Last week I found five positives in the Eastern win. This week, I found five more plusses. Some of them were continuations of things I saw in week one and some of them are new.
1) Chris Polk is a beast. This guy is probably the best running back the Huskies have had since Cory Dillon. He is tough between the tackles, almost always makes the correct read and decision on where to run, and he is strong as an ox. Polk is like Dillon in that he craves getting the "dirty" yards, those four yards that are anything but glamorous. But they move the chains. And if you do that 10-15 times in a row, you wind up consistently with 75 yards or so, and those are just the yards that occur between the tackles. It doesn't count the 2-3 carries where Polk gets through the first line and is able to bounce it into the secondary. Washington will miss him dearly after this season, and the success of the offense will largely depend on how healthy #1 stays this year. He gives the offense its identity, and he provides a young passing attack a ‘go to' section of the play book. Sark will need to make sure he doesn't pile up too many carries early in the season. 20-25 seem about right for now. It is a shame that Deontae Cooper got hurt again because it's pretty clear to me that he was the heir apparent once Polk departs. Don't get me wrong, Jesse Callier is a great change of pace back and is a solid collegiate running back. But he was not recruited to carry the brunt of the mail like Polk can or like Cooper could've. I think after two knee injuries, Washington will need to look somewhere else besides Cooper next year. That is part of the deal. Until next year, enjoy Polk because he is special.
2) Keith Price is damn accurate. His arm isn't nearly as strong as his predecessor, and his strength isn't throwing the ball on a line 40-yards to a receiver on an out pattern. But when it comes to accuracy and throwing the ball to good places, Keith Price is as good a quarterback as Washington has had in a long time. He has nice spin on the ball, he throws it to places where it's easy to catch, and he shows marvelous touch through his first two games. The "nose down" delivery from his early days is long gone, and he throws a beautiful deep ball. My hat is off to this young man for making these huge improvements from last season. Perhaps his biggest presence on this team is his personality. This is clearly his team. They respond to him in the huddle, he smiles and they smile back at him. Price is having fun and he's a very good leader by example. The offense is very obviously taking their cues from #17. It is hard not to fall in love with a 70% completion rate and a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio after those first two games. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for in accuracy. Price will never be a prototypical NFL quarterback because he just isn't big enough, but lord is he a fantastic trigger man for the Husky offense. Once his ground game gets untracked the sky is the limit for this unit. He just puts the ball into very good places for his receivers, and that's about as much as you can ask for.
3) Erik Folk is kicking with confidence. Perhaps the biggest edge you can take into a football game is a kicker that is reliable to get you points anytime you cross the opponent's 40 yard line. Folk has been automatic, and has shown great range so far this year. He has converted all four of his field goal attempts so far, including a long from 53-yards out and two clutch makes from the 40-49 yard range. He is showing a lot of swagger when he trots out onto the field, and taking on a new holder this year has not fazed him. He isn't strong on kickoffs, but that wasn't really supposed to be his job. If he can keep connecting on field goals at a high rate, Washington has a weapon that they can depend on for at least six points per game when drives stall. That is a huge positive. Polk's confidence had fallen off last year. It's nice to see it back.
4) Andrew Hudson is close to breaking out. Did anyone else notice #93 against Hawaii? He made an impact on the defensive line and even picked up a tackle for loss. He is still a tad undersized at 6-3 and 230 pounds, but one look at his chiseled frame tell you how strong this young man is. He is showing good quickness as well. He will be a sophomore next year and I have a hunch that he will be the guy opposite Jamora on the end of the defensive line that will start to get more and more looks. He is so explosive, and his wrestling background helps him hand-fight well in the trenches. He isn't getting off blocks as quick this year as he will next year, but he is getting very close to becoming an impact player. I'm excited about his future, but I'm seeing the potential for him to really stand up and be counted this season. He looks more complete than Shirley and more active than Crichton after two games.
5) Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I LOVE the way Coach Sark is using the true freshman. He brings a weapon the Huskies have sorely lacked in recent years – the ability to stretch the field vertically from the inside. He is a huge target with soft hands, and he is an extremely difficult option to defend near the goal line. When he runs that drag pattern in the back of the end zone, once he gets behind his man, all Price has to do is use his touch to loft the ball over the crowd and Seferian-Jenkins will go up and grab it. There is a lot to be excited about at the tight end position. I'm betting Washington will be able to hang onto this talent through the 2013 season, and over this season and the two that follow it, Seferian-Jenkins will become the best tight end in the country. He's just too gifted not to, and his coach will give him ample opportunities to show it.
Odds and ends…..the defensive stat sheet is kind of an abomination so far since the Huskies have faced two quick-pass happy teams thus far. I'm not sure many hope to see Desmond Trufant and Greg Ducre be third and fourth in tackles on the team. ILB Cort Dennison should lead the defense if the scheme is being executed correctly, and he is right there with 13 solo stops after the first two games. Those per-game numbers should increase as the Pac-12 season rolls on…..sticking with linebackers for a second, is anyone else kind of nervous about the play thus far on either side of Dennison? I know those guys are young, but unless the progress up the learning curve steepens significantly for John Timu, it's hard not to look down the depth chart to see what else is available this year. I have no doubts that he is going to be outstanding – I mean, he's a true freshman – but he is getting killed out there. It looks like Fuimaono on the other side is beginning to ‘get it'…..On special teams, two guys that are standing out to me are walk-on TB Cole Sager and LB Thomas Tutogi. Sager, a Burlington native, has racked up three tackles already while Tutogi has had several good hits already on returns. Watch for those two, they are doing some fine work on the coverage units….Did anyone else see that Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has fumbled five times already this year? That could bode extremely well for a Husky defense that could use some help against a no-huddle multiple-schemed attack tomorrow…..Alameda Ta'amu is a marked man. I have heard that officials have told him ‘If you use that cast and hit someone, you're going to get a flag'. That has to weigh on him before each snap. Hopefully that cast goes away soon.....Washington's lack of pass rush through two weeks could be alarming, but when you realize that the majority of the throws against the defense took about three seconds, that just isn't allowing much time for sacks or pressures. Any offensive line in the country can protect their quarterback for 2.7 seconds. I'm not ready to panic yet……Last but not least, is anyone else feeling lucky to have Sarkisian at the helm? My GOD this program has come a long way, baby……
Dawgs 2-0 headed to Lincoln
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