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NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

With the Bears taking on the Huskies in Seattle tomorrow, we asked John Sayler from some questions about the Huskies. Take a read below!

UW lost a ton of defensive talent to the NFL (5 draft picks just on that side of the ball, daaaang!) but has also been recruiting strongly on defense. How much of a step back (if any) do you anticipate for Jimmy Lake’s unit?

There are a few new guys out there, but Lake manages an 18-20 man rotation on defense. That means there’s a lot of returning experience. Cal is probably getting the UW defense at a good time with a few players starting only their second game. Also some are in a new role on the defense, so there will be some growing pains early on. I think Husky fans expect this defense to get better as the new players get up to speed with the veterans, and truly peak later in the year. But every new season introduces new chemistry, and these guys have to prove they can play together as a solid unit on every down. Lake has a great track record, but they still have to go out and prove it on the field.

What, if anything, did you take away from the season opener against Eastern Washington?

The Huskies were really solid in special teams, and had only five penalties. That’s the kind of stuff you glean from a game against a team like Eastern. Special teams were bad last season, and every phase was excellent in week 1. Other than that, it’s the fun “everything goes right” ass-kicking that Cal didn’t get to enjoy (thanks to those turnovers) against a pretty good FCS team. UW scored TDs on its first three possessions and forced Eastern to give the ball back on their first five. We also got to fan the flames of the Jacob Eason hype machine.

Jacob Eason and Jake Haener were in a protracted battle for the starting role this fall. What do you make of Eason’s inability to clinch the starting job early on in fall camp?

I make that Jake Haener is a really good QB, and that’s why he applied to transfer after losing the job. But the actual reason it took so long is this: That’s how Chris Petersen operates. Haener was the returning #2 so it’s his job to lose, and he got the first reps. The first few practices were open to the media (which keeps things super vanilla), and the two QBs were neck and neck (supposedly). Then Petersen shuts it down and we know nothing that is going on for the next two weeks. A few rumors were creeping out that Eason was starting to look like the guy, but Petersen is just super tight-lipped on everything. He might have wanted to wait to the first game to send out the starter like he did with Jake Browning in 2015, but possibly Haener asking to transfer forced him to make the earlier call. I’m sure Evan Weaver wishes Haener was still around.

After the departure of Haener before the season opener, how concerned are you about the depth behind Eason? Is one injury going to derail your season?

I’m the exact right amount of concerned. I’d call it “kinda concerned.”

I have faith in the two backups (redshirt freshman Jacob Sirmon and true freshman Dylan Morris) mostly because I have faith in Chris Petersen’s evaluation and development of quarterbacks. But the Huskies are now very thin at QB after two of the five they had in the spring are gone (Colson Yankoff already transferred to UCLA). You asked about one injury; one injury happens in the first half of the first game to somebody. What about three injuries to QBs? It happens. Eason appears to be as good as advertised, so yes, an injury to him would be a major hit. Overall though I’m more concerned about the lack of a scholarship #4 than who is #2.

Whom is the subject of ire for Husky Nation right now?

I can’t imagine many Husky fans would actually be mad at Evan Weaver for saying that shit about flying the team up here on his back and crushing the lowly Dawgs (may not be that the exact quote), but he might be having his judgement questioned by a few.

What does Washington need to do to win the game?

The Huskies need to be able to run the football. Last season at Berkeley, Cal held Washington to 2.8 yards per rush. UW didn’t have Myles Gaskin for that game, and they won’t have him this year either since he plays for the Miami Dolphins. That’s where this game will be won, the battle between the Husky offensive line and Cal front; and it’s not who starts winning that battle, it’s who finishes. If the Golden Bears are stout against the run (as they were at times last season) then it’s on the UW receivers to get separation against a really good Cal secondary. Washington’s pass-catchers looked great in week 1, but this aint Eastern Washington. If Chris Petersen gets the UW run game on track, then everything else opens up.

What does Cal need to do to win the game?

Cal needs to match Washington’s personnel groupings and stuff the UW running attack. Petersen and Wilcox will play chess, as the Huskies roll in three tight ends on one play, then go four wide on the next. If Cal can accomplish stopping the run (without committing more defenders than the Huskies deploy blockers) then it will be tough for Eason to find a lot of room to throw. If UW is able to move the ball on the ground, Wilcox will have to commit more players in the box and Eason will have the room he needs.

How do you see the game going?

I’m looking forward to watching these two coaches go at it, especially since one is a great offensive mind and the other a brilliant DC. It looks like Washington has the advantage at the quarterback position, at least based on what we have to go on in these two’s young careers. Garbers is a solid runner that can cause problems moving around, but I ultimately think that gets him in trouble one too many times and the Huskies capitalize. UW 24, Cal 13