After yesterday’s doom n’ gloom look at how this season could trip and fall on its face, I have the much preferable task of looking at what it takes for this season to kill it in every possible way.
Unlike the rest of the 30 Day Countdown, there’s not many options for how to achieve it. It’s not like a “breakout redshirt freshman” where you can have candidates, etc. A best case scenario is The Best Case Scenario, full stop, which means I get to do the honors of simply dictating what it is. Or, the team dictates what it is, and I get to write that down.
So, with only two days left before kickoff, let’s have at it:
The Best Case Scenario
In the trenches, Wattenberg improves on an inconsistent 2018, Adams returns to form, Harris continues commanding the offense, Kirkland continues being a WMD, and Hilbers continues being a pleasantly consistent surprise.
Behind them, Salvon Ahmed takes the step from being an explosive athlete to being an explosive athlete with the vision and patience to be reliable between the tackles. Complementing Ahmed, Sean McGrew adds dynamism with his ability in space while Kamari Pleasant and Richard Newton’s physicality and size as escape valve targets bring out other possibilities in the run game similar to the duo of Coleman and Gaskin in 2016. These four are so effective and deep that one of my favorite recruits, Cameron Davis, redshirts despite being a future star.
In the receivers and tight ends, the young players’ athleticism gets them on the field more frequently, and Terrell Bynum, Austin Osborne, Trey Lowe, and Puka become increasingly important parts of this offense. Oh, and Chico is back back while Ty Jones’ potential wrist issue doesn’t linger, allowing him to play consistently instead of just flashing potential. With these contributors doing more, it takes the pressure off of Aaron Fuller who is able to be a high-floor second or third go-to receiver. With defenses focused on the higher-ceiling threats, Andre Baccellia’s speed and shiftiness in space gives him critical moments to shine.
Most importantly, Hunter Bryant stays healthy, continuing to provide the passing game with a ridiculously dynamic pass-catcher. Accompanying him is Cade Otton, who furthers his ascent as the next (and, at this point in his career, best) NFL prototype tight end of Coach Pete’s UW teams, with Jacob Kizer right behind him and healthy once the bulk of conference play starts. Lastly, Devin Culp’s ability to be both a threatening pass-catcher and blocker shows up in flashes, although likely not consistently (yet).
Running all this, of course, is Eason. He shows he can not only throw it for one billion yards off his back foot, but has cognitively advanced since playing as a true freshman, against SEC defenses, behind a horrible UGA line, with green receivers and tight ends. His arm and year digesting the playbook not only improves Washington’s passing game, but the downfield threat further invigorates the running backs’ room to make plays on the ground.
So there’s that.
Levi Onwuzurike continues destroying opponents but in an even more high-profile role. Beside him, Benning flourishes at his more physically natural role after moving from OLB to a true defensive lineman, and Josiah Bronson shows he’s actually a pretty valuable contributor. Most importantly, Tuli and Taki make their mark at 0 and 1 tech as both run-stuffers and guys who’s leverage requires a double-team. The success of the interior means Faatui Tuitele and Jacob Bandes get to redshirt, but they play in four games or less and we get to see exciting bits of the future.
Joe Tryon’s trajectory continues as a playmaker off the edge, as does Ariel Ngata’s in passing downs. Beside them, Ryan Bowman returns to 2017 form, and Laiatu Latu is too good to keep off the field.
With the inside linebackers, Brandon Wellington’s familiarity and experience means he fills the role seamlessly. The young trio of Jackson Sirmon, MJ Tafisi, and Eddie Ulofoshio elevate their play to the point where one of them is a usual starter, while Kyler Manu provides the experience to be a useful rotational player. Those five hold the fort down well enough to allow Daniel Heimuli to redshirt, but he plays in four or less games and reminds us why we wanted him so bad.
Oh, and the secondary is good. They are imperfect but mostly fine against the first couple potent offenses against which they play (for argument’s sake, let’s go with Hawaii, USC, and partially Stanford), but otherwise do their thing.
Peyton Henry’s improved leg strength means he doesn’t have to strain to make kicks, improving his accuracy and making him serviceable in kicks under 40 yards.
Kick coverage doesn’t suck horribly. And, while we’re at it, Tim Horn and his yoked delts lay out a Duck, causing said Duck to fumble. Dawgs recover. On the other side, Chico or Kyler Gordon (or someone else with better vision and instincts) supplant Aaron Fuller as a punt returner, taking stress off the offense and defense where field position is concerned.
*Takes deep breath*
So that’s that.
Game by Game
Eastern Washington: 42 - 17
Cal: 3 - 0
Hawaii: 45 - 17
@ BYU: 30 - 17
USC: 31 - 21
@ Stanford: 21 - 28 (I mean, there has to be a loss somewhere, right?)
@ Arizona: 52 - 21
Oregon: 31 - 24 (or 73 - 21, if we’re feeling lucky)
Utah: 2 - 0
@ Oregon State: 42 - 21
@ Colorado: 31 - 17
Apple Cup: 35 - 16
That’ll do it for the regular season best case scenario. As always, do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.