Yesterday we looked at the worst case scenarios so it’s time to turn to happy thoughts as we’re just...2 DAYS AWAY FROM HUSKY FOOTBALL (we think/hope)!
Once again, this poll is not about which of these phases is the strongest. It’s about reading through what I honestly think is the ceiling for each phase of the game and deciding which one is most likely to reach that ceiling.
There was some surprise when Dylan Morris was named the starter at quarterback but it became apparent why in the first game as he put up 258 passing yards and 3 touchdowns against Cal to start the season. Morris did his best 2016 Jake Browning impersonation getting the ball to a stable of tall, athletic playmakers on the perimeter. 5 different Huskies put up 100-yard receiving games: Terrell Bynum, Ty Jones, Puka Nacua, Rome Odunze, and Cade Otton as Morris repeatedly used defenses’ concerns of getting beat deep to steal easy first downs against off coverage over and over.
Put it all together and Morris finished the 7-game Pac-12 slate with 1,820 yards, 17 TDs, 4 INTs and completed 67.8% of his passes. Bynum ended up as the team’s leading receiver with 628 yards while Ty Jones was the team leader in TD catches with 6.
Perhaps the biggest key in the emergence was the play of the offensive line. Seeing Jaxson Kirkland stonewall Morris’ blindside really put into stark contrast how physically limited Trey Adams was by the end of his Husky career. Meanwhile, the trio of newbies on the line all played at an honorable mention Pac-12 level to allow for the offensive explosion.
There was a bit of uncertainty entering the season about who would be the primary back in the offense but ultimately it didn’t really matter. With a trio of new starters on the offensive line all at 330 lbs or greater even I could have run behind the holes being created. Richard Newton and Sean McGrew each finished with 500+ yards on the ground while Cam Davis chipped in with 310 at a 6.2 yards per carry clip.
Newton was automatic when the Huskies got in near the goal line and finished the season with a ridiculous 11 TDs in just 7 games. McGrew averaged nearly 6 yards per carry and eclipsed the 150 yards rushing mark against both Oregon State and Arizona including at least one scamper of 45+ yards in each. Oftentimes a running back by committee approach is a sign of weakness but Washington’s three-headed monster was a dominant force throughout the 2020 season.
We knew the UW secondary was going to be good but no one except the team themselves thought they’d be this good. Elijah Molden was a man on a mission and intercepted 5 passes in 7 games on his way to a Pac-12 defensive player of the year win. And while Molden may have gotten most of the attention, Trent McDuffie was every bit his equal on the outside while Keith Taylor finally nabbed his first career pick. Asa Turner showed he’s a worthy successor to the greats of Budda Baker and Taylor Rapp as a sophomore making an absolutely fearsome position group.
The biggest question with the pass defense was whether the team could get pressure without Joe Tryon and Levi Onwuzurike? That was answered with a resounding yes. Laiatu Latu had the breakout season everyone could see coming and had 6 sacks in a dominant campaign. Meanwhile, Sav’ell Smalls chipped in with a pair of QB takedowns of his own as a pass rush specialist and Edefuan Ulofoshio mastered the delayed blitz from the inside linebacker spot. Opponents tried to attack the linebackers in pass coverage as much as possible but they held up well enough to make that an inefficient option as well.
Only one team managed to throw for over 300 yards in a game against the Husky defense and that was only because Cameron Williams lost his footing in a torrential rainstorm against Stanford to give up a free 80-yard TD on what otherwise would’ve been a contested jump ball.
Washington loaded up at the defensive tackle position in recent seasons and it absolutely paid off in 2020. It didn’t really matter who the Huskies put forth in the middle of the defensive line as they all ran roughshod over opposing offensive lines. Tuli Letuligasenoa was unblockable in single coverage and looked like a cross between Vita Vea and Greg Gaines lined up against centers and guards. The combo of Ryan Bowman and Laiatu Latu on the outside also were extremely sound in their assignments and just about always kept up contain.
Ethan Garbers and Chris Brown carved up the Huskies in 2019 but Washington absolutely shut them down in the season opener and set the stage for a dominant defensive run the rest of the season. The only player to hit the 100-yard mark all season against the Dawgs was CJ Verdell in the regular season finale against Oregon and he just barely surpassed that mark with 104 yards. Washington ended up relinquishing just 4 rushing touchdowns all season, the lowest mark in the Pac-12.
Peyton Henry made huge strides in his first offseason and he just got better again for the Huskies after finishing a perfect 14/14 on field goal attempts. He clearly earned the trust of Jimmy Lake as Henry stepped up and nailed a 52-yarder as time expired to break a tie and win the game against Stanford. Tim Horn may not have gotten the chance to kick a field goal but his giant leg not to mention his giant biceps meant that opposing teams never had great field position on kickoffs.
There was a little bit of concern that the Huskies would miss senior long snapper A.J Carty but true freshman Jaden Green showed that he is going to live in 4 years of obscurity at the position as there was nary a wobble in any of his snaps. Meanwhile, Race Porter’s line drive style punts were particularly effective in a late fall season that saw a lot of inclement weather. The turning point in a Washington upset in Eugene was their punt returner being unable to corral a fastball punt from Porter in a deluge leading to a Washington recovery and quick score to put the game just out of reach.
Which of the above best case scenarios is the most likely?
This poll is closed