Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Washington Huskies

Washington Huskies
The pieces all came together for the Huskies in 2016, and this once proud program appears to be back with a vengeance after some seriously average to dark seasons. With a trip to the national semifinal, Washington has cemented their place in the hierarchy of western college football, and nothing appears ready to knock them from their place. Other programs in the PAC-12 North are getting better, but Chris Petersen has laid his golden touch on this program, and there is no looking back. The only question is, can the Huskies stave off challengers in Washington State and Stanford in the North, while also finding a way to beat USC in the South, and in the end find a way back to the college football playoffs?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jake Browning is back at QB, and was a key piece in the rise to power in both conference play and on a national level. If you remove a game or two, Browning was right in the thick of the Heisman talk, and could very well be an early season top ten favorite for the award this fall. He passed for 43 TDs last season against just nine INTs, and passed for 3430 yards, or 245 yards per game.
Myles Gaskin exploded at RB as a sophomore last season, and will be back to carry the load in the run game once again in 2017. Gaskin rushed for 1373 yards and 10 scores last fall, all while averaging 5.79 yards per carry. Lavon Coleman also returns as the primary backup for his senior season after wrapped last fall with 852 yards and seven TDs. He also averaged 7.47 yards per carry.
Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher both return at WR as well this fall. Pettis, who is a multidimensional threat in both the passing game and return game, finished with 53 receptions for 822 yards and 15 scores last season, and added another two scores on punt returns. McClatcher caught 31 passes for 574 yards last season as a sophomore, and moves up one spot on the depth chart to replace John Ross.
The offensive line will have four upperclassmen starting this fall. Trey Adams is at LT, Coleman Shelton at C, Andrew Kirkland at RG, and Kaleb McGary at RT. Sophomore Nick Harris is the kid of the group at LG.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There are not many concerns, but one area to examine is depth at WR, where there will not be a lot. Losing John Ross is a huge hit, as he caught 17 TD passes last fall, and went over 1000 yards receiving. He was also the primary kick return man, where he averaged 24.18 yards per return, and he took one back for a score. Ty Jones, a freshman, may very well start as the third receiver this fall, and there is very little in the way of returning production on the bench.
The kicking game is being left in new hands as well, as Cameron Van Winkle has moved on. Tristan Vizcaino came out of  spring ball as the starter. He will be a senior this fall.
What To be Excited About: Defense
The three man front on defense seems to be in good hands in 2017. Greg Gaines and Vea Vita both return up front. Gaines finished with eight TFLs last fall, while Vita finished with another 6.5. Jaylen Johnson takes over at the DE spot, and picked up 2.5 TFLs as a rotational end last fall. With all three coming into their junior seasons, they all could be considered breakout candidates in PAC-12 play.
The Huskies are positively loaded at ILB this fall in the 3-4 set with the return of Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria. They combined for 137 tackles last fall, and added eight TFLs as a combo up the middle. Running on the Huskies up the middle ought to be a challenge this season.
The Safeties should be in decent shape, as both Taylor Rapp and Jo Jo McIntosh return to the field. They combined for 119 tackles last season, and should be one of the better Safety combos in the conference, if not in the nation.
Tristan Vizcaino will handle the Punting duties, as he did a year ago. He averaged 40.73 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Huskies, make no mistake, lost some talent on defense after last fall. They are going to be thinned out at OLB this fall, as Connor O'Brien and Amandre Williams, a RS freshman, are projected to start. Williams has the edge over the returning Trevis Bartlett, even though Bartlett played with explosive flash at times last season, finishing with nine TFLs. Camilo Eifler, another RS freshman, is expected to back up O'Brien, who finished with 35 tackles last fall. Bartlett finished with just 26 tackles overall.
The CB position will be a bit thin as well. Jordan Miller starts at one CB spot, but finished with just one PBU last season. Byron Murphy, another RS freshman, is projected to start at the other open CB spot.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Rutgers, 9/9 Montana, 9/16 Fresno State, 9/23 at Colorado, 9/30 at Oregon State, 10/7 California, 10/14 at Arizona State, 10/28 UCLA, 11/4 Oregon, 11/10 Stanford, 11/18 Utah, 11/25 Washington State
Final Overview
The Huskies will be thin at three very critical areas this season, WR, CB, and OLB. Even with those issues glaring, Petersen has placed the Huskies in the mode to win once again, and there is plenty of other talent around to help out where they are thinned out. With what is coming back into play this season, there is no reason to think that this football team will not challenge for another PAC-12 title, and make another run at a national semifinal spot. With player like Browning, Pettis, and Gaskin, as well s Coleman n the run game, the Huskies are primed for big things offensively, and enough talent is left over on defense to make some noise. This is going to be another big season in Seattle.

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