Scarlet Report discusses the Rutgers matchup with Washington alongside Dawgman.com editor Chris Fetters.
Q. What is the perception of Rutgers football right now among the fan base? How about within the program?
A. I haven't spoken to fans personally about Rutgers, but going by the general consensus on the Dawgman message boards, Washington fans seem to be in two distinct categories: 1) This game will be cannon fodder for UW, or 2) This is the ultimate trap game. Frankly, because the teams are on opposite coasts, the only real good information on Rutgers comes from those UW fans that are living out east that have seen them play a few times.
Within the program, Chris Petersen has been very direct in his assessment of Rutgers - he doesn't have a clear idea of what to expect. The most-often used word in Monday's press conference when asked about Rutgers was 'uncertainty'. There's uncertainty with the coaches and what they are going to scheme, there's uncertainty as to how the players are going to react to the new culture, there's uncertainty as to how Rutgers is going to react to playing that far away, etc.
There's just so many unknowns right now with Rutgers, Petersen was honest when saying this is not the kind of team you want to play right out of the gate. I think he would be a lot happier if Rutgers had been the third non-conference game instead of the first.
Q. How concerned is the coaching staff with so much uncertainty around the new Rutgers schemes?
A. Very. Although when it comes down to it, Chris Petersen did go back to a common answer that he has given in the past about having to defend a multitude of different offenses in the Pac-12 - Washington built a defensive scheme that is flexible enough to defend spread offenses or power offenses, but it's built on rules and those rules imply a lot of communication. Everyone has to be on the same page to make things work.
Monday he talked about how Saturday's game will be more about how they react to the uncertainties than trying to unlock the mysteries beforehand. Sure they've watched tape of Ohio State and Houston and other teams trying to find common schematic themes, and obviously all of last year's Rutgers film to study personnel, but in the end Petersen said every team is going to have their wrinkles. It's going to be up to Washington to make quick adjustments after the first couple series to make sure they have counters for what they've seen.
Q. Listening to your Dawgman Radio podcast earlier this week, you talked about Budda Baker potentially playing both ways. What kind of weapon is he? What value does he bring defensively?
A. Budda could be an incredible weapon on offense, but we haven't seen it yet. He was a legend at Bellevue High School, one of the area powers around here. He was a full three-phase difference-maker. In college he's just been playing safety, although he has had one kick return for 40 yards and could see more time on special teams this fall. At safety he leads the secondary, which is impressive considering there are a couple cornerbacks who will most likely get drafted next spring. His calling card is effort. He practices at 100 percent, just like he plays. The common comparison that's made is former Texas safety and current Seahawks star Earl Thomas - mostly because both are undersized but play bigger. He's put on about 20 pounds of muscle since the end of last year, and now he really looks the part of a big-time pro prospect.
A. The Washington offense starts with spread concepts, although they run the ball a lot too. But it's not a power spread like what Oregon ran, especially when Marcus Mariota was there. It's some zone read, but also some straight handoffs, tosses, things like that. And they will include some fly motion in there, especially now that John Ross III is back with the team. So the short answer is, it's multiple. They want to have a power running game when needed, but they will also push tempo from time to time to keep defenses off balance. But Jake Browning will be in the shotgun at least 95 percent of the time.
Besides Gaskin and Browning, Rutgers fans should definitely take notice of John Ross III. He'll probably be noticed more on special teams. He has three kick returns for touchdowns his first two years at UW before redshirting last year with a knee injury. He was hand-timed at 4.25 at UW's combine day this spring. He's a threat to go any time he has the ball.
At running back they have a mixed bag after Gaskin. Lavon Coleman is the bigger back at 220. Jomon Dotson is the next speed burner in line. Then they have two true freshmen in Sean McGrew (last year's Gatorade State Player of the Year) and Kamari Pleasant who could both play.
A wild card is Chico McClatcher. McClatcher is a receiver by trade, but at 5-foot-7, he was primarily at running back in high school - so he can do both. He's explosive and hard to bring down.
At receiver they have Ross and Dante Pettis - another player probably best known more for his special teams work than at receiver. Pettis led the Pac-12 in punt returns last year and has three returns for touchdowns in his UW career. Connor Griffin, Quinten Pounds, Andre Baccellia and Aaron Fuller are all youngsters that haven't really played yet, but show signs of offering something to the attack.
Another wild card at receiver is former Oklahoma transfer K.J. Young. He just got to UW in time for fall camp, so he's drinking water through a firehose right now when it comes to knowing the playbook. But he's very talented and he'll definitely play Saturday.
The tight end position at Washington is stacked. If you look at the depth chart released Monday, they have four listed as potential starters. The group is definitely that deep. Leading them is senior Darrell Daniels, who was the fifth-fastest UW player at their combine day. He weighs 246 pounds. The guy is a supreme athlete, originally came to UW as a receiver.
Q. Will this be the blowout most expect it to be?
A. I don't think it'll be a blowout. It's probably going to be a tough cover. With so many unknowns, I'm pretty shocked the line is as high as it is (around 26 or so). But if this UW defense - the best in the Pac-12 last year - is as good as they think they are, I'm finding it hard to see where Rutgers finds a lot of points. As long as Washington doesn't turn the ball over with short fields, I think the Scarlet Knights are going to have a fairly rough go of it. The secondary is absolutely legitimate, and they'll allow the defensive line to really take hold of the line of scrimmage.
I think Washington's offense won't crush it starting out of the gate: they had issues with slow starts last year, especially early in the season. It may take them some time to get their footing, but once they find a rhythm they'll be difficult to slow down. Gaskin is primed to have a 1500-yard season running the ball, and Browning is expected to make another big jump too in his accuracy and decision-making.
I don't have a final score prediction yet, but it wouldn't shock me to see something like 38-13 or around there. Comfortable win, but tough cover.