Pre-Season Top-10’s - #7

It’s that time of the year again! For many Washington fans, it feels like forever, but we’re a week away from the official beginning of Washington’s 2014 football season. So with the start of fall camp, is breaking out their list of pre-season lists, the stuff of speculation and debate - so let the fun begin! Wednesday was No. 8, so Thursday means we move to No. 7...

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 7 - Jermaine Kelly. There are 12 redshirt freshmen ready to strap on the pads and stake their claim for playing time this fall, and arguably the one that might be the most important right off the bat is Jermaine Kelly. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Kelly will fight tooth and nail with teammates Travell Dixon and Brian Clay opposite Marcus Peters for the spot vacated by the graduated Greg Ducre. Kelly has the size, athleticism, and natural football ability you love to see in a bigger cornerback - he has all the tools you need to succeed in the Pac-12. Now he just has to go out and do it. If he can lock down the other cornerback position and play up to his potential for the full 2014 campaign, Kelly and Peters could go into the 2015 season as the best cornerback duo in the conference.
No. 8 - Kendyl Taylor
No. 9 - Siosifa Tufunga
No. 10 - Joe Mathis

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 7 - Kaleb McGary. This one is a no-brainer. At 6-foot-7 and 291 pounds, McGary commands a lot of attention - even if it’s at the library to check out a book. So we’re eagerly awaiting the first live snaps of fall football to see two things: 1) where will McGary play along the defensive line; and 2) does he stand a chance of being a contributor in 2014? It sure feels like the big man from Fife is the heir apparent to Evan Hudson’s defensive tackle position, as Hudson has provided a lot of flexibility, toughness and range from his 6-foot-6 body. McGary could slide right into that DT spot next to players like Danny Shelton and Elijah Qualls quite comfortably. But is he ready to battle to the point where the UW defensive staff can’t stop him from getting on the field this fall? I wouldn’t bet against him.
No. 8 - Jaylen Johnson
No. 9 - Greg Gaines
No. 10 - Shane Bowman

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 7 - Left Guard. Before we knew that Dexter Charles was going to be out of spring football rehabbing a shoulder injury, this positional hierarchy was already decided. The Stanwood junior had started 21 of the last 26 games the past two seasons. The only question regarding the left guard spot would have been - who is the backup? Then Siosifa Tufunga happened. The only two offensive line commits for Washington’s 2011 recruiting class appear set to battle each other due to Tufunga’s impressive spring. Even though Sifa hasn’t started a game yet, he played in 12 games in 2013 - plenty of game action to technically consider him a ‘veteran’ presence. Not like you needed any more examples of why Washington’s offensive line is going to be tough to beat when it comes to leadership, experience and chemistry, but this position battle is just one of three or four along the offensive line worth watching this fall.
No. 8 - Defensive End
No. 9 - Tight End
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 7 - Will the OL experience show up? Speaking of offensive line experience, the numbers have already been well established; the top six returning linemen account for 120 total career starts. That’s a staggering number, and one I suggest hasn’t been seen at Washington before. But can new UW Offensive Line Coach Chris Strausser take all that experience and apply it to what offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith wants to run? Can they show Chris Petersen that they understand the general offensive concepts to the point where they can dominate defenses regardless of what is called? They have a couple things working against them. As stated above, Dexter Charles was out for spring, and his left tackle accomplice Micah Hatchie was also out for all of spring practice. That’s 60 lost starts on the left side of the offensive line, 39 from Hatchie alone. Both players are expected back healthy by the start of fall camp, but can they just pick up where they left off without any rust or any issues whatsoever? And there’s no doubt the differences between the coaching styles of Chris Strausser compared to his predecessor Dan Cozzetto appear to be numerous - at least on the outside looking in. But Hatchie, Charles, center Mike Criste, right guard Colin Tanigawa, and right tackle Ben Riva, have played a ton together the past two seasons. Their familiarity with each other should help them navigate the transition from Coz to Strausser with minimal fuss.
No. 8 - Can the LB’s be the best group in the Pac-12?
No. 9 - Will the defense have to carry the offense while they get settled?
No. 10 - How will the special teams shake out?

Top-10 Games: No. 7 - 9/6 Eastern Washington. This is the only other non-conference listed in the top-10; Illinois will be tough only because it is a decent Big Ten team, and any BCS team has to be respected, regardless of any prior results. And don’t get me started about Georgia State. But Eastern Washington? We saw them win at Oregon State last year, and they came within a Desmond Trufant pick in the end zone of beating Washington at home three years ago. That’s not supposed to happen to BCS programs - and it doesn’t matter if the Eagles were the defending FCS National Champions. EWU, the team with the Inferno-red field will head west with a snoot full of ambition, ready to knock off another Pac-12 team to fatten their resume. The fact that it would be in-state just adds to the importance of it for them when you factor in the bump they’d most certainly get with such a sizable scalp. Washington can’t be caught off guard, and Chris Petersen has made a living off of beating the teams that were supposed to be beaten. Eastern Washington is such a team.
No. 8 - 10/11 at California
No. 9 - 11/22 Oregon State
No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii Top Stories