Friday, February 09, 2007

A Very Early Look at Next Season

You may say that it is way too early to get a guage on what things are going to look like this Fall. Recruiting has just finished, and Spring football is still a couple of months away but we are going to try to take a semi educated stab at anyway. This is the fifth, and final segment of our signing week series. (Photo of Jake Locker showing his power at Ferndale HS)

Let's face it we haven't had a stretch of QB performance this dismal since the pre Sixkiller-Jim Owen's days of the later 60's. The names Stanback, Paus, Durocher, and Bonnell will forever represent an era of inadequacy at the trigger position. Funny thing though is I really like all four of those guy's personally, all four hung in, had some good moments such as Casey Paus leading the Huskies to their last win against the Duck's. Bonnell's OT game last season against Cal was an instant classic even though we lost. Carl bounced back to lead UW to a win over WSU on the road which was sweet. Durocher had some meaningful moments this Fall, and of course Stanback was seemingly on the verge of breaking through and leading us to a bowl till his unfortunate injury. IS was a snap, or two away from beating USC on the road last year. You also have to mention Cody Pickett who had an injury plauged senior season that finished only .500. Who would have guessed that would be a high point in QB play over the last five years?

The era of Montlake Jake officially begins this Fall, and the redshirt from Ferndale will be expected to make big plays from the get go. From the day this kid hits the field till the time he leaves for the NFL he is going to be Washington's biggest playmaker. Jake has the ability to lift a green, mediocre team into a bowl, and that is exactly what his task is going to be next year.

You may say that is a lot of praise for a guy who has never taken a snap in a regular season college game. Locker is the best QB recruit Washington has ever had. Nobody before him, and there has been some great ones, had the complete set of skills this kid brings to the field. Think of Marques with a better arm, faster wheels, and better decision making ability. Sure he is a green, but he also studies the game, and picks up things a lot quicker than his predecessors.

Jake isn't going to get the job done all by himself. He is going to need some playmakers to emerge around him this year. Washington has some serious holes to fill, however they will be filling those holes with faster, and stronger albeit less experienced athletes.

Washington will be better next year. Another year under the same system with most of the same coaches should insure more wins despite another tough schedule. Nine wins for this very young group is very achievable despite another tough schedule.


The Skill Positions

UW went out, and brought in quite a few guys that are going to beef up the playmaking ability of this unit. Washington under Stanback has been scoring around 20 points per game which isn't nearly enough in a league of high flying offenses.

Locker, Houston, Hasty, Shaw, Homer, Reese, Goodwin, Boyles, Aguilar, and Izbicki.....these are first, and second year players that have the ability to give this anemic unit an immediate shot in the arm next season.

QB: Serious Upgrade

I was a big fan of IS and really enjoyed him till he went down last year, but Locker is a serious upgrade that will give us one of the ten best QB's in the country by the end of the year. Locker is a difference maker, and we haven't really had one of those lately. Ronnie Fouch is the lone scholarship QB recruit this year and will most likely Redshirt. He however is going to be here this Spring and will likely be the #2 until Bonnell gets back to full strenght from shoulder surgery. Walk on Chandler Clemmons will be here this Spring. The kid is a good get since he was a 3 star QB before taking a year off for a year to concentrate on baseball.

Newcomers to Watch: Jake Locker, Ronnie Fouch, Chandler Clemmons (Walkon)

RB: Serious Upgrade

Add Hasty, Houston, Shaw, Johnson, and Griffin to compliment Rankin and you have a serious position upgrade. This will be the first time Ty, and Lappano have had viable otions in the RB corps since they arrived. UW ran out of healthy players the previous two years. Rankin wasn't capable of being an everydown / everygame back when James was slowed by injury. You can't win a lot of games with only two horses in the stable. This year the stable is full.

Newcomers to Watch: Everyone but Rankin is new, Shaw is the most polished Frosh, while Houston, and Hasty have a year in the system. Johnson, and Griffin will also compete for time. Williams, and Yakaboski could all get early looks too.

FB Slight upgrade....The coaches have high hopes for Homer, but we didn't see him much except for on specialties last year.
Palaita is gone, but Homer, Kravitz, Sylvester, and possibly Yakaboski should be an upgrade. I think Homer can be an excellent FB who can lay some lumber, and catch some balls out of the backfield. The question is can any of these three guys block? It has been awhile since UW had a complete player at this position.

Newcomer to Watch: Homer played a lot on special teams last year. The coaches like him, watch for his role to expand. Sylvester could see action here too.

WR: Upgrade....You don't lose much, but you also don't know how much immediate help you have either till these guys hit the field in the Fall.

You add Boyles, Aguilar, Logan, and Goodwin to a senior rotation of Reese, Russo, Williams, Ellis, and Daniels, and you are talking about improvement. Bottom line is your adding speed and agility with the young guys, and blending it with experience. You lose Shackleford who was your most consistent receiver, and Wood who was a big play threat. We know what the holdovers can do, but you really look for the newcomers to break through to create some deep threats. Reese should emerge as a force this year on the outside.

Newcomers to watch: Anthony Boyles, and Devin Aguilar will probably play right away in a move to boost speed at the wideouts. Logan could be headed for Safety. Reese isn't exactly new, but the player you see out there this Spring should be ready to takeover.

TE: Upgrade....Experience counts

You keep all the same guys and sign an All American to bolster the depth so you are automatically better. Two years in the position should help Kirton become a better blocker, and more consistant receiver. You just wonder when the lightbulb goes off for Johnnie, he has the tools. Gottleib, Lewis, and Winter all played last year as the injury bug tested the depth of the unit. Sophomore to be Tim Harris from Chehalis has yet to emerge. Winter could move back to DE.

Newcomer to Watch: Izbicki could play right away if needed, but the Huskies are deep at TE. I didn't say extremely talented, but they are deep. Izbicki is the only member of the group who is the complete package.

Offensive Line

The Huskies return three, and lose two. The OL has been holding it's own but it hasn't been exactly improving very much from year, to year, in fact it has just been just treading water. You can't improve the line overnight, it takes years to do that. this year is a crossroads, do they keep treading water, get better, or get worse before they get better again?

This is the year that you would expect Gilby's class of JWF, Bush, and Bulyca to begin contributing, if they don't it means a longer wait, and some more early graduates next Winter. JWF has been injured since Frosh year and is entering his Junior year as an engima. When healthy this kid has all Pac Ten ability on both sides of the ball. His injuries are career threatening because you are talking about something that has kept him out two straight years. Bulyca got a few snaps last year and there didn't seem to be much dropoff when he was in the game. You have to wonder why they didn't develop a rotation as the season went on to help these guys gain experience, and increase the stamina of the unit as a whole. So far this class gets a grade of incomplete with a likely to fail.

Ty's experienced recruits are represented by So. Ossai, Jr. Mason, So. Rosborough, RS Tolar, RS Sedillo, and RS Habben. They were brought in over his first two years. Ossai of course started as a RS frosh last year and took plenty of lumps from the Pac Ten DE's. One Dawgman regular suggested that someone put a spring on Ben's ass so he could bounce back up after being pancaked. Just part of the learning curve for a guy playing two years early, he will develop into a good one. Mason came in late, and light last year so he took a RS year to eat at the training table, read the playbook, and get the system down. Rosborough is just a huge man with light feet. He will emerge before he leaves, but most think he has a chance to win a starting job this Spring. Tolar was in the two deeps as a true frosh. He could be one of the starting guards.

Ty's 2007 class will not have any immediate contributors which is common on the OL. It is led by Eweka, Schugert, Fancher, and Armelin. This wasn't an exceptionally highly ranked class with four, three stars, and a sleeper. That being said you never really know what the potential is till these guys have been in the program for a year, or two. 2008 is a huge year for lineman in state. UW could fill up most of it's class in state next year.

The Neuhesiel era still has a presence with Macklin, Berglund, and Garcia. All three will play important roles in 2007. The unit has lived on Rick's leftovers, and this year is no different. None of the three are all league, but Garcia could have a breakthrough year after finally playing a full season. Macklin, and Berglund weren't highly regard the year they were recruited, but they developed into guys who were worthy of playing time. This class gets a C Plus.

OT: Slight Upgrade....Same guys back, and experience counts.

UW played with basically the same five OL guys all last year, and two have them have graduated. The Huskies figure to start with Macklin, and Ossai, backed up by Berglund who is solid, White Frisbee, and Habben. Since we get both starters back, and have three potentitally solid backups we look a little better. We all hope that JWF can stay injury free and contribute next year, that would elevate the potential of the unit. You would really like to see some competition develop.

Newcomers to watch: If JWF, and Habben can compete for meaningful playing time this position is looking much better. A beefed up Mason could also move outside.

OG: Slight lose the top two and fill in with untested players.

We lose our two best OL in Daniels, and Walker. Neither were all conference type players, but both started a lot of games for a number of years. The Huskies will have five, or more players competing for one of these two open spots. Rosborough, Tolar, Mason, Bush, Sedillo, and Bulyca are the all in the competiton. I like the sound of Tolar, and Rosborough. Going in you have to mark this as a down grade because of graduation, and the loss of experience. We are going to have two starters who will be taking their first meaningful snaps next season.

Newcomer to Watch: Tolar was in the two deeps last year even though they didn't play him. JC Redshirt Mason has had a year to beef up and learn the playbook. The huge Rosborough will vie for time inside.

Center: Slight Upgrade

You have to upgrade a position with a returning senior starter coming back. Depth behind Garcia though is inexperienced. Bush was supposed to be a ready made Center but he has not emerged.

Newcomer to watch: None


Defensive Line

The Huskies have had some decent talent on the line. Wilson Afoa is a very good player, but someone needs to emerge beside him to help take off the double teams and free him up more. that player is expected to be RS Cameron Elisara. If that happens you start to have something in rootation with Reffert. People like the look of our DE's, but Gunheim didn't have a great year, he even lost his job to Brandon Ala as time went on. He stilled played a lot, but he wasn't the dominating presence he was expected to be. Teo Nesheim had a good first year as a starter and people noticed. What this unit needs is for a true space eating star to emerge. Someone like JWF was when he was a true frosh. UW has five men from this unit graduating in 2007 so keep an eye on how the young guys are doing, they will be the backbone in 2008. Hart has done a nice job keeping his pipeline full, but he needs a start to emerge.

DT: Upgrade...You return two experienced starters and blend in some new talent that has been aging for a year.

Afoa, and Reffert will start. Elisara, Lobos, Kosub, and O'Connor will vie for time in the rotation. You won't miss Mateaki. I think Elisara starts asserting himself. Lobos has never impressed much, and O'Connor is a candidate not get a 5th year. Kosub needs some more seasoning but Hart says he is promising.

Newcomers to Watch: Elisara has the tools to be an All Pac Ten Beast. Is he ready to challenge for a starting spot after a RS year? Nick Wood is strong and agile enough to compete for playing time if needed.

DE: Slight Upgrade....experience counts, and you have some new faces that should compete.

Gunheim, and Teo Nesheim return. Both are a little undersized but have big motors. Another year of experience and growth should help these guys improve. Rayford, Atkins, Jones, Matthews, and maybe Winter fight it out for spots in the rotations.

Newcomers to watch: Atkins, and Jones compete after RS seasons. Matthews is a guy who could move up this Spring with his extra long wingspan.


This unit was improved for the most part last year. The emergence of So Butler, who will be flanked by Sr Howell, and the So Savannah/Jr Steven combo makes it solid with upside. Butler is a huge improvement over Bomar. Tuiasosopo was always the heir to this spot, but on, and off field injuries kept him off the field for two years. Expect him to develop into a solid backup. Trew had a good year and played well when called on.

LB: lose 1 1/2 starters and you replace them with better athletes who have a couple of years experience.

You lose White, and Bomar. I can see Butler, Howell, and Savannah/Stevens starting. Behind them you have Tui, Houston, and Trew. Youth was served last year, and we won't miss Bomar. White will get a chance in the NFL. I don't think we lose much overall, and we keep gaining speed.

Newcomers to watch: Matt Houston debuts after redshirting last season. Mason Foster's film showed a guy with an awful lot of speed and talent who could play a variety of positions.

Defensive Backfield

Talk about taking a hit, you lose two All Pac Ten quality players in Wallace, and Goldson. You mix it in with the reality that Ashley Palmer isn't going to get into UW, and you have a serious depth problem. What that means is this is the best place to be if you are a freshman looking for early playing time. How Washington did in recruiting this year will have a serious impact on this group.

CB: Slight Downgrade....We have more depth and experience. The addition of Davenport adds a lot of experience back there.

You lose Goldson probably to the NFL, and Fountaine. Fountaine I can live without. Goldson was a difference maker when healthy. Ray Lewis who also has an NFL career ahead of him returns and will be flanked by either Murchison if healthy, Davenport, or Mosley.

Newcomers to watch: Davenport will compete to start, and McDowell could be pressed into duty right away.

Safety: Slight Downgrade

All Pac Ten Wallace heads off to the NFL. Mesphin Forrester, and Jason Wells are the two remaining safeties as Ashley Palmer wont be attending UW. Experienced depth does not exist.

Newcomers to watch: Williams, Aiyewa, Logan, Foster, and Richardson will all compete for early playing time.


If there is one single area you can improve that will actually win games for UW it would be special teams. To put it mildly the special teams play of the Willingham era has been mediocre. It is easy to blame the coaches but one common cause of lackluster special teams play is the lack of surplus talent, and speed. I think some young surprises will emerge from the 2006 class to drastically improve the performance.

Kicking Specialties: Even

You lose "Lou" Braunstein, and Douglas who were good performers and replace them with Falk, and Ballman. I think it's even because of Braunsteins limited range, and attitude, and Douglas's tendency to get blocked, and outkick coverages.

Return Specialties: Serious Upgrade

Wood was really the lone return threat we had last year and we replace him with Goodwin, Aguilar, McDowell, Boyles, Logan, Johnson, Williams, and Shaw. Those are the guys that are likely to battle it out to return the football this year. I call it a serious upgrade despite the fact that it is a casting call because at least now we have plenty of new speed to audition.

Newcomers to watch: Boyles, Aguilar, Johnson, Shaw, and Goodwin.

Recruits who may play right away

Expect six to ten, from this class, not including the transfers to make an immediate contribution and, play next season. Here is a list of the most likely.
With Locker, and Bonnell ahead of them these guys won't see the field unless the latter two get injured. By the way it has been a long time since a UW QB was around the entire year. You would have to go back to Cody's junior year.

QB Fouch....Arrives in Spring and will get plenty of snaps.
QB Clemmons....Walk on also arrives in Spring
Both of these guys will play because it is their show completely next year.
WR Boyles....He could start if he learns the playbook quickly.
WR Aguilar....Has the ability to make an immediate impact.
All of these guys could play this year, but with three upperclassmen ahead of them I think they redshirt one, or two unless they return kicks.

RB Shaw....Game breaking potential
RB Johnson....Best speed of the three
RB Griffin....Good inside runner

These two physical guys are going to a get real close look.
LB/FB Sylvester....Arrives in Spring so could contribute early.
TE Izbicki....The complete package
Both kickers of course are going to play
K Falk....He will compete with Ballman for the job at place kicker.
P Ballman (JC)....Recruited as a punter, he can place kick as well.
McDowell is a good bet to RS if Murchison is back.
CB Davenport (JC).....Brought in to compete for a starting job.
CB McDowell....He has a lot of useful tools.
DT Wood....Strength could allow him to play early if needed
At least two of these guy's will get the early call at Safety.
LB/S Foster....Like Butler before him, could see early action.
S/WR Logan....Has the tools for immediate impact on both sides of the ball.
S/RB Williams.....Could end up on either side.
S Ayewa....He can hit people.
S Richardson.... Will get an early shot

No comments: