Mid-Season Grades – Offense

Heading into the 2012 football season, few people were worried about the Husky offense. Most analysts call Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian one of the best play-callers in the country and QB Keith Price was coming off a record-setting season, but the offense hasn't been the juggernaut that people expected and they need to get things fixed quickly if they want to make a bowl game this season.

Quarterack – After his performance as a first-time starter in 2011, including his monstrous output in the Alamo Bowl in which he arguably outperformed Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III, fans and pundits all thought the sky was the limit for Husky signal-caller Keith Price. What people didn't take into account were several factors that have contributed to a rocky first half of the season for the fourth-year junior.

First there was the departure of offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier shortly after the beginning of the year; second, the graduations of wideouts Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse as well as the early departure of Chris Polk; lastly, the loss of Senior Kelemete (graduation), Colin Porter (retired), Colin Tanigawa (injury), Erik Kohler (injury) and Ben Riva (injury).

Even if just one of the three happened it could be troublesome, but all three combined, well, you see the results on the field.

Price is completing only 61.3% of his passes, compared to nearly 67% percent last season and is averaging just 5.8 yards per attempt whereas in 2011 he averaged 8.4 per attempt. Price is also making huge errors in judgment, forcing passes that have resulted in interceptions and he has fumbled in crucial situations the past two games, both losses.

It's not only his lack of productivity either. His body language tells you a lot about where his head is – he's down on himself, he's thinking too much and he doesn't trust his receivers or his linemen and that has made him tentative.

Obviously this isn't all Price's fault, but everyone who has played quarterback, from high school on up to the pros will tell you that the great quarterbacks continue to lead, continue to inspire their teammates and make plays, regardless of the storm that surrounds them.

If Price can be what he was last season, with the way the defense is playing and the ground-game is emerging, the Huskies have a chance to get to eight wins in the regular season. If he doesn't they will be hard-pressed to get to six wins and a bowl game.

Grade: C-


Running Backs – Losing Polk was really a huge hit to the ground attack, but eventually he was going to leave and the Huskies were going to need to find a replacement anyway and, if the first six games of 2012 are any indication, Bishop Sankey is poised to be the next 1,000-yard back in Washington program. While the sophomore from Spokane hasn't shown himself to be the tackle-breaking, big-play machine that Polk was, he has definitely shown himself to be a much tougher runner than many expected and he has shown enough speed and elusiveness in the open field to run away from his pursuers.

Freshmen Erik Wilson and Kendyl Taylor, along with redshirt freshman Dezden Petty, are backs that the Huskies have used sparingly so far this, but none appear to be a game-breaker and their role at this point is to give Sankey a blow whenever possible. They all seem to have bright futures, but right now, they are merely guys and can't be counted on for anything other than spot duty.

Jesse Callier was expected to share carries with Sankey this season, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the first game of the season, so pretty much the entire workload has fallen on Sankey's shoulders.

If Sankey goes down with an injury, this unit will take a huge hit.

Grade : B


Wide Receiver/Tight End – In 2011, Washington signed two players they saw as cornerstones in their passing attack for at least the next three seasons and both Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins had solid freshman campaigns.

However, in 2012, both have been rather disappointing, although a lot of that can be attributed to Price's struggles and the offensive line's issues.

Seferian-Jenkins is a mismatch for opponents the moment he steps on the field, but so far this season he has only 29 receptions for 337 yards and two scores. Because of Washington's struggles along the offensive line, the sophomore from Gig Harbor has been kept in on several occasions to help out in pass protection, instead of being used as a weapon in the passing game.

Williams is averaging just 11 yards per reception and, while he does have four touchdowns, he has been inconsistent in his route-running and has had way too many drops for a play of his caliber. Sarkisian has lauded his blocking and he does play with a lot of fire and intensity, but he needs to make his presence felt much more in the passing game over the next six weeks if this offense is to ever hit its stride.

In addition to those two players, the other wideouts and tight ends – freshmen Jaydon Mickens and Taylor (who plays both running back and wide receiver), redshirt sophomore DiAndre Campbell, junior Kevin Smith, senior Cody Bruns and tight ends Evan Hudson and Michael Hartvigson – are merely role players at this point, with none showing they have game-breaking abilities.

Besides Williams and Seferian-Jenkins only Mickens has double-digit receptions.

Heading into fall camp, senior James Johnson was being counted on to be the number two wideout, opposite Williams, but an injury to his wrist has caused him to miss the entire season thus far and it appears he will redshirt this season.

The receivers and tight ends have definitely been hurt by the offensive line's inability to protect Price and with Price's lack of confidence, but they need to continue to run their routes and get open so that this offense can open things up, both down the field and in the intermediate zones. Also, Seferian-Jenkins and Williams cannot disappear for entire games like they have at times this season thus far and they need to step up and take on leadership roles, even though they are only in their second season of college football.

Grade: C-


Offensive Line - It's tough to be too hard on this unit considering all of the attrition it has suffered over the past year, but the reality is that the line has struggled to protect Price and has been inconsistent in opening holes to get the running game going to say the least.

Drew Schaefer is the leader of this unit, but his play has been lacking and Micah Hatchie, who replaced Senio Kelemete at left tackle, has been a swinging gate for pass-rushers at times. James Atoe and Michael Criste have both looked lost at times, although they have acquitted themselves nicely at times as well.

On the bright side, redshirt freshman Dexter Charles and true freshman Shane Brostek both look like absolute beasts and they should be mainstays in the lineup starting next year. However, both have had their struggles in different phases and both have been replaced in the lineup at different times.

Riva getting back to 100% health will be a huge key in the second half of the season, because that would allow the Huskies to move Atoe, who has been starting at right tackle, inside to his more natural position of guard and would keep the Huskies from having to play Brostek who clearly is a year away from being able to handle the rigors, fundamentally, of being a Pac 12 lineman.

Siosifa Tufunga is the only other lineman who has been used and he's looked decent in his short stints, however, at this point, he isn't ready to push for playing time and still is a ways away from being ready to challenge for a starting spot.

Grade: D


Coaching/Play-Calling: Along the offensive line, Dan Cozzetto is doing the best he can with the players at his disposal, but it's obvious that the line has a long way to go just to get up to average. Over the past few weeks improvement has come in the running game, but it's still a far cry from where it needs to be.

Jimmy Dougherty is working with quite a few young players and his top receiver has struggled mightily while Eric Keisau, brought in to replace Nussmeier as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, has had his struggles as well with Price and some of the play-calling, although a lot of that falls on Sarkisian's shoulders as well.

Running backs coach Joel Thomas' charges appear to the be the one unit on the offensive side of the ball that is playing well at this point, although that is all relative considering how poorly the other units are playing.

This staff needs to keep their players motivated and help them understand the opportunity that is right before them.

This conference, aside from Oregon, is loaded with a bunch of teams that Washington can beat, especially with their defense playing the way it is. If the Huskies can average in the upper 20s as far as points per game – they are currently at 21.3 per game – this team should be able to win at least five if not all six of their remaining games. If they can't figure things out they will be lucky to get to six wins and a minor bowl game.

The next six weeks will go a long way in determining Sarkisian's tenure at Montlake. The hope is this team "gets right" and finishes strong, something the coaches have preached to the players since day one of spring camp, and if they do that, this could be a much better season than many expected at the outset.

Grade: C-


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