Perhaps no one person is more important to a college football program in the country than Jake Locker. A sensation as a redshirt freshman last year, he rushed for 986 yards to set school and Pac-10 records for rushing by a quarterback. He also threw for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns to go with his 13 rushing TDs. The Huskies have and will continue to greatly miss Locker after he went down with a right (throwing) thumb injury sustained while blocking on an end-around against Stanford. Such has been the luck of U-Dub football lately.
As a result, the team turns to sophomore Ronnie Fouch (6'1", 203 lbs) to lead the way for the rest of the season. So far, Fouch has completed 65 of 132 passes for 880 yards while posting a 4:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. He was the scout team's player of the year last year and made every trip to road games while dressing for every contest. Should the Huskies luck continue to sour, walk-on Taylor Bean would get the nod if anything should happen to Fouch.
The ground attack registered some nice numbers in 2007, but lost the services of standout tailback Louis Rankin, who ran for nearly 1,300 yards last season, to graduation. Sophomore Brandon Johnson served as the top backup a year ago and had the inside track on the starting position coming into the season, but has only rushed for 63 yards on 32 carries (2.0 ypc) and currently serves as a short yardage/goal line RB.
David Freeman and Terrance Dailey have been getting most of the reps lately and have proven their worth individually. Freeman averages 5.6 yards per carry on 27 rushes for 152 yards while Dailey has gone for 144 on just 30 carries, one having gone 59 yards for a score. Locker is still currently the team's leading rusher (180 yards, 3 TDs), but unfortunately for the Husky faithful he won't have the opportunity to add to those numbers this year.
The receiving corps wasn't all that formidable last year and Willingham had to replace his top six wideouts from the '07 squad. The Husky receivers are some of the most inexperienced in the entire nation, featuring two sophomores and four freshmen. D'Andre Goodwin has emerged as both Locker and Fouch's go-to guy, posting quality numbers such as 39 receptions for 498 yards and a touchdown. True freshman Jermaine Kearse leads the unit with two scores on 14 catches for 204 yards and fellow true frosh Devin Aguilar, who was a high school sensation in the state of Colorado, has emerged this season snatching 16 balls for 200 yards. Fifth year starter Michael Gottlieb returns at tight end and has caught six passes on the year for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Four starters are back on an offensive line which proved better than expected a year ago. The unquestioned leader here is senior center Juan Garcia (6'3", 320 lbs). Garcia has started every game the last two seasons and will again be flanked by solid guards Casey Bulyca and Ryan Tolar. Junior Ben Ossai (6'6", 305 lbs) lines up at the left tackle spot, while the new RT figures to be Morgan Rosborough, who has spot started in years past.
Only one of four starters came back from last year's defensive line that was up front and center in witnessing the Washington D giving up 446 yards per game last year. Improving on that figure has proven to be tough, but especially since the DL is often regarded as the most important unit on a defense. The lone experienced starter here is Daniel Teo-Nesheim, who could actually make a push for All Pac-10 honors after enjoying a breakout season last year. Teo-Nesheim (6'4", 265 lbs) racked up a team-high 8.5 sacks and 15 TFL a year ago and has continued to build on those numbers, currently leading the team with three sacks to compliment 34 tackles. Darrion Jones gets the start at the opposite DE and has recorded 13 tackles on the season. Johnie Kirton, and Cameron Elisara comprise the Husky interior line at the tackle positions.
Promising sophomore SLB Mason Foster leads the defense with 60 tackles this season, including 6.5 TFL and an INT. Donald Butler and Trenton Tuiasosopo split time at MLB and have tallied near identical numbers, combining for 77 tackles and a sack. Joshua Gage has filled in admirably a WLB for the loss of U-Dub's leading returning tackler from 2007, E.J. Savannah (broken arm), who went from being a little-used reserve to one of the better LBs in the conference a year ago.
In the secondary, while things look fairly decent at safety, the Huskies have huge problems at cornerback, which explains why this team allowed opposing QBs to complete nearly 65 percent of their passes with 27 TDs last season. Nate Williams is a good looking player that fills the nickelback role well, making 47 tackles so far this season, good for second on the team. Victor Aiyewa gets the start at the free, recording 17 tackles so far in 2008. Senior Darin Harris (SS) will again start on the hashes after combining for 166 tackles a year ago with former FS Mesphin Forrester (Venice HS). Forrester recently made the switch to CB to give help to the depleted unit. Matt Mosley and Vonzell McDowell earned starts a year ago with little or no success and will see some time on the outside this Saturday.
Husky kickers are only a combined 3-8 on field goals this season. Ryan Perkins gets the start, but kickoff specialist/punter Jared Ballman attempts the longer tries. Ballman is averaging 37.5 per punt while pinning six balls inside the 20. Jordan Polk handles most of the kick return duties, averaging just over 18 yards per return.