker

Current/projected preseason: Azeem Victor, Sean Constantine, Kyler Manu, Camilo Eifler

Mid-season: Azeem Victor, Camilo Eifler, Sean Constantine, Kyler Manu

Azeem Victor has got to be one of the best and most physical middle linebackers we've had in a long, long, time. Basically, that MIK spot is his, and he's not going anywhere (except maybe the NFL). I'm not sure where the coaches have Camilo Eifler slated long term, but I don't see a sure-fire guy behind Azeem Victor who will take over in 2017 or 2018, and Eifler is the most talented of the young linebackers. He could make a move here.

SAM Linebacker

Current/projected preseason: Psalm Wooching, Tevis Bartlett, Bryce Sterk, Amandre Williams

Mid-season: Tevis Bartlett, Psalm Wooching, Bryce Sterk, Amandre Williams

Okay, I'll admit it. This is the position group that gave me the idea for this article. I really think that by mid-season Tevis Bartlett will be starting over Psalm Wooching. I love Wooching's intensity, but I'm not convinced he's a sure thing at SAM, and as a senior, he's close to his ceiling. Replacing Cory Littleton's pass rush is going to be a tall task, and too many times last year I saw him just lock onto offensive linemen and struggle to disengage. Bartlettt's wrestling moves and violent hands should help in this regard and he'll see more snaps per game than Wooching by week 8.

Cornerback

Current/projected preseason (CB 1): Sidney Jones, Darren Gardenhire, Jordan Miller

Current/projected preseason (CB 2): Kevin King, Jordan Miller, Byron Murphy

Mid-season (CB 1): Sidney Jones, Darren Gardenhire, Austin Joyner

Mid-season (CB 2): Kevin King, Byron Murphy, Jordan Miller


With this much talent at the top, it's hard to see any real moves being made mid-season. I mean who is realistically going to overtake Gardenhire (I think it's safe to assume that Jones and King are not going anywhere)? He won't technically be a starter, but he's entering his 3rd year in the program and is both supremely talented and experienced. Jordan Miller keeps shining in practice but who's he going to overtake? Similar story with super freshman Byron Murphy. The good news is that with so many wide-open offenses in the Pac-12, the defense will need a lot of bodies to cope and match up with the skill position talent littered across the conference. You can expect Jones, Gardenhire, Miller, King, and Murphy to be the top 5 CBs on the team, with Byron Murphy making the biggest move in the season, overtaking either Gardenhire or Jordan Miller.

Safety

Current/projected preseason (FS): Budda Baker, Trevor Walker, Brandon Beaver

Current/projected preseason (SS): JoJo McIntosh, Zeke Turner, Taylor Rapp

Mid-season (FS): Budda Baker, Brandon Beaver, Trevor Walker

Mid-season (SS): JoJo McIntosh, Taylor Rapp, Zeke Turner

Free safety is set in stone. In the unlikely event Budda Baker steps off the field, Brandon Beaver and Trevor Walker will replace him. I don't see much of a change there other than Beaver overtaking Walker. Strong safety gets a little more interesting. A lot people around here are very high on Taylor Rapp, myself included. I had high hopes for Zeke Turner, and I still think he could provide good depth, but Taylor Rapp after a few games at the college level will settle in, and move up to backing up McIntosh.