Listen, okay, yeah so I know my reputation has more and more become “What the... heck is she talking about now?” over the years, but I swear I did not choose to do this topic. It was simply randomly assigned to me by our benevolent overlord, Maximus.
For those of you unfamiliar with “strangest position group” — which is definitely not me, the author of this piece, ha ha I definitely haven’t also forgotten what this even means — it came about by accident last year when, under the countdown day for “strongest position group,” UWDP user Doogannash had this to say:
Unfortunately, what we did was kind of a one-time thing because it was just discussing, literally, what positions’ players are the strangest? Most deranged? Biggest maniacs? (The consensus answer was kickers, by the way, followed by kick returners, followed by centers.)
So now we’re stuck with “strangest position group” but having to come up with a different angle.
And after spending the last many days trying to figure one out until literally hours before you're now reading this, I've got one:
“If five years ago you were given a look into the 2023 depth chart and the strengths and weaknesses of each position group, what would you find the most surprising?”
Presented without further ado:
I mean, this goes without saying. If you had listed out the (presumptive) depth chart of receivers in 2023 to a fan in, say, 2018, they’d punch you in the face out of jealousy. And I say that with no disrespect towards that room at the time; it’s not like they were a bunch of scrubs, but of the whole room there were no players who opposing teams had to be actively afraid of. No absurd game-breakers, nobody crazy big or fast, no one who had a whole diverse set of skills and traits with which they could with which they could beat their opponent. Ya know, freaks.
Looking at the presumable depth chart now, the entire two-deep could reasonably have been WR1 five years ago. That is... insane.
That is... strange, one might say?
And then in the opposite direction.
I’ll preface this with the fact that I’m not condemning the secondary before the season starts, nor would it be fair of me to ignore that they had horrendous injury luck last season, nor would it be fair of me to ignore the fact that schematically this defense is “willing” (for lack of better words) to give up a big play on occasion in favor of letting teams march down the field and score six while also burning up the clock so doing twice the damage. And the latter part of that is something that I for one am totally down with (and have been vocal about that in the past), considering the construction of this team and the relationship between the defense and offense.
That being said, for many reasons including all of those, it’s impossible to disagree that the secondary’s role in this team has completely reversed from where it was five years ago. And after so many years of the defensive backs being ingrained into the identity of this team and program, it feels extremely strange — like, by the most visceral definition of the word — for them to be a relative weakness.
You mean to tell me there are no Jakes?
For a long time, the offensive line always had one little issue going that kept it from being a true strength, although there was a while under Petersen where their run-blocking when the guards would get pulling was an absolutely glorious thing of beauty.
Otherwise, though, they were always just... there. Not a massive liability, but not the strength that they’d need to be if this team ever wanted to level up. Initially that came from the fact that Chris Strausser as a recruiter missed out repeatedly on his top targets who had the talent ceiling necessary, even if he was able to get the most out of many dudes with much lower ceilings. Then with his firing and Huff replacing him, the basic talent level increased but the ability to reach those ceilings tanked. End result on the field: pretty much the exact same thing.
Now, when Huff was one of the few coaches DeBoer retained from the Pete/Lake tenure, many of us before last season had talked ourselves into believing that maybe, just maybe, Huff actually could be the on-field coach we always hoped he could be, and that well actually Lake and Petersen’s offensive schemes made his job way harder and with a more intuitive offense that Huff could blossom into the beautiful butterfly we always hoped for.
But I think mmmmm... all of us, myself included, were shocked when those delusions ended up being true?
“Holy crap, for once the ‘No no no this is actually a good thing because [insert extremely irrational justification for why a development that is almost certainly bad is actually good]’ is true?” It was h i s t o r i c. Scott Huff, you are historic. This has literally never happened before in the history of sports fans existing.
Now we’re looking at a team with genuinely quality depth, genuine high quality talent, and genuinely playing to their potential — or, when they hadn’t like the bit last season where Jaxson Kirkland came back at tackle but then slid back to guard where he’s ironically better-suited, adjustments were made to get them back to that.
Sure, I think it’s fair to assume there will be at least a bit of an adjustment period for the new interior starters, but all of these guys are high talent who still have as much experience as you could expect from “new” starters. Overall, that’s historically as good as anything you could hope for.
And after a decade plus of the O line never quite being what it could be, that’s strange.
Quarterback (for real this time)
Sorry, just had to commit to the bit and having a section that just was “no Jakes?” was too tempting.
But for real, it felt like for such a long time, Washington’s quarterbacks had been good at many things but have all had a key trait or a few missing that kept them from levelling up. How many third downs did we watch at post-Keith Price UW where we all just kinda assumed it wasn’t going to be converted? Or how often was there an opening that the Jakes Browning, Haener, or Morris (counts because that’s his middle name) couldn’t fit it into? Or how often was there an opening that the Jake Eason could’ve fit it into, but couldn’t identify? Not to mention the mobility.
Washington has had, in this time period, better than average quarterbacks. We’ve had good quarterbacks. But the thing with good quarterbacks is that after a while you forget what great quarterbacks look like until one walks in the door and can do almost everything at a high level.
Michael Penix is a third down king. He has the arm to do it, he has the brain to identify it, the feet to adjust it, and the coordination to do all that at the same time. Plus he’s a lefty. That’s strange.
Which position group is the strangest?
This poll is closed
On one hand, I hate to choose the one group here that’s moved in the less-good direction while the other three have all improved. On the other hand, it feels like the secondary here most meets the true, visceral definition of the word “strange.”
I will say that I think the secondary are in a better position going into this year than they were last season, for a handful of reasons; I think moving Mish Powell to the husky position makes sense and plays to his strengths, I think the corner personnel and health situation bodes better, and I’m cautiously intrigued by the idea of Dom Hampton at true safety.
That being said, even in the best case scenario for this unit, they still won’t be the spitting image of the death row secondaries we came to expect under Chris Petersen with Lake as the defensive backs coach. Simply based on the way this team is constructed — and exacerbated by the recruiting mishaps Lake ironically made in this unit when he was hired as head coach — that’s almost literally impossible.
And after this whole program’s identity was built around the defensive backs so integrally for so long...
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.