Pre-Season Top-10’s - #4

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, Dawgman.com is breaking out their list of pre-season lists, the stuff of speculation and debate - so let the fun begin!

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 4 - Darrell Daniels. Everyone is curious with how Chris Petersen and Jonathan Smith are going to try and replace Austin Seferian-Jenkins - as if you could replace Austin Seferian-Jenkins, right? But, Petersen and Smith may try the Billy Beane ‘re-create in the aggregate’ approach to the tight end position. And if we assume the Huskies are going to need two or three tight ends to help in re-creating ASJ’s monstrous two-year binge as UW’s all-timer at the position, there’s no one more intriguing at the position than Darrell Daniels. The sophomore came to UW as a ginormous skill athlete with 10.8 100 speed, and is now a 235-pound hybrid tight end/receiver that has no problems taking on defenders on the edge of the line or hauling down a seam and beating linebackers to footballs over the top. Michael Hartvigson is the throwback, Joshua Perkins is the playmaker, Derrick Brown is seemingly the odd man out, David Ajamu is waiting in the wings, and Drew Sample is one for the future. But if there’s any tight end on the current roster that encapsulates a little bit of everything the Huskies need at that spot - skill, toughness, nasty, playmaking ability - it’s Darrell Daniels. He could have a huge year if he’s able to stay healthy and realize his full potential at the position.
No. 5 - Kevin King
No. 6 - Marcus Farria
No. 7 - Jermaine Kelly
No. 8 - Kendyl Taylor
No. 9 - Siosifa Tufunga
No. 10 - Joe Mathis

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 4 - Naijiel Hale. For years Hale was known as the son of the late rapper, singer, and actor Nate Dogg - a prodigious musical and entertainment talent. But when he passed away three years ago, Naijiel jumped into the spotlight - but not because of music. Naijiel showed the world he had God-given ability as a football player and was able to parlay those gifts into a scholarship to Washington after turning down a chance to go to Arizona. The U.S. Army All-American’s senior film - you can see it here on Hudl - shows the 5-foot-10, 171-pound Hale to be a classic cover corner. But more than that it shows a defensive back not afraid to come downhill and put a lick on a ballcarrier. Washington signed a number of cornerbacks and safeties for 2014, but I think Hale stands the best chance of emerging from the pack for playing time this fall because, simply put, the stage isn’t too big for him. He’s been dealing with celebrity, or at least tangentially through his father, his whole life, so he should be best equipped to handle playing BCS ball from the jump. Doesn’t mean the others won’t follow suit, but I expect Hale, who is also filled with leadership traits, to stand out first.
No. 5 - Dante Pettis
No. 6 - Sidney Jones
No. 7 - Kaleb McGary
No. 8 - Jaylen Johnson
No. 9 - Greg Gaines
No. 10 - Shane Bowman

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 4 - Safety. This one shouldn’t come as a surprise, as safeties Sean Parker, Will Shamburger, Tre Watson and Taz Stevenson all graduated and moved on - leaving a sizable gap in veteran leadership at the position. Expected to fill the void? A bunch of freshmen and one sophomore, Brandon Beaver. That’s not exactly a recipe for success, but that’s the beauty of college football; players always move on, leaving a legacy for others to replace. Parker’s worth to the Huskies the last couple of seasons was invaluable, and it’s probably wishful thinking to believe either Trevor Walker or Kevin King can step in and immediately fill in the gaps without some growing pains. Brian Clay is an intriguing option here, but still unsure if new Secondary Coach Jimmy Lake likes the former Hawaii man at corner or safety. And then there’s always the new boys, led by Budda Baker - you can’t forget about them. The next two weeks is going to be chock full of guys doing their part to impress and show not only Lake, but UW DC Pete Kwiatkowski that they are wise beyond their years and can be trusted.
No. 5 - Kicking Specialists
No. 6 - Right Guard
No. 7 - Left Guard
No. 8 - Defensive End
No. 9 - Tight End
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 4 - Are Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington ready for the spotlight? A big question that could go to the heart of just how productive Washington’s offense is for 2014. Certainly take nothing away from Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, two vital cogs in the UW offensive engine, but Washington and Coleman have the potential to be difference-makers in the backfield. It’s unfair to tag Cooper as an injury risk, especially given how strong he bounced back last year, but after three knee surgeries there’s no getting around the idea that any time his body could break down again. And Callier has always been a bit of a tweener - not quite an every down back. But Washington and Coleman both have the potential to be every down backs. Washington is the older of the two, and ironically might have more question marks. He is a converted receiver and he really runs aggressively behind his pads, but can he hold onto the ball? Two fumbles at Illinois, and Washington wasn’t really seen again in a significant Pac-12 capacity until Colorado, and even then that was mop-up duty. Coleman flashed significant potential in spring ball, and at 217 pounds is the other ‘big’ back of the group with Washington. There’s no doubt the future of the position is in great hands with Washington and Coleman, but is that future right now? That will be dependent on two things: 1) How well they take their chances, and 2) How stubborn Cooper and Callier are in making sure the youngsters know their place while the seniors handle business.
No. 5 - How effective will Kasen Williams be for Hawaii?
No. 6 - Can a young secondary grow up in a hurry?
No. 7 - Will the OL experience show up?
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. 4 - 11/29 at Washington State. Typically the Apple Cup would be high up on the list of important games for the Huskies, and the 2014 one played in Pullman is no exception. With two of the last three in the Palouse decided in favor of the bad guys in overtime, Washington should have no problems getting up for this game - especially if major bowl implications are on the line. And truth be told, much doesn’t have to be written about how important this game is for both teams when it comes to bragging rights, in-state recruiting, etc…but a lot of ink should get spilled between now and then, definitely so if the Fighting Mike Leaches go on a bit of a tear and can put together some nice wins. It would be nice to see a meaningful Apple Cup played at Martin for a change; the last one was in 2002. And yes, that one went three overtimes, so you’re seeing a theme develop. Overtime in the Palouse? I’d count on having an extra layer available, because this one has a chance to go a while.
No. 5 - 10/25 Arizona State
No. 6 - 11/15 at Arizona
No. 7 - 9/6 Eastern Washington
No. 8 - 10/11 at California
No. 9 - 11/22 Oregon State
No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii


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