Depth Chart Predictions - Skill Players

SEATTLE - Now that the big uglies have been taken care of, we take a look at how the Washington Huskies shape up in terms of their skill players heading into the 2012 home opener September 1st against San Diego State at CenturyLink Field. This is who we are projecting in the depth come game time.

17 Keith Price 6-1, 202, Jr., Compton (CA) St. John Bosco
6 Derrick Brown 6-2, 245, RFr., Winchester (CA) Vista Murrieta
10 Cyler Miles 6-4, 223, Fr., Denver (CO) Mullen
5 Jeff Lindquist 6-3, 234, Fr., Mercer Island (WA) Mercer Island
14 Thomas Vincent 6-0, 201, RFr., Seattle (WA) King's
18 Erik Wilson 6-0, 194, Jr., Redondo Beach (CA) Redondo Union

There's no question who the undisputed leader of this position is, as well as the entire offense. Keith Price has become the heartbeat and the soul of Steve Sarkisian's offensive attack now at Washington, following in the footsteps of Jake Locker. The only difference between Jake's situation during his time at Montlake and Keith's is that Keith has some backup now. Derrick Brown has established himself as second in command and has really come along during fall camp. A battle was expected between Brown and the two stellar incoming frosh but one never really materialized during fall camp. What did happen is Miles securing at least the number three spot ahead of Jeff Lindquist. The 6-foot-4 Miles, from powerhouse Mullen High in Denver, has shown a playmaking ability and touch with finding receivers that he showed in spades while playing for Mullen but most would have expected him (as with most true frosh) to struggle with frenetic and often chaotic pace of the college game. But Miles has taken to it well and seems to have grasped the concepts early, allowing him to play faster and without thinking as much. Based on camp observations, it's going to take Lindquist a little longer to trust his reads and allow himself to play fast and loose, but once he gets it he's shown to be a remarkable competitor and top-class athlete.

Running Back:
24 Jesse Callier 5-10, 211 Jr., Downey (CA) Warren OR
25 Bishop Sankey 5-10, 200, So., Spokane (WA) Gonzaga Prep
34 Dezden Petty 5-11, 225, RFr., Carson (CA) Gardena OR
20 Erich Wilson 5-10, 188, Fr., East Palo Alto (CA) Serra
26 Willis Wilson 5-9, 188, So., Lakewood (WA) Lakes
35 Cole Sager 5-10, 218, Sr., Burlington (WA) Burlington-Edison
32 Deontae Cooper 6-0, 201, So., Perris (CA) Citrus Hill (INJ.)
31 Ryan McDaniel 6-0, 227, Fr., Torrance (CA) North (INJ.)

The loss of Cooper to another knee injury was a real blow to the depth at the running back position, but as offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau pointed out during camp, it was all based on potential. Cooper was a prolific high school back but has yet to take a live snap with the Huskies due to three serious knee injuries. So in a practical sense they didn't lose any production with Cooper, but his place and stature within the program is such that his presence will still be felt on the UW sidelines this fall. Callier and Sankey were the incumbents coming into spring football and they've done everything right through both the spring and fall to show that they are ready to help fill the gaping void in numbers left by Chris Polk. They may not be able to reproduce his yards and touchdowns in the aggregate, but they are going to take a big swing at it. At this point I have it listed as an 'OR' between the two, and even if Callier gets the first snap against San Diego State I would expect the carries to be shared pretty evenly with Sankey. One thing Callier has established over Sankey to this point is his ability to make something happen in the passing game, so that might also give him a very, very slight edge. The third back is a very intriguing battle between Petty and Wilson, who has come on very strong during fall camp. I'm inclined to think Wilson just might be the third RB right now but Petty has been there and knows what the coaches are looking for - so my gut tells me Petty may get the third RB carries initially but it wouldn't surprise me to see Wilson have more total carries by the end of the season. He's shown a lot of explosiveness and instinct running the ball so far in camp. Willis Wilson and Cole Sager are old hands now that can offer up a bit of experience and steel to the position in a pinch.

48 Jonathan Amosa 5-11, 233, Sr., Seattle (WA) Rainier Beach
28 Psalm Wooching 6-3, 219, Fr., Kailua-Kona (HI) Kealakehe
44 Pio Vatuvei 6-2, 281, Fr., Patterson (CA) Patterson
43 Cooper Pelluer 6-3, 230, Jr., Sammamish (WA) Skyline (INJ.)

Amosa has had a stranglehold on this spot for the last few years and he will go into the 2012 season as the clear number-one choice at fullback. His ability to block and pass protect has made him a favorite among the offensive coaching staff, and he's been known to catch some passes with those soft hands. How the coaches use Wooching and Vatuvei, two talented true freshmen, will be fun to see. It was thought that Wooching would come in and compete with Amosa for the starting fullback spot, but it's become clear during camp that he'll need some time to settle in. That being said, Psalm is a great athlete who could do some damage in space and his rugby background will be vitally important when it comes to the physical aspects of the position. Vatuvei, who normally plays on the defensive line for the Huskies, has been used as a jumbo blocking back for UW in fall camp. He had GREAT film running the ball at Patterson High School and it might be hard for Sarkisian to stay away from leaning on Vatuvei in short yardage and goal-line situations. He can move a pile.

82 Josh Perkins 6-3, 216, RFr., Cerritos (CA) Gahr

This is a new position for Perkins, a converted receiver. Josh has the frame to help in the blocking/pass protection game but still has enough speed to cause mismatch problems for linebackers. He's also a weapon in the red zone, as he caught a number of touchdowns there in fall camp. It'll be interesting to see how Sarkisian utilizes Perkins. I suspect he'll be more of a spot performer, and his time on the field will most likely be dictated by how successful he is in turning that spot into a true playmaking role.

2 Kasen Williams 6-2, 216, So., Sammamish (WA) Skyline
19 DiAndre Campbell 6-1, 198, So., Oakland (CA) Oakland Tech
11 Jamaal Jones 6-1, 188, RFr., Spanaway (WA) Graham-Kapowsin

Even though he's only a sophomore, Kasen Williams has quickly become the leader of the receiving corps this fall. Some of that has to do with James Johnson and Kevin Smith not being available, but outside of Price and Austin Seferian-Jenkins no one has worked harder on the field before and after practice than Williams to demonstrate his commitment to this season. Physically we all know what Williams is capable of doing, he showed it many, many times in 2011. But can he take his route-running and ability to create separation against the top defensive backs in the Pac-12 to the next level? That will be the next step for Kasen in his development. The same goes for Campbell, who started out last fall very strong and even had some opportunities in the first few games of the 2011 season before getting pushed out of the quality depth. DiAndre has a chance to really stamp his presence on this lineup with Johnson being out for the better part of a month. He needs to do well to start the season - not only to build up his own confidence and ability, but to earn the trust of the staff to keep putting him out there on a regular basis. Jamaal Jones has flashed glimpses of playmaking ability during the fall but not nearly enough for my tastes. He physically has what it takes, but he has to show that he can consistently show up, take the big hit and keep possession. He's not the strongest guy out there, so he has to show a little guile and craftiness to make his impact felt on the depth.

8 Kevin Smith 5-11, 213, Jr., Compton (CA) Centennial OR
23 Kendyl Taylor 5-10, 200, Fr., Chandler (AZ) Hamilton
15 Antavius Sims 6-0, 199, Jr., Americus (GA) Ventura College
27 William Chandler 6-0, 186, Jr., Sammamish (WA) Skyline
3 James Johnson 6-1, 197, Sr., Valley Center (CA) Valley Center (INJ.)

The return of Kevin Smith Friday to the lineup is a potentially huge move for this group. Outside of Williams and especially with Johnson out likely for the non-conference schedule, Smith is the only returner with substantial playing experience - and he will be counted on. Smith is the type of receiver who tries and overpower the game, using his athleticism, speed and pure ability to make plays. That's why he's been so dangerous in the past in special teams too. How quickly he's able to get back to the speed of the game and playing fast and loose will ultimately determine how much of an impact he'll have on the non-conference slate. The other piece of good news in all this is that the freshmen receivers - Kendyl Taylor and Jaydon Mickens - showed up for fall camp ready and haven't looked back. They might be the biggest revelations for the offense so far. Even though Taylor isn't a big receiver out wide he has shown an ability to get open and make plays when afforded the opportunity. It's clear he'll get plenty of chances this fall, as I expect both Taylor and Mickens to play a lot, especially if guys like Johnson and Smith continue to struggle with niggling injuries. Sims, a converted junior college quarterback, is one of a few 'X' factor players. It's doubtful he'll be fully converted into a true flanker or split end, but he's got a couple of things Sarkisian can exploit out wide - speed and also a cannon of an arm. Double passes, bubble screens and go routes could end up being Sims' forte during the season, but it's honestly hard to tell exactly what Sims may do at the position - and Sark can use that unknown against teams down the road. Chandler seems to have been in the program for a long time and he can give the coaches that bit of stability in the position if players start to go down hurt.

Slot Receiver:
7 Cody Bruns 5-11, 183, Sr., Prosser (WA) Prosser OR
4 Jaydon Mickens 5-10, 170, Fr., Los Angeles (CA) Dorsey
16 Marvin Hall 5-10, 181, Fr., Los Angeles (CA) Dorsey

This position is loaded with potential. Bruns redshirted last year but averaged nearly 15 yards a catch in 2010 so he can find a seam or two against defenses. His ball skills have always been a strong suit and his competitive streak was plainly evident when he set national records at Prosser. If Cody can get back to being that big-time playmaker again he will take a big load off the shoulders of Williams - who will no doubt garner a ton of attention this fall. The emergence of Mickens this fall has been nothing short of incredible. Who knows what will happen when the lights come on and the true freshman is playing on the big stage at CenturyLink Field, but all indications are that Mickens - who was a Semper Fidelis All-American last year at Dorsey High - is more than ready for the challenge and has actually embraced the moment. He brings big-time quicks and explosion to the position, as well as sure hands. His old Dorsey teammate Marvin Hall should not be a player lost in the shuffle. He was brought to Washington because of his speed and playmaking ability too, so if Bruns or Mickens should falter Hall will get a chance to show what he can do. There's a nice blend of experience and youth at this position, so what's left to be seen is whether or not that youth will be served or if Bruns will truly take ownership of the spot and make it his own as a fitting end to his UW career.
6 Desmond Trufant 6-0, 186, Sr., Tacoma (WA) Wilson
21 Marcus Peters 5-11, 194, RFr., Oakland (CA) McClymonds
3 Cleveland Wallace 6-11, 165, Fr., San Jose (CA) Oak Grove

Desmond Trufant, along with Sean Parker and John Timu, were named the defensive co-captains of this Washington team for 2012, and for good reason; Trufant has started 35-straight games from his cornerback spot, going all the way back to his true freshman season in 2009. There may not be a more experienced player in the Pac-12 period than Trufant - but now is his time to really put together the First Team All-Conference type season that he hinted at last year. Peters was expected to compete for a starting spot this fall after being named the Scout Team MVP as a true frosh in 2011 and a very strong spring on top of that - but a sore back hampered those plans the last few weeks. That shouldn't diminish Peters' potential role with this cornerback group; his athleticism and competitive streak were clearly evident up to the knock and the coaches also love what he brings to the position, so that's why I think he still plays a lot if he can stay clear of the injury bug. Ideally the defensive coaches would LOVE to be able to redshirt all three of the true freshman cornerbacks, and if players like Peters and Tre Watson are able to stay upright and healthy for all of 2012, they should be able to do that.

1 Sean Parker 5-10, 190, Jr., Los Angeles (CA) Narbonne
5 James Sample 6-2, 206, RFr., Sacramento (CA) Grant OR
7 Shaquille Thompson 6-2, 215, Fr., Sacramento (CA) Grant
34 K.C. Herren 6-0, 206, So., Auburn (WA) Auburn

It's a bit ironic that a group that looked to be arguably the strongest heading into spring ball has now been thinned to the bone - and due to no fault of their own. The linebackers group was so light on numbers that Nate Fellner, Taz Stevenson and Evan Zeger were all safeties moved down into the box for spring. But that wasn't enough, as injuries forced the UW defensive staff to get creative, moving Travis Feeney down to linebacker in the fall, and now true freshman sensation Shaquille Thompson is taking reps there too! Sean Parker, one of the named co-captains for the defense this year, has to feel like he's one of the last of the Mohicans - but that's precisely why the coaches have sacrificed bodies at the safety position. They are that comfortable with Parker and what he can do as the team's leading returning tackler from 2011. Add to that the promise of up-and-coming safety James Sample and how he can impact a game and the two-deeps aren't looking all that bad. I can't remember a time when you had two U.S. Army All-Americans vying for a backup role at UW, but you have it at this safety position. Like I said earlier, Thompson is now starting to get looks at linebacker, but I genuinely feel that it's all being done by the UW coaches with one thought in mind - get Thompson on the field as much as possible doing what he does best; impacting games with big hits and timely tackles.

20 Justin Glenn 5-11, 214, Sr., Mukilteo (WA) Kamiak
13 Will Shamburger 6-0, 185, Jr., Compton (CA) St. John Bosco
26 Anthony Gobern 5-11, 189, Sr., Fair Oaks (CA) Del Campo
49 Zach Beebe 6-1, 216, So., Sultan (WA) Sultan

The safety spot opposite Parker is in great shape with Glenn and Shamburger, two experienced defensive backs that should keep this position rock-solid all season long. They combined for nearly 90 tackles in 2011 with nine starts between them. The trouble occurs if one of those players goes down for any significant period of time. Gobern has plenty of experience in the UW system as a senior with tons of special teams experience but his position acumen is lacking. He's a converted cornerback that ideally should get time in certain situations as an extra defensive back only. If Glenn or Shamburger (knock wood) is out for a few games, I'd expect Sample to be the first safety off the bench or the coaches compensate by going with extra corners. Because of the thinning of the position that took place over the last 4-5 months, the UW staff will need to get creative in solving depth issues in case of emergency.

18 Greg Ducre 5-10, 177, Jr., Los Angeles (CA) Crenshaw
32 Tre Watson 5-9, 183, Seattle (WA) Central Washington OR
9 Brandon Beaver 6-0, 181, Fr., Compton (CA) Dominguez
27 Adam Long 5-10, 176, Sr., Los Angeles (CA) St. Bernard OR
35 Darien Washington 5-10, 162, Fr., Norwalk (CA) Orange Lutheran

Ducre is the returner here, having started five games in 2011 opposite Desmond Trufant, but his job is by no means secure. That's how good the competition has been between him and Tre Watson, the former Kennedy standout who transferred last year from CWU. While I feel Ducre has done enough to maintain his starting status, he should also be looking over his back for Watson, who has impressed the coaches quite a bit. If I had to place a bet on if a true freshman cornerback would play this year, my wager would be on Brandon Beaver, the U.S. Army All-American from southern California. While I'm sure in a perfect world the UW staff would redshirt all of the freshmen it's not reality. And in that reality, it makes sense to separate one of the true freshman corners from the other two to help create some balance between classes. In that scenario, Beaver makes the most sense as opposed to Cleveland Wallace or Darien Washington. He's physically more mature than the others and has picked up things awfully well for a group that is undergoing a sea change at the position in the context of yards and points given up in 2011's dismal defensive campaign. If Beaver falters, the Huskies have plenty of experienced depth here, as former starter Adam Long - back from a serious knee injury that sidelined him last year - is back and can provide cover if needed.

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