Pre-Season Top-10’s - #10

It’s that time of the year again! For many Washington fans, it feels like it's been forever, but we’re only a week away from the official beginning of Washington’s 2014 football season. So with the start of fall camp just days off, is breaking out their list of pre-season lists, the stuff of speculation and debate - so let the fun begin!

Monday we’ll start with the No. 10’s, pushing up through the lists to get to the No. 1’s by the time Chris Petersen has his initial fall press conference Sunday.

Top-10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 10 - Joe Mathis. Mathis, a true sophomore defensive lineman, played in every game of the 2013 season save Illinois, and had seven total tackles to his credit. Mathis played enough as a DL to warrant burning his redshirt, yet at the same time probably didn’t make quite the impact fans probably expected out of the four-star stud who picked the Huskies over a host of top BCS programs. Mathis continued his development during the spring, and is expected to continue to progress under the watchful eye of defensive line coach Jeff Choate and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Mathis will be counted on for key depth play along the defensive line in 2014.

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 10 - Shane Bowman. Bowman, the true frosh from Bellevue, is listed at 250 pounds, but I know he’s closer to 265. He’s been working out non-stop with Tracy Ford and Ford Sports Performance with the idea of making it very hard for Jeff Choate and Pete Kwiatkowski to keep his redshirt on. Bowman has always been a high effort, high motor player, but now he’s big enough that he could conceivably play through a rigorous Pac-12 schedule like Joe Mathis was able to do in 2013. The only question now is where will he start at fall camp? Is he still fast enough to play as a bigger end, or will he move inside? Time will tell.

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 10 - Outside Linebacker. So many players to talk about, especially the way guys like Hauoli Kikaha and former fullback Psalm Wooching were used this past spring - so who gets the nod? Corey Littleton comes back from sitting out spring due to injury, and Kikaha is now listed on go as an outside linebacker too. So where does that lead the guys that that played mostly outside and assumed to be the guys that would flank John Timu in the middle; Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney? And how far ‘outside’ will guys like Kikaha and Wooching play anyway? Does OLB mean more Rush End Backer, or the LEO designation? And then you’ve got the redshirt frosh like Connor O’Brien and Keishawn Bierria - what happens to them if they start making some big moves in fall camp? One thing is plainly obvious; there’s a lot of talent at these spots no matter how Pete Kwiatkowski wants to use them. So in the end it may not be the battle that ends up being as interesting as how Kwiatkowski chooses to use all these talented athletes to maximize the defense’s effectiveness on the edges.

Top-10 Storylines: No. 10 - How will the special teams shake out? Arguably this could be a much bigger storyline by the end of spring if questions aren’t resolved. The arrival of Tristan Vizcaino as a specialist brought in for all three kicking chores certainly pushes the kickers and punters already on campus. How will Korey Durkee react in the punting battle, or Cameron Van Winkle and Mitch Johnson in the kicking battles? Hopefully Vizcaino’s presence will create strong competition and every phase of the kicking game improves as a result. And in the return game, you have Budda Baker ready to step in and compete for a spot, while John Ross and Marvin Hall are loathe to give up what they’ve earned. There’s certainly a lot of questions needing answers in regard to Washington’s special teams, but there’s also a lot of options out there for Chris Petersen, who knows as well as anyone the value of that third of the game and how it can impact the final score.

Top-10 Games: No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii. Chris Petersen and his staff will be under the microscope in the weeks leading up to the Hawaii opener August 30th, and rightly so; there’s a lot of optimism running around Montlake because of the work Petersen did in bringing Boise State into the national discussion and if there was a coach that personified the vision of Don James for the new millennium, it’s Petersen. So the reason why the Hawaii game makes this list really doesn’t have much to do with the opponent, it has to do with whether or not the Huskies show up to play the game in the manner in which past Chris Petersen teams dismantled the Warriors by an average of 40-18 in the six games the two played during Petersen’s head coaching tenure in Boise. Top Stories