clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spring Football returns to Montlake.

NCAA Football: Idaho at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

I woke up this morning to my daily weather report courtesy of Siri.

In the state of Minnesota, my current home, any weather pattern up the dial from freezing and free of precipitation qualifies as “spring time” weather. The sun is shining. The snow is melting. Life is returning to the frozen tundra of the northland.

It must be time for some spring football.

It’s remarkable to me how little I’ve actually missed football since we last saw our Huskies getting choked out by Penn State in front of a national audience at the Fiesta Bowl. I’m normally champing at the bit to get Spring football going about this time of year. Maybe the fact that the February signing day was a non-event helped to make this offseason more of a clean break. Maybe the experience of an unexpected and hotly-debated basketball season distracted me from my football longing. Maybe I simply needed the time away to recoup from the disappointment of a season in which UW failed to achieve most of their own goals.

Whatever the case may be, I can say that the turning of the weather along with conclusion of the men’s basketball season has changed my mood. I’m as optimistic about the Huskies as I’ve ever been and I’m ready for some football.

The Huskies open spring practice on Wednesday. They will actually be the 11th of the 12 PAC teams to start their spring. Only the Beavers (who open on April 4) have a later start to their spring practices than UW. In case you were wondering, Colorado was the first to initiate their practices starting all the way back on February 23rd. In fact, they played their spring game last week.

Colorado won.

I imagine many fans are in the same boat as I am. That is to say that they are eager to see the page flip from basketball to football but also constrained by the fact that there isn’t exactly a whole lot of intrigue surrounding this program going into the 2018 campaign. UW should be a pretty good team. That much we all know.

The hardcore among you will, of course, have plenty to dig into. You will be scouring over the roster sheet looking for changes in player measurables from last season to this. You might also be debating the results of the Husky combine ...

...(by the way, how about Colson Yankoff finishing ahead of names like Myles Gaskin and Jomon Dotson on the 3 cone drill? Wha???). You might even be trying to divine which walk-ons might have gotten scholarship. Because that’s how the hardcore roll.

The less hardcore (or less motivated to dig into reams of “research”) are a little more tuned into the broader questions that spring practices might be able to help answer. Here are mine:

1. How will the QB pecking order shape up?

The Huskies are not in the position of having to replace a starter this year. Jake Browning is back for is fourth straight season leading the UW offense with a chance to set records across the Husky ledger as well as the PAC 12’s (42 TDs to beat Luke Falk’s record, +4% to beat Falk’s all time completion % record, +1 to beat Marcus Mariota’s all-time YPA record, 3224 yards from passing Matt Barkley for #3 on the all time passing yardage list).

What is more interesting is how the depth chart will organize with last year’s backup K.J. Carta-Samuels now competing to start for Chip Kelly’s UCLA squad. Incumbents Jake Haener and Daniel Bridge-Gadd will each get plenty of opportunities to show that they can run the offense. In addition, both true freshmen signees, the athletic Colson Yankoff and the gunslinger Jacob Sirmon, are on campus and ready to make their cases.

To make things even more interesting, former 5-star recruit Jacob “Skinny” Eason is on campus and ready to show what he brings to the table. He will redshirt this season, but could set the tone for the post-Browning era competition with a strong spring showing.

2. What a rush.

The most disappointing aspect of last season was the inability of any of UW’s younger players to emerge as a true man-on-man pass-rush threat. Fans had expected someone from among players like Myles Rice, Benning Potoa’e, Justiss Warren and Jason Scrempos to take on the mantle worn by accomplished Kwiatkowski pass rushers such as Hau’oli Kikaha, Travis Feeney, Cory Littleton and Psalm Wooching.

That didn’t happen. In fact, if we hadn’t gotten a “where did he come from” performance from former walk-on Ryan Bowman, you might say that the edge pass rush was non-existent in UW’s 2017 defense.

There is little doubt that UW will be experimenting with some scheme changes this spring given the loss of line-crusher Vita Vea and turnover on the defense. It is unlikely that we will see this issue resolved. However, we ought to get a good sense of who the candidates to fill that role might be and whether or not players such as Joe Tryon, Amandre Williams and / or Camilo Eifler might get a look.

3. Only the Young.

The stripping away of redshirts is a difficult and controversial topic around these parts. Nevertheless, it isn’t reasonable to expect any program in the era of 85-man scholarship limits to have nearly of a quarter of those scholarships sitting idle on the sidelines every season.

The Huskies have done a good job in the Chris Petersen era of managing redshirts and making sure that those who play as true freshmen are both ready to play and get the opportunity to contribute. More often than not, the candidates that identify themselves as “ready” do so in spring practice.

This year should be no different. The Huskies could end up playing as many as eight true freshmen in 2018. The key positions of need include defensive back, wide receiver and defensive line. Some of the key names to watch include DL Sam Taimani, WR Marquis Spiker, WR Austin Osborne, DB Julius Irvin, DB Dominique Hampton, and LB Ale Kaho (Chris Petersen’s first ever 5-star recruit) among others. How these players show up in spring will go a long way towards determining whether or not they enter fall with a chance to crack into the two-deeps.

There are many more questions that I’m sure you all are hoping can get answered this spring. Who will replace Dante Pettis’ production at receiver? What will UW’s defensive line rotation look like in a post-Vea world? Who will emerge among UW’s young linebacking corps. Are young stars such as Byron Murphy, Ben Burr-Kirven, Austin Joyner, and Levi Onwuzurike ready to take the next step? Will Jordan Miller and Hunter Bryant be fully recovered from their injuries? Is Salvon Ahmed the next great weapon?

I’m not sure how many of those important questions will get answered. Still, it is spring. Anything can happen in the spring.

Spring is beautiful.