Posted on: November 23, 2012 1:23 am
The [University of Washington Huskies] improved their record to 7-4 this past weekend. After a lackluster performance in the first half, the Huskies got their act together in the second. That statement may actually describe the entire Huskies football season. Entering 2012, the Huskies were a much feared offensive powerhouse with a question only at running back. However, by the second half of the second game, injuries had decimated the offensive line and Washington was left scrambling to fill the gaps.
Over the course of the 2012 season, Head Coach Steve Sarkisian (known affectionately as Sark by fans) and his staff have navigated the FBS’s second most difficult schedule. Along the way, they've taken a young, inexperienced offensive line and turned them into an aggressive run-blocking unit. Yes, work has to be done on pass protection. However, considering the injuries this unit sustained at the beginning of the year, the results have been tremendous. Run blocking assignments are being met. Lanes are opening. The youth and inexperience has started to morph into strength and understanding. While the line is still - at best - only competent, they have the potential to be excellent.
This is due to the fact the kids are buying into Sarks program and recruiting is beginning to show its depth. This season isn't over and there is a burgeoning sense that next year could be special. With the explosion of Bishop Sankey onto the scene, the Huskies have a featured back that can pound it up the middle and beat-up on opponent’s defenses. Add to the mix superstars like Austin Seferien-Jenkins, Kasen Williams and - of course - Keith Price and the Huskies have all of the necessary skill to be dominant on offense.
Switching to defense:
What a difference a year makes. In 2011, the Huskies defense was a joke. While this unit is by no means Purple Reign, they have improved dramatically. Facing some of the toughest competition in America, they have shown moments of true grit. Yeah sure, they've been handled at times, but they've also improved on an almost weekly basis. With the added practice that comes with a bowl game, they could be a dominant unit next year. This is entirely the work of Coach Justin Wilcox.
Danny Shelton needs to be more consistent.There is no featured star on the Huskies defense. Although, Shaq Thompson is going to be a stud and will someday play on Sundays, he is still young and not a dominating force. Desmond Trufant will also play on Sundays, but again is not a game changer (highlighted by the fact the Huskies had their best game defensively while Trufant was sidelined with injury.) More importantly, if the Huskies defense is going to take the next step, someone will have to show up on the interior. Taniella Tupuo has the ability to do that, but he's young. He will need to work on the fundamentals and find a go-to power move. Danny Shelton definitely has potential. He had a career day with ten tackles versus LSU. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to duplicate that and has a knack for disappearing on game day. Josh Shirley has teased Huskies fans with his speed off the edge, but he may have lost a step trying to bulk-up. His sacks are off by three from last year and his total tackles are down as well. That being said, with Huskies fielding basically the same group on defense as last year, Coach Wilcox was able to devise schemes that kept them competitive. More importantly, the Huskies have a solid group of young interior athletes that could very well develop into a great defensive unit.
However, the answer may be in the future.
When Sark laid down the hammer on his defensive-staff last winter, he brought in one of the top recruiters in the nation as part of the replacement package. And, with the signing of Shaq Thompson, Tosh Lupoi paid immediate dividends. However, that may have only scratched the surface on his worth. To date, the Huskies recruiting class for 2013 is ranked fourteenth best in the country. Elijah Qualls is a 6'2" 279 lb. defensive tackle from Petaluma, Ca. He will be joined on the d-line by Daeshon Hall a 6'6" 240 lb. defensive end from Lancaster, Texas. Both have the ability to be a featured star at the collegiate level and possibly beyond. As impressive as they are, what’s most impressive is where the UW’s focus has gone. This class is stacked with blue collar recruits. Of the eighteen commitments, twelve are “in the box” players. They are linebackers and defensive, as well as offensive linemen. This should give the Huskies the ability to build a program that will contend nationally. In fact, it may very well lay the foundation for a return to dominance.