Five questions as the Huskies begin fall football camp
The Washington Huskies will open football practice on Monday. Chief among the questions facing the team: Will the defensive improvement in the spring continue in games this fall?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Space limitations related to the continuing renovation of Husky Stadium mean that for the first time since Steve Sarkisian became coach in 2009, fans will not be able to attend any of Washington's preseason practices.
So that means the general public will not get a chance to see the 2012 Huskies until UW opens the season Sept. 1 against San Diego State at CenturyLink Field. (Media, as in the spring, will be allowed to view the majority of workouts.)
The key issues facing the Huskies are hardly a secret, though, as they prepare to open practice Monday.
What's the makeup of the offensive line?
This became the issue of the spring when guard Colin Porter was forced to retire because of shoulder problems, and injuries left several others either limited or on the sideline completely. The good news is that all but Porter should be ready to go when camp begins.
That includes left guard Colin Tanigawa, who suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the year against Oregon State. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said in an interview on KJR-AM this week that Tanigawa has been cleared for full participation.
Still, the line is far from settled. The Huskies finished spring practice with two untested players at tackle — redshirt sophomore Ben Riva on the right side and sophomore Micah Hatchie on the left. Sarkisian said at Pac-12 media day last week that Tanigawa could be used at center and senior center Drew Schaefer at left tackle. Sarkisian said he hoped the Huskies will be able to settle on a lineup after the first two weeks of camp. Regardless of how the positions shake out, UW will enter the season with two untried players somewhere on the line, players who will get a quick indoctrination to college football with the Huskies playing in Week 2 at LSU, ranked this week as the No. 1 team in the USA Today/Coaches poll.
Who's the tailback?
Chris Polk, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons, is off to the NFL. And it's unlikely UW will depend on just one player to replace him.
Junior Jesse Callier and sophomore Bishop Sankey ended the spring "1A and 1B," in the words of running-backs coach Joel Thomas, and those two will likely be at the head of a committee that will attempt to replace the production of Polk, who finished 57 yards off Napoleon Kaufman's career record with 4,049 yards in three seasons.
A wild card is sophomore Deontae Cooper, a star of the spring and early fall camp in 2010 before suffering an ACL tear, and then another in 2011. Sarkisian said he should be cleared for some participation when fall camp begins, and if he can quickly shake off the rust, he could emerge as a factor.
Was the defensive revival of the spring for real?
When last seen in the spring game, the UW defense was dominating, a welcome sight for fans who suffered through the team allowing a school-record 467 points in 2011. The offensive-line issues and a basic offensive game plan surely contributed. So did going against an offense still searching for playmakers to replace Polk and receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Still, the defense left the spring with a needed dose of confidence and appearing to have reason for optimism on the front (particularly in the play of young players such as sophomore end Josh Shirley and tackle Danny Shelton) and the secondary (which returns all but one significant contributor).
And players praised the changes in philosophy and style of new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and his staff, schemes that will include more 3-4 schemes.
The return of injured players such as end Hau'oli Jamora and the addition of heralded newcomers such as safety Shaq Thompson will help more.
Who is the backup QB?
The Huskies are set at quarterback, with junior Keith Price, who established a number of school records last season (such as 33 touchdown passes). But with Nick Montana's decision in January to transfer, there is no one else on the roster who has played a down at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Derrick Brown was the only other scholarship QB on the roster in the spring and will enter the fall as the backup. But Sarkisian said at media day the backup spot will be an open competition between Brown and incoming freshmen Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island and Cyler Miles of Denver.
Sarkisian said he might limit Price at times during camp to give more practice reps to the younger quarterbacks.
Who are the kickers?
Washington lost three kickers off last year's team, kicker Erik Folk, a three-year starter, and punters Kiel Rasp and Will Mahan, who combined to handle the duties since 2009.
The trio gave UW a reliable kicking game the past three years. Folk ended his career No. 4 on UW's all-time list for field goals made and Rasp left with the best average per punt in UW history at 44.4.
The expected replacements — JC transfer kicker Travis Coons and freshman punter Korey Durkee — were not around in the spring.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|2012 UW schedule|
|All home games at CenturyLink Field.|
|Sept. 1||San Diego St.||7:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 8||at LSU||5 p.m.|
|Sept. 15||Portland St.||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 27||Stanford||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at Oregon||TBA|
|Oct. 20||at Arizona||TBA|
|Oct. 27||Oregon St.||TBA|
|Nov. 2||at Cal||6 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Colorado||TBA|
|Nov. 23||at WSU||12:30 p.m.|
|All times subject to change|
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 4, 2012, was corrected Aug. 5, 2012. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Ben Riva is a redshirt freshman. He is a sophomore.