The Huskies enter the 2018 Football season with enormously high expectations. The media overwhelmingly voted for the Dawgs to win the Pac-12 title at Media Day, and they will enter their highly anticipated Week 1 matchup against Auburn ranked #6 in the Coaches’ Poll—the program’s highest such rating since 1977. There’s good reason for such lofty expectations as the Huskies have an immense amount of talent returning, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Senior quarterback Jake Browning is poised to capture virtually all of the Huskies‘ career passing records this season, while Myles Gaskin will try for a fourth consecutive 1000-yard season. The Huskies also have one of the most experienced offensive lines in the conference, as they return eight players from last season, including senior tackles Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary.
There are still questions about the offense heading into the season. In reality, the Huskies on the rosters are going to have to step up and produce. However, this is fantasy land, and in this fantasy land the Huskies can add one player from the Pac-12 to bolster the roster. Let’s review the candidates.
Bryce Love, running back, Stanford
You may think to yourself: “Why would he include a running back on this list? We have Gaskin!” And that is a very defensible response. This pick isn’t because of a question or concern about the running back position. Gaskin is arguably the best back in Washington history, and sophomore Salvon Ahmed should settle nicely into the number two spot this season. This one is just about adding an immensely talented player to the roster. Love enters the 2018 season as a Heisman favorite, and a Love-Gaskin duo in the backfield would undoubtedly be the best running back combination in the country. Again, running back is far from a position group that could use an infusion of immediate talent, but a Gaskin-Love duo would be virtually unstoppable.
N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
Junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry is a tantalizing talent looking to build off a stellar sophomore season in which he posted 1142 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns, good enough for First Team All-Conference honors. At 6-4 and 213 pounds, Harry is the big-bodied receiver that is incredibly coveted in today’s game—and one of the few pieces that has been missing from the Huskies’ roster during the Petersen era (which makes losing out on his services during the 2016 recruiting class all the more painful). Harry would provide the Huskies with a true number one option out wide this fall, at a position group that is one of the question marks heading into the season. He would fill in seamlessly for Dante Pettis and provide Browning with a legitimate passing threat all over the field, particularly in the red zone; Harry is phenomenal at using his big frame to make contested catches in traffic.
Matt Gay, Placekicker, Utah
The biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball heading into the 2018 season is undoubtedly placekicker. The Huskies will look to replace senior Tristan Vizcaino, who had an uneven season last year hitting only 12 of 19 field goal attempts. The top candidates to replace him are redshirt sophomore Van Soderberg and walk-on redshirt freshman Peyton Henry. Soderberg struggled last season, making only one of his three field goals, both misses coming in the loss to Arizona State. Matt Gay on the other hand hit 27 of his 31 field goal attempts last season and took home the Lou Groza award, awarded to the nation’s top kicker. Gay hit five field goals from 50 yards or deeper last season and would be a major weapon for the Huskies. The Dawgs could very well be locked into some defensive battles this fall (potentially in Atlanta to start the season), so it will be crucial for the Huskies to hit their field goals. Gay would transform what is arguably the weakest position group on Montlake into the strongest overnight.
The Verdict: N’Keal Harry
This one came down to Harry and Gay. As fun as it is to imagine Love and Gaskin punishing defenses together, the Huskies have simply too many questions at wide receiver and placekicker to add talent to a position group that doesn’t need it. Adding the nation’s top kicker to their roster is something every coach would love to do, and would be a serious upgrade for the Huskies considering the question marks currently surrounding the position. However, the idea of adding a wide receiver of Harry’s caliber is something I simply couldn’t pass up. We saw how well the offense performed in 2016, thanks in large part to John Ross. Harry would likely have a similar effect for the Huskies, and would be an even bigger threat in the red zone due to his massive frame and strong hands. Harry’s presence would also make life easier on the rest of the wide receiver room as he would garner so much attention from opposing defenses. It’s not hard to envision Harry putting up similar numbers as Ross did in 2016 (1150 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns) especially considering he put up almost identical stats for the Sun Devils last season. It is not hard to envision Browning coming close to replicating his stats from 2016—nearly 3500 passing yards and 43 TDs, which earned him Pac-12 POY—if Harry were added to the roster tomorrow.
Tell me in the comments below which Pac-12 offensive plaver you’d add to the Huskies’ roster!