In preparation for this Saturday's Hawaii-Washington game, I flagged down Anthony Cassino, (who was riding a majestic Husky) of UW Dawg Pound to talk about what we can expect out of the Huskies not only this Saturday, but for the 2014 season.
CT: The Quarterback position has been up in the air since the departure of Keith Price. It was thought Cyler Miles would take up his role under center, but offseason troubles caused him to be suspended for the team for almost all of this spring, and he will be held out of the Hawaii game this weekend. Jeff Lindquist was named the starter a week ago...is this the right decision? And do you think Cyler wins the job back next week?
AC: I think that Miles will earn the starting job starting next week, but Jeff Lindquist is right there with him. They were both four star recruits coming out of high school and at the Elite-11 camp Lindquist -- not Miles -- earned Elite-11 honors. Lindquist is actually a better thrower of the football than Miles, though not quite as gifted athletically.
CT: Another player you guys will be missing this year is Bishop Sankey. He was an All-American who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards last year and carried the Huskies rushing attack in 2013. Now with him gone to the NFL, where does the UW RB group stand right now? What needs to happen for them to come close to the production from last year?
AC: Chris Petersen has maintained that the running back position will be by committee, with as many as four guys being contributors. However, Dwayne Washington is the #1 on the depth chart, and he's the guy most think will ultimately separate himself from the others. He's both the biggest and the fastest, and as a converted wide receiver he's also probably the most versatile.
The biggest thing they've got going for them in attempting to replace Sankey's production is that the entire offensive line that paved the way for him is back. The backfield is talented, and with help from a more mobile quarterback they should have a chance to be nearly as explosive on the ground as they were a year ago.
CT: A lot of new faces on the sidelines this year, with new HC Chris Petersen bringing his staff from Boise State to Seattle. What changes can we expect from the style of play on both sides of the ball?
AC: Schematically the team is expected to look a lot like it did under Steve Sarkisian in 2013. Boise State under Petersen had been moving to more shotgun-no-huddle of late, and new offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith has installed an offense at Washington that is very much like what the Huskies did a year ago. On defense, UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski coached under UW's 2013 DC Justin Wilcox at Boise State, and is essentially continuing the same schemes Wilcox ran at UW.
CT: Switching over to the defense, Hau'oli Kikaha is back along with the bulk of the front seven from last year. What can we expect out of this unit in 2014?
AC: The defense should be the strength of the Husky team, especially early on in the year. They have four total All-American candidates in Kikaha, DT Danny Shelton, LB Shaq Thompson, and CB Marcus Peters, and the front seven is loaded, as you mentioned. Six out of seven are back, and the one guy they lost is being replaced by a player who earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 two seasons ago. This defense was destructive against the pass last year, being in the top 10 of yards per pass attempt allowed and fourth in the country in sacks. The sacks should still be there, but the secondary has to replace three members, so there will likely be some growing pains there.
CT: Talk about 4-star true frosh Budda Baker. He's listed as the starting safety on the Week 1 depth chart for this weekend, what kind of impact can he make in his first year at UW?
AC: Baker has been on the radar of UW fans for a long time now. He played at one of the best high school programs in the country in Bellevue HS, and hasn't lost a football game since he was in the 7th grade. Some will tell you he's the best pure athlete to come out of the state of Washington in a decade or so. That he earned a starting spot as a true freshman over a some guys who played quite a bit a season ago does a good job of supporting that.
The nature of the safety position means that Baker will have plenty of opportunities to make plays in both pass defense and in run support, but conversely could have mistakes which open the Husky defense up for big plays. I would not be any more surprised to see him blow a coverage or two in his first collegiate game than I would be to see him force a turnover or two.
CT: Washington has been very consistent in a always tough Pac-12 conference, what are the expectations for the Huskies in 2014?
AC: The talent level of UW's roster is better than any team they've fielded since they last went to the Rose Bowl in the 2000 season. Add to that a pretty favorable schedule, and the expectations are pretty high for this season. Most fans' expectations lie somewhere around 10 wins or so, and contention for a Pac-12 North crown is a real possibility.
CT: Hawaii and Washington have played each other just four times in their histories, what is your prediction for this Saturday's game?
AC: I think that the talent difference on the two rosters will be too much for Hawaii to overcome. The Huskies should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and even if they struggle breaking any big plays early, they should be able to wear the Warriors down and pull away late, winning by a few scores.