1. Jake Browning - what can he do right now? How good is he - and how good will he be in a couple of years? What makes him special?
Kirk DeGrasse: Jake has shown tremendous growth already from week 1 to week 3. Some of that is the staff opening up more of the playbook, but he's showing he can handle it. His arm strength isn't elite, but he shows very good accuracy, tremendous anticipation, veteran poise and surprising mobility. It's still very early in his career, and there's a temptation to go wild when projecting his career growth, but Washington hasn't seen a QB with his kind of passing acumen since at least Cody Pickett. It's not hard to imagine him breaking all Husky passing records before he's done and ranking as an all-time great. I would imagine it's very similar to watching Goff in 2013.
Chris Landon: Jake Browning is a phenomenon. His frisbee golf game is remarkably advanced for his age and he makes a mean latte complete with pretty representations of flowery hearts. On top of that, he is already showing an ability to work progressions, move around in a collapsing pocket and to drop dimes in the arms of awaiting receivers. He can also juggle.
2. Should we be afraid, very afraid, or deathly terrified of UW's return game?
Kirk DeGrasse: I think "afraid" is sufficient. Washington was already down John Ross on the kickoff return team heading into the season and now the status of Budda Baker is in question, so the threat level there is diminished. That said, true frosh Chico McClatcher has the potential to be another very effective return man and showed a glimpse of that last week, and Dante Pettis is an established threat as a punt returner with 2 touchdowns already in his young career.
Chris Landon: Two words: doom and DOOOOOOOOM (did I do that right?)
3. Who will get the majority of the carries as your tailback? What do your different backs do?
Kirk DeGrasse: Myles Gaskin might end up getting more carries, but Dwayne Washington will probably start and get more snaps. Washington is the fastest player on the Husky roster with Ross out, and he's a home run threat if you give him a crease. He's also a major threat as a receiver out of the backfield and he's out best pass-blocker among the backs. His issues in the run game stem from him not having the lateral quickness of most backs, his vision still being a work-in-progress and being a rather tall runner - while he's very solidly built at 220+ pounds, he's also tall (6'2") and doesn't run with a low pad-level. He's more suited for power, counter and trap plays. Gaskin is much smaller at 5'9", 195 lbs, but he's got that lateral quickness Washington lacks, and while he's not quite as fast, he's fast enough. He looks more suited for zone-blocking plays.
Chris Landon: UW's running back situation is far from worked out. Kirk walked through some of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the a couple of the key players. Before we really know what we have with each back, the O-Line situation needs to get worked out. UW started three new players (RS Fr OG Jessee Sosebee, RS Fr RT Kaleb McGary and Freshman LT Trey Adams) and shifted their LT to OG last week. There might be more changes as UW tries to find the optimal mix of pass pro (which has been very good) and run block (which has not) capabilities.
4. How is the defense playing after losing so many talented players to the graduation/the draft?
Kirk DeGrasse: Quite well actually. Most outside observers assumed the defense would drop off significantly after losing Shelton, Kikaha, Shaq, Peters & Timu, but those close to the program were excited about the quality of depth coming back. Azeem Victor is flourishing with his opportunity, and the ILB is showing a combination of physicality and speed that compares favorably with guys like Mason Foster & Donald Butler. The entire LB group (and that includes hybrid OLB/DE players Cory Littleton & Travis Feeney) is very fast and has been playing assignment-sound. The DL effectively rotates at least 2-deep, and it allows them to stay fresh and wear down opposing OL. The theme continues in the secondary where Darren Gardhenhire and Kevin King are both capable starters at CB opposite rising So. Sidney Jones, and the Huskies are rotating multiple quality safeties (especially important with Baker's status in question). Obviously Cal's offense will provide a much greater test than what they've seen so far, but so far, so good.
Chris Landon: Take what you want from early season stats, but UW is first in the PAC in total D, scoring D and rushing D. You could argue that they haven't been "challenged" yet but, really, how many teams actually have? The big difference between UW this year is that fewer super stars are hogging more snaps and much more rotating in of talent is occurring. Husky fans have started calling them hockey line rotations and the staff has shown zero concern about bringing in the "second line" in critical situations. This unit is deeper and more robust than last year's, even if the glitzy front line stats are less impressive.
5. How are Washington fans feeling about the lack of highly rated talent coming to the Huskies program under Chris Petersen? Is his recruiting style meeting, exceeding, or falling below fans' expectations for this regrouping program?
Kirk DeGrasse: I suppose "highly rated" is subjective. Compared to USC, UCLA and the like, Petersen hasn't yet reached that level of recruiting success. But he's recruited at least as well as Sark ever did and with much less chance of those players being grade risks. His recruiting classes so far have averaged 3.00 (2014), 3.21 (2015) and 3.25 (2016), good for the upper half of the conference. If anything, most Husky fans have been pleasantly surprised at how well he's done on the recruiting trail, and he's trending upward. His classes for 2016 & 2017 will be small (17 for 2016, probably 17-18 for 2017) so the aggregate team recruiting rankings might be low for Washington, but by average star rating they've been quite good. Securing highly-rated players like Budda Baker, Kaleb McGary, Jake Browning, Trey Adams, Benning Potoa'e and getting commitments from Camilo Eifler, Luke Wattenberg, Sean McGrew and Isaiah Gilchrist has most Husky fans very excited, and they're still in the thick of it for guys like Javon McKinley, Rashard Lawrence, Devin Asiasi, N'Keal Harry, Byron Murphy, Chase Lucas and more.
Chris Landon: Is highly rated talent not coming to UW? Maybe you meant "highly rated Wide Receivers"? If so, we don't like it. Those darn Golden Bears are hogging all of the good receivers. I suppose we'll just have to load up on offensive and defensive linemen.
6. Cal is riding a 6-game losing streak to the Huskies. What's the primary reason this streak will come to an end this year? What's the primary reason the streak will continue this year?
Kirk DeGrasse: If the streak ends, it's because Cal's defense has improved enough this year to not give up as much as the Cal offense takes, the Cal run game keeps the Husky D honest and Goff has time in the pocket. When the streak continues, it will be because the Huskies get pressure on Goff and force him to move his feet, the Cal defense gets burned by Browning, the young Husky OL gels quickly and gets the run game going and the Huskies continue their excellent play on special teams.
Chris Landon: If the streak ends, it will be because we screwed up. If it doesn't, it will be because we are better. Isn't that always the way it works in football? Seriously, I think that Cal has a great chance to win because of the fact that UW has yet to really establish a consistent pass rush and we might be down Budda Baker. In addition, UW will have a hard time keeping pace with Cal's offense if the new O-Line can't get some lanes open for our talented RB corps. If it goes the other way, then you'll know it was because UW's D put an anchor around Cal's offense and dropped it into the Puget Sound.
7. Many of us Cal fans haven't watched much of Washington this year. Are the Huskies' strong performances in the last two weeks the product of a good UW team, lousy OOC teams, or some of both?
Kirk DeGrasse: Some of both. Sacramento State has declined and doesn't appear to be a very good FCS team, so there's not a lot that can be gleaned from that win. It's still early enough that it's hard to say how good Boise State or Utah State are this year, but the Broncos are considered the MWC favorites and the Aggies are considered upper-tier in that conference. The feeling around here is that if the Sacramento State and Boise State games had been flipped in the schedule the Huskies might very well be 3-0 right now. This is a young and relatively inexperienced team, and growing pains (particularly along the OL) are to be expected. But it's also looking like a rather deep and talented team, and one that should exceed the pessimistic pre-season outlook from Vegas bettors.
Chris Landon: We've been better than expected. I'll credit "act of God". And good coaching. Always good coaching. Just not good offensive coordinating. That hasn't been so good.
8. How much do you enjoy Sark's periodic faceplants at USC? Do you all enjoy the schadenfreude or are you unfazed (i.e. too civilized to admit you love every second of it)?
Kirk DeGrasse: I don't personally enjoy it - I give him credit for the work he did in reviving this program and I don't begrudge him leaving for his dream job. I also don't miss him - Chris Petersen is an upgrade in every possible way. I'm in the minority though - there are a LOT of Husky fans reveling in his faceplants. I think those fans are missing the bigger picture though - I think we should hope he stays at USC as long as possible because that gives Washington a coaching advantage over the Trojans.
Chris Landon: The best part of Sark's faceplant, besides everything, is the Drunk Sark twitter account. Pure genius.
9. Whom do UW fans want to punch in the face?
Kirk DeGrasse: Hmm, as noted above there are plenty who would love a crack at Sark. But I'd bet there are more that would love a chance to take one last shot at Ty Willingham and Todd Turner for the damage they did here.
Chris Landon: Whoever broke Vernon Adams' finger. We'd like to see Oregon not win the North with its best QB in place.