Fall Camp Observations

With Fall Camp officially over as of Friday, we thought that it would be a great chance to get some thoughts on what some of the Dawgman Staff (Chris Fetters, Marshall Cherrington and Scott Eklund) saw during the 11 days worth of practices...

The linebacker group is the strength of this Husky team: The Huskies return all of their starting linebackers from last year in John Timu, Shaquille Thompson and Travis Feeney. With Feeney still catching up from his missed time in spring camp, Princeton Fuiamono has also emerged. This linebacking corps has the speed, Football I.Q. and experience to be one of the best in the Pac-12. Although they could use some more size against the run-heavy teams, they proved themselves last year when the team defeated Stanford at home. With even more experience under their belts, this position group should be the strength of the entire team. -- Marshall Cherrington

The receivers and offensive line will be the key to the passing game in 2013: Everyone is pointing to Keith Price as the focal point for Washington's offense, and specifically the passing game - and for good reason. When he is at his best - as he was in the 2011 Alamo Bowl - the senior signal-caller can be devastatingly good. But when he's not 100 percent healthy and suffering, the opposite is true. He won't take the ball on zone reads and is all too comfortable dumping the ball away just to preserve possession. It's not good enough. But Price has shown enough during the whole of his UW career to date where the passing game won't rest on his shoulders. The reality is, if the offensive line can give Price time and space to operate, he can get the ball downfield to the right players. So that 'if', coupled with the receivers' ability to catch the ball consistently, will ultimately tell the story. In camp, the receivers did not consistently catch the passes that they should, and the offense struggled at times as a result. -- Chris Fetters

This is the best looking freshman class UW has brought in this century: Make no mistake, Washington has brought in quite a bit of elite talent since the turn of the century with the likes of Reggie Williams, Jermaine Kearse, Kavario Middleton, Jake Locker, Danny Shelton, Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to name just a few players, but, at least "on the hoof" this group of freshman is rivaled by no other class and yes, that includes the 2010 class that featured Shelton, ASJ and Kasen. Marcus Farria, Elijah Qualls and Joe Mathis may be the best set of defensive linemen to sign with Washington in recent memory and then throw in players like Azeem Victor, Jermaine Kelly, Andrew Kirkland, Dane Crane, Damore'ea Stringfellow, Darrell Daniels, Lavon Coleman and Connor O'Brien and you have the makings of players who look much different than the types Washington has signed since the turn of the century. Will it all pay off? We all know it's about players developing and maximizing their talents, so we won't know for a while if this is truly the Huskies' best recruiting class to date, but just from the looks of the players when the arrived, they are definitely further along than any class we've seen in quite some time. -- Scott Eklund

The ability for the injured players to return stronger than ever: It's incredible to think that Jesse Callier, Hauoli Kikaha, Deontae Cooper, Colin Tanigawa, and Travis Feeney have not only been able to bounce back from missing some, or all, of 2012 and spring practice, but they've been able to come ready for fall camp and compete at the level they have without any setbacks. I know I'm probably tempting fate by even writing about this, but it's been incredibly impressive how all the players that suffered ACL injuries are practicing right now and are seemingly even better than before. Tanigawa's return bolsters an offensive line that needs as many experienced returners as possible; having Callier and Cooper back takes a lot of the doubt away from the backup running back position behind Bishop Sankey. With UW losing Pio Vatuvei, the return of Kikaha, formerly Hauoli Jamora, is immense. He brings experience, tenacity, and another leader to the defensive line to pair with Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson. -- Chris Fetters

The coaches know this is the year to get it done: Not that the coaches didn't have the sense of urgency to win in any of the other years they've been here, but you can tell that the coaches do not "suffer fools" and are not happy with players lacking intensity or not knowing their assignments. In the six times I attended practice, Sark and the rest of the staff were seen teaching technique, but were also scolding players who didn't read things correctly or were out of position to make a play. There was little in the way of tolerance for mental mistakes or stupid penalties and it showed with the way they got after the players. This is year five of Steve Sarkisian's reign as the head coach and this is year two with Justin Wilcox's defensive system being in place. They have recruited well, they have talent and depth pretty much across the roster, they have plenty of upper-classmen with starting experience, so the pressure is on. As was noted on our board by one of Dawgman's man contributors (AANDY), a vast majority of the Husky faithful are happy with what Sarkisian has done since he was hired in December of 2008, but it's time to take the next step in getting back to the top of college football mountain. Three 7-6 records have fans antsy and with the new facilities and the investment into top assistant coaches, as I said, it's time to get to 9 or 10 wins in the regular season and to see them challenge for a Pac 12 title. -- Scott Eklund

The Huskies have depth in the secondary: The two cornerstones of the secondary are unquestionably Sean Parker and Marcus Peters, but the talent level does not drop off much from there. Greg Ducre and Will Shamburger should round out the starting core, but there are players right on their heels competing for playing time. Cleveland Wallace, Travell Dixon, Brandon Beaver, Tre Watson and Trevor Walker have all proved themselves to be valuable assets and if one of the starters were to go down, any one of these players could step right in and not miss a beat. This is probably the deepest position group on the Husky team. -- Marshall Cherrington

In the end, the move to the hurry-up, no-huddle offense may actually help the defense more: The defensive improvement under Justin Wilcox from 2011 to 2012 was nothing short of remarkable. A move in total defense from the hundreds to the thirties seemed unthinkable two years ago, but it happened. And now Wilcox and his defensive coaches are looking for ways to take the next step, and it just might come from Sarkisian's move to an up-tempo attack. The Huskies were rock-solid in nearly every defensive category last year, save one - dealing with up-tempo attacks. The offenses that teams like Oregon and Arizona ran were like Kryptonite. Now that the defense has seen nothing but high octane fuel coming from the other side of the ball for all of spring and fall practices, it should give them enough confidence to push forward and stop the offenses that have consistently given them trouble for years. It won't be easy, and it certainly isn't a guaranteed cure - but Wilcox will try and exploit the move of UW's offense to maximum benefit. -- Chris Fetters

Keith Price is poised for his best season yet: With the new, up-tempo offense, the Huskies have done what they can to lessen Price's stress level while exerting it on the defense. Price looked more comfortable this fall than he has since he took over for Locker back in 2011. He's more physically ready for the start of the season than ever before, he appears to be much more of a vocal leader than in his previous two seasons and he's seemingly gotten back to his much more accurate self. Now it's about going out and getting it done on a weekly basis and getting off to a fast start against Boise State on August 31st would be a great way to get things kicked off.

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