As promised here is the start of my fourteen part series breaking down the 2008 team position by position. Since so much is still unsettled coaching wise on the defensive side of the ball I am going to start off with the offense.
If there was a bright spot in 2008 it was the offense. We saw more scoring, more running, and more overall excitement than we have seen since Marques was a senior. I expect the offense to continue to improve in 2008 despite the lack of experience at the skill positions.
Everything starts from the QB position in the Pac Ten. Just ask Mike Bellotti how important Dennis Dixon was to his team this year? I give a lot of credit to the Oregon staff for righting the ship in time for the bowl game this year, but it looked like up to that time the Ducks would lose out after losing the services of Dixon for the season. Take a look at UCLA...the Bruins were just killed this season because of the depth at QB.
Washington will start this season with one of the top QB prospects in the country. Jake Locker is probably the most talented QB to ever set foot on the UW campus, but he has a lot of work to do in the off season to start living up to that accolade as a passer. Jake attracted a lot of attention last season because of his running ability. Jake gained nearly 1000 yards last year on the ground. The knock on him was his passing. Jake wasn't very accurate, and that lack of accuracy was a big reason the team finished a disapointing 4-9 last year despite leading at half time in eight games. For Washington to get to the next level Jake needs to throw the ball better, and all indications are that he will be able to mature in the off season into a more diverse player. Jake has plenty of arm strength, and he works very hard at making himself a better player. All in all he did well as a RS frosh last year in a league that lives, and dies at the QB position. If his WR's can hold on to the ball better in 2008 it will make things a lot easier for him.
Footwork, and release point are the area's Jake needs to work on to take his game to the next level. Take it for granted also that the game will begin to slow down considerably for him next year. There will be less thinking, and more reacting.
Have any of you taken a good look at Tom Brady this year....watch his feet, and watch his release, that will tell you the whole story on why he has been so effective. Another area Jake needs to improve on is play fakes. Dixon, and Tebow are the two QB's he wast most compared with last season, and both helped their teams with amazing play fakes.
Lining up behind Jake will be the very talented Ronnie Fouch who will be a very good QB before he leaves UW. Fouch will be a very adequate back up next season, and he will be a shoe-in to be the starter when Jake heads off to the NFL. There was rumor floating around in December that he may transfer to a place where he can play sooner, but Fouch shot that down by saying he is very happy at UW.
UW brings in two frosh QB's in 2008, Luther Leonard, and Dominique Blackman. In addition to that Kevin Prince will grayshirt in 2008, and be available for Winter 2009. Of the three Prince seems to be the one ready to play the soonest even though he has to recover from an knee injury suffered in the first series of the season. Leonard has a lot of raw ability, and a strong arm. Blackman is more of a pocket guy, but his speed should improve with conditioning once he arrives on campus.
The consensus is UW is now loaded at QB and Jake Locker should compete for a Heisman before he moves on to the NFL. Locker has a set of tools that is rare, and once his passing improves he may just be impossible to stop. Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano didn't get high marks last season despite the increase in scoring output. He needs to put together a better gameplan for 2008 to maximize what he has in Locker. UW needs to decide if it is going to be a spread team, or a smashmouth team. UW went to smashmouth against California and knocked the favored Bears out of the stadium.
If Locker goes down all is not lost because Fouch is an excellent player in his own right who is rapidly improving. Look for Ronnie to start pushing Jake this Spring.