On Day 8 of The Best F#@$ing Countdown Ever we have three reasons to celebrate:
- "The Best F&%@ing Countdown Ever" is catching on.
FuckingF&@$ing finally. Took long enough.
- There is only eight - I repeat, eight - days left until kickoff! And...
- The future is looking quite bright.
Besides the potential literal interpretation of #3, that’s a welcome development. Yes, since the post-Willingham rebound we’ve become first-name-basis familiar with the cross-your-fingers-and-hope-the-next-step-happens optimism. But it’s been a while since there’ve been actual reasons beyond "Well, the players are a year older, which means they should be better, right? Right, guys? Guys?"
The most notable thing I see to point to is that, for the first time in forever, the Dawgs have the depth to maintain themselves. Heck, not only are there guys waiting in the wings, but players are rotating into games with such frequency that losing someone to graduation isn’t (relative to Sark’s reign) that big of a deal. If last year’s insane defensive improvement showed anything, it’s that when our supporting cast is promoted to headline billing, they are more than ready to do so.
So which position groups look the brightest heading into 2016? 2017? 2018, -19 and -20?
For one, we still have Myles Gaskin for two or three more years. So that rules.
Then factor in Sean McGrew and Connor Wedington playing together for a few years and that just has to turn into something fun. As has been pointed out, Wedington has the size to potentially put an end to the oft-discussed "Who’s really a bruiser?" debate. I mean, seriously:
UNFORGETTABLE experience at THE Opening. #AllGloryToGod pic.twitter.com/385e3YH05V— Connor Wedington (@ConnorWedington) July 11, 2016
He looks more like the tight end in that picture (who, incidentally, I’m super psyched to see in purple and gold) than he does the other running back. Which, by the way, if we could get Salvon Ahmed, that would be great.
Besides the fact that Jimmy Lake is the best thing since sliced bread, the secondary is stacked for now and the foreseeable future. You know it’s good when, upon the prospect of losing as many as three potential All-Americans after this year, there isn’t the usual terror of "Oh crud, who’s gonna replace these dudes?" creeping in (though hopefully at least one of Budda Baker or Sidney Jones stays for one more year just to ease any transitions).
On the safeties, Taylor Rapp has already shown he’ll be hard to keep off the field and Brandon McKinney, who committed to UW in July, is another exciting prospect. Plus Isaiah Pola-Mao could potentially join McKinney as another 2017 commit, which would be effing great.
The depth of our corners has already been praised, and it’s deep with young guys who should be a strength for years under Lake’s coaching. Just in the ‘16 class alone there are two top 300 cornerbacks (Byron Murphy and Isaiah Gilchrist) and one more who’s right up there (Kentrell Love). The ‘15 cornerbacks, Miller and Joyner, are not to be overlooked either, and the first commit of 2017 was top 300 CB Keith Taylor.
Plus if we could get Salvon Ahmed, that would be great.
Although it remains not exactly a weakness, but not an obvious strength, it appears that the offensive line could become the opposite of that over the next few years. Sure, we don’t have any (!!!) commitments for the 2017 class despite two top 300 linemen in our backyard, and the thought of losing both Foster Sarell and Henry Bainivalu makes me existentially depressed. Also, Drew Dalman, the center from California, seems to be holding out hope for a Stanford offer. So that sucks.
But the 2015 and 2016 classes were solid and when it comes to the trenches it’s those classes that will determine the success of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons. Luke Wattenberg was a high school All-American in 2016, as was Henry Roberts in 2015. That’s particularly promising since, as linemen, they’ll start making their impacts in a year or two or three.
Now if we could get Salvon Ahmed, that would be great. Not that he’s technically associated with the O-line, but ya never know.
This is probably the one group that rivals the secondary for "Most Stacked Unit West of the Mississippi or at least West of Pullman."
Already now we’re looking at depth galore with Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching being the only seniors, though there’s the potential for Azeem Victor to leave early. Bartlett and BBK have proven they can be reliable threats for the next few years and the 2016 class of Eifler and Wellington is reason to be excited. Amandre Williams, Bryce Sterk, and Benning Potoa’e are all young converted defensive ends who could become a pipeline of BUCKs and SAMs to put some added pressure on opposing quarterbacks for the next few years. Plus Ariel Ngata joins in the class of 2017. Although Jimmy Lake gets so much attention as an assistant coach, I think that LB Coach Bob Gregory is showing how valuable he is where development of athletes is concerned.
Besides the questions for who plays if (God forbid) Browning gets injured, we know Washington is set for at least two more seasons and likely three given that Jake isn’t exactly the prototypical NFL quarterback, which could dissuade him from entering the draft early. Maybe that’s just me being too hopeful that we get four years out of Everybody’s Favorite Bolt-Action Rifle.
But alas, eventually Jake must leave, and then we’ll have one heckuva quarterback competition between some more Jakes (and a Blake and a Daniel). We all know Jacob Sirmon looks like he could be scary good; as far as I can find, he’s the first 5-Star quarterback UW’s gotten (or got a verbal commitment from, I don’t want to jinx it) since...ever?
But before everybody purchases business class tickets aboard the "Jacob Sirmon will be the immediate heir to Jake Browning and the transition will be seamless and glorious" Express Hype Train to Montlake, let’s all remember that quarterback transitions almost never happen that perfectly and, really, that’s a good thing.
Daniel Bridge-Gadd is "a steal" and Jake Haener is a competitor with the accuracy that Coach Pete loves. And Blake Gregory is the walk-on to end all walk-ons.
Or it could just end up with Jacob Sirmon earning the starting spot immediately then leading Washington to three consecutive national championships then leaving early for the NFL where he plays for 17 seasons and wins six Super Bowls then retiring then coming back out of retirement for two seasons where he wins one more Super Bowl before retiring for good.
Either way, there’s a 50% chance that UW ends up with a Montlake Jake 3.0.
Linebackers. This was tough; the secondary is obviously stupid good but I think the linebackers are just able to out-depth them. ("Out-depth" is totally a word, by the way.) The classes of ‘14 and ‘15 are full of under-the-radar guys like Bartlett and Burr-Kirven and Sterk, who are quickly making recruiting websites regret not giving them higher rankings. Meanwhile, the 2016 class is killer and 2017, in spite of only having one LB commit in Ariel Ngata - and there’s no reason to see Petersen taking any more of that unit - has a guy who could turn into a badman. That bodes pretty darn well.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.