KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Previewing the Washington Offense

Stephen Dunn

Hate U, Huskies.


This game has been circled on my calendar since January 16th. I wanted this one bad, more than any other on our schedule. I was ready to write this up and really spout off on the Huskies, all full of piss and vinegar.

Then the season started.

Now I'm just drained, bitter and sad. No piss and vinegar in here, although it feels like someone poured a bunch of each on me. I no longer relish the weekend. I dread it.

I can't even enjoy this game now. And THAT is what grieves me the most.

2012 THUS FAR: 4-4 (2-3 in PAC-12)

Week 1: Won vs San Diego State (21-12)

Week 2: Lost @ LSU (3-41)

Week 3: Won vs Portland State (52-13)

Week 4: Won vs Stanford(17-13)

Week 5: Lost @ Oregon (21-52)

Week 6: Lost vs USC(14-24)

Week 7: Lost @ Arizona (17-52)

Week 8: Won vs Oregon State (20-17)

2012 OFFENSIVE STATS

Passing: 196.1 Yards/Game (95th)

Rushing: 126.13 Yards/Game (97th)

Scoring: 20.6 Points/Game (105th)

QB

STARTER: Keith Price, Junior - 6'1, 202 lbs

After a 2011 season where he threw for over 3000 yards and 33 touchdowns, Price was being touted as a darkhorse Heisman candidate going int 2012. Not so much now. Through eight games, he's completing just over 60% of his passes after a 67% completion percentage last season. He's thrown 8 touchdowns, but also 9 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 111.17...compared to 161.92 last season, good enough for 7th nationally. He's been sacked 21 times this season, but that number would be higher if he wasn't very good at eluding pressure. Strange to see him performing at a much a lower level from last year, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't derive some pleasure from it. So what happened? Well, here's a few theories. A crappy offensive line got crappier. Stud running back and big fat workhorse Chris Polk departed for the greener pasture of NFL Free Agency, leaving Price as a the primary focal point for opposing defenses. His top two receivers from 2011 (Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse) also moved on to not being drafted, forcing Price to develop chemistry with a talented but less inexperienced crop of wideouts. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier also moved on, taking the same gig at Alabama, where he seems to be doing okay. An improved Nick Holt-less defense has taken much of the pressure off of Price too, so he isn't forced to do as much. These are just some of the possible reasons that the going has been a bit tougher this year and why Price's numbers and production are so down. I have my own theory though. Much like the Great White Shark, Keith Price has five rows of teeth inside his giant mouth. With roughly 300 teeth jostling for position, it can get a little uncomfortable...not to mention a little hard to clearly call plays. Yes, in addition to the game of football, Keith has been playing his own personal game of chubby bunny using all the dentin filling up his big ole suckhole. That totally explains some of the inconsistency, miscommunication and mental lapses seen from Price this year. A little selfish maybe, but each to their own. That's my theory, any way.

UPSIDE: Mobility, arm, could eat an ear of corn in like 3 seconds.

DOWNSIDE: Decision-making, protection, experienced depth

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Price has been up and down this year, but looked better last week. He's struggled with finding the open receiver, and his accuracy isn't near where it was last year. Sark has resorted to using lots of motions and even a diamond formation to try and get receivers into space for Price to find. And he has some very good targets in the receiving game. Many of his issues would seem to stem from having little time to survey the field. With improved OL play, Price should have more time to make better reads. It'll be on our front 7 to ensure that doesn't happen. I'd like to see us bring pressure whenever possible. Price's yards per attempt has dropped from 8.5 last year to 5.7, meaning Washington has reverted to more of a dink and dunk passing game. If we employ a conservative zone coverage and keep their wideouts in front of us while also disguising pressure, we should be able to force a turnover or two. At the very least, get some sacks and put Washington into less manageable downs. Can we? Sure. Will we? LOL.

RB

STARTER: Bishop Sankey, Sophomore - 5'10, 200 lbs

I expected the running game to be a real weakness for the Huskies this year, but that hasn't been the case. With Chris Polk's fat ass gone, and both Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier suffering season-ending knee injuries, sophomore Bishop Sankey was thrust into the starting roles not so much on merit but rather out of necessity. He's earned it since then, though. Sankey has rushed for 666 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging over 4 and a half yards per carry. He's also demonstrated an ability to really be a workhorse, carrying the ball 19 or more times in 5 games this season. While not as fat as Polk, he's sturdy enough to run inside and be effective on the goalline. He's also quick enough to break some big plays though, as evidenced by his 61 yard touchdown run on a 4th and short that sparked Washington's comeback win over Stanford. He's used occasionally in the passing game too, and with more regularity in the last 3 weeks. He's got 18 catches on the season, but 12 of those have come in the last 3 games. Sankey's a complete back, and a good one. He's had to be, because the depth behind is weak. Two frosh, Erich Wilson and Dezden Petty, will spell Sankey when necessary...which would basically mean in garbage time at this point.

UPSIDE: Vision, agility, strength, not as fat as Chris Polk

DOWNSIDE: Depth, experience

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Forgive me if I'm not oozing confidence here. We've only held two of our 9 opponents under 100 yards rushing: an FCS team (Southern Utah) and Washington State...which is dead last in FBS rushing offense. We are not good against the run. We aren't exactly awful, but we do have the ability to make decent backs look much better than they are (Hi John White!). We're still dinged up in the front seven too, which doesn't help at all. We've shown a tendency to get worn down in run defense. Yes, some of that can be attributed to an inconsistent offense that sucks at sustaining drives and keeping the defense off the field, but it's starting to look like a discipline issue too. We get tired/discouraged/frustrated and we lose our run fits. We miss tackles, and opposing running backs make us pay. Sankey is good enough to make us pay, and Sark showed a strong commitment to the run game last week against a good Beaver run defense. It was harder sledding last week than it will be against us. Sankey should get at least 20 carries on Saturday. I think we'll start strong and then gas out. Seen it before.

WR

STARTERS:

Kasen Williams, Sophomore - 6'2, 216 lbs

Jaydon Mickens, Freshman - 5'10, 170 lbs

Kendyl Taylor, Freshman - 5'10, 200 lbs

Washington has had to replace 3 of 2011's top 4 wideouts, and has done so with more youth and athleticism. Both Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar graduated, while James Johnson was lost for the season due to a wrist injury. Sophomore Kasen Williams is the top returning receiver, and has been solid thus far in 2012 with 46 receptions for 503 yards and 4 touchdowns. Williams isn't a burner, but he's big, strong, and has the leaping ability and body control to make him an ideal possession receiver and tough matchup for smaller corner backs. While Williams may lack speed, true frosh Jaydon Mickens does not. While just a little guy, Mickens is a burner who is extremely dangerous in space. He's got 15 catches for 112 yards on the season, but will also be utilized in the running game on jet sweeps and is also a primary kick returner for the Huskies. He's had issues with consistency, which should be expected of a true freshman. I've elected to also include frosh Kendyl Taylor here, though he has played some running back in addition to receiver at various times this year. As you would assume, Taylor is a very versatile guy, much like Mickens...but bigger. He has 18 rushes for 107 yards and 10 catches for 59 yards. He'll often line up in the backfield and run flare or wheel routes to get into space. He's not as fast or explosive as Mickens, though. Expect to also see JAGs like Marvin Hall, DiAndre Campbell and Cody Bruns cycling in at various times. Sure, they could record a catch here and there...but it's guys like Williams, Mickens, Taylor, and the big galoot that I'll cover shortly that should be the focal points in the passing game.

UPSIDE: Athleticism, talent, versatility

DOWNSIDE: Experience, derps

WHAT TO EXPECT:

There's enough talent here to hurt us, but this group has been inconsistent. Between drops and Price struggling to find open receivers, there's been a healthy disconnect in this facet of the offense. Still more than enough to move chains and break plays open though. As I stated earlier, I'm relatively comfortable playing a soft zone in coverage as long as we keep a dude like Mickens in front of us...and that includes after a catch. We'll need to finish tackles in space, because the UW receivers will make us pay if we don't. I could point to a few different ways that I think Washington could beat us on Friday, but getting torched through the air and by this group isn't the utmost of my concerns. Sorry, tired and disheartened makes it hard to care about every little thing.

TE

STARTER: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Sophomore - 6'6, 266 lbs

The brow of a Seferian and the athleticism of a Jenkins. OH MY. He's big and good. Still. Last season as a true frosh, The Hyphen totaled 41 catches for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns. This season, he's already almost matched that reception total with 40 catches for 478 yards and 3 scores. He's had a couple quiet games, but he's also been nursing an ankle injury he sustained against Oregon a couple weeks back. He seems visibly uncomfortable and less mobile. Luckily, he's still enormous and an utter mismatch for all defenders who aren't 6'6 and relatively fleet of foot. Backing him and up and appearing from any doble tight end formations is fellow Sophomore Michael Hartvigson, who at a healthy 6'6/255 is no slouch himself His work has been pretty limited this year in the passing game, but he's a quality run-blocker.

UPSIDE: More size and talent than Jerramy Stevens...without all the DUI's and rapeyness

DOWNSIDE: Soft.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

If the Stanford game was any indication as to how we're dealing with tight end coverage, the assignment will fall on either a safety (Avery Sebastian or Michael Lowe) or possibly the nickel back (Josh Hill). I don't much care for that, personally. Kodiak proposed utilizing LB Jalen Jefferson in coverage a couple weeks ago, and given his speed and additional size I'd say that's a fine idea. Sadly, I doubt our staff will give it a whirl this week, despite the fact that we've struggled with tight end pass coverage the last several years..including against this same guy when he took us for 54 yards and two touchdowns. It's interesting to note that ASJ's weakest game of the season came in the win over Stanford, where he was held to just 10 yards on 2 catches. The main reason for the lack of production was the fact that he was frequently kept in to block and help protect Price. So all we really have to do is rush the passer as effectively as Stanford did. I hate everyone.

OL

STARTERS:

LT- Micah Hatchie, Sophomore - 6'5, 295 lbs

LG-Dexter Charles, Freshman - 6'4, 292 lbs

C-Drew Schaefer, Senior - 6'4, 294 lbs

RG- Mike Criste, Sophomore - 6'5, 295 lbs

RT- Ben RIva, Sophomore - 6'6, 302 lbs

The group was gutted by injuries both prior to and early in the season, but is now starting to gel a bit. The left side of the line has stayed pretty consistent with Sophomore Micah Hatchie starting all 8 games at left tackle in his first season as a starter, and redshirt freshman Dexter Charles has started 7 games this season, with the last 6 starts coming at left guard. Center Drew Schafer is the elder statesmen of the group and has started the last 39 games of his career, dating back to the 2009 season. The right side of the line has been in flux, but last week's combo seemed to fare pretty well. Sophomore Mike Criste is a versatile guy who was a backup center in 2011, but made his first career start at right tackle against Portland State in week 3. He started at right guard last week after getting time there against Arizona. Fellow sophomore Ben Riva suffered a broken forearm in week 1 against San Diego State and missed the next 5 games before returning to his right tackle spot against Arizona. As a unit, they did a pretty good job against a good Oregon State defensive front last week, surrendering just two sacks and helping out the running game in the first half. On the year, they've surrendered 21 sacks. While the offensive numbers have been pretty pedestrian for the Huskies thus far, this is a young group who haven't had the benefit of playing next to each other as consistently as most offensive lines do. They're not very good, but they're also pretty young and seem to be improving.

UPSIDE: Run-blocking

DOWNSIDE: Youth, experience, healthy depth

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Hell if I know. I'd like to think we match up well in the trenches with the Huskies...if nowhere else. But they really did do a nice job against Oregon State...who is pretty stout against the run and features DE Scott Crichton, the conference leader in sacks. They held him to just 3 tackles and no sacks...something I wouldn't have expected prior to this week. They've also undergone a bit of a trial by fire, facing tough fronts at LSU, and against Stanford, SC and Oregon. They're not gonna bat an eye facing us at this point. I do think that stopping the run will be critical this week, and a busy defensive line that soaks up blockers to free up our linebackers to make tackles will key in achieving that. If we can keep Sankey quiet, that will put pressure on Price to make plays, something he hasn't responded all that well to this season. Sadly, I have an sinking feeling that a scenario similar to the Stanford game plays out here...with our offense struggling and the defense wearing down until the Husky running game starts having its way with us. This is where we are. Sadz.

IN SUMMARY

Hopefully I've made my feelings towards this game about as obvious as if I'd written them on the walls with my own blood. I hate it. And I hate that I hate it. But what fun is a game like this when you have no confidence in your team's ability to win? None, IMO. It's my own fault for caring a little too much. So...sorry for being a downer or whatever.

At the end of the day, Washington is a poor offensive team. And they're shitty on the road. But they're young, and there's plenty of talent on this side of the ball. We saw that last year. They're not all that good of a team overall. Really. But they're playing a whole hell of a lot better than we are right now, because we're bad. There's always the chance that we pull a UCLA-type performance out of our butts tomorrow night, but I doubt it. I've seen little this season to suggest we've got it in us at this point.

I'm not telling anyone how to root. If you're an optimist, keep working out the scenarios of how we backdoor our way into the PAC-12 Championship Game. If you're a pessimist, keep drinking and sharpening your pitchfork. I'm just ready for this to be over. Soon. Just get me to November 18th so I can start feeling some hope again.

GO BEARS.

A SPECIAL MESSAGE

And to all of my Husky friends...I'm aware you're no strangers to being low. I'm sure my sad words bring back some memories of your epic 0-12 season from back in 2008. I know you've been down in the dumps before, and what it's like.

Let me just assure you...that you'll be feeling all these feelings again really soon. Like, 2 years or so. Maybe Sark owns Tedford, but so does more then half the conference. Your coach is not special. Your team is not "on the rise". Believe me. I've seen this all before. We're not so different, and neither are our coaches. Remember that, and despair.

So enjoy your little stretch of better recruiting and headscratching on-field performances while you can. And go fuck yourselves.

hugs,

MBC

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