Pre-Season Top-10’s - #3

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!

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 3 - John Ross. Anyone that saw John Ross play last season as a true frosh knows that he’s a player just begging for a breakout season. But on what side of the ball? Just kidding…kind of. Chris Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski have talked openly about Ross, the 5-foot-11, 179-pound playmaker extraordinaire, and his ability to be a true three-phase opponent killer. He scored touchdowns on offense and on special teams in 2013, so why not add a pick-six to his repertoire for 2014? Ross has game-breaking speed and an arsenal of moves that would make the guys on Dancing With the Stars blush. The only question with Ross is how the new UW staff plans on using him, because it’s entirely possible he could play more snaps than anyone on the team this coming fall. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball as a receiver, and the 100-yard kickoff return against BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl had been coming for a few games. Could he come up with a key theft or big play on defense to preserve a victory? I wouldn’t put it past Ross; he’s that talented.
No. 4 - Darrell Daniels
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. 3 - Brian Clay. I’m breaking the rules here a little bit, but bear with me - editor’s prerogative. Instead of focusing on a true frosh, I think Clay, the junior transfer from Hawaii, has a chance to be a monster contributor in the secondary this fall. Two reasons behind my thinking on this: 1) The opportunity to make an impact in a young secondary; and 2) His versatility in playing all the positions in the back third. With the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Clay able to fill in at corner, safety, and slot defender, his stock shot up the charts in spring football. I suspect his talent, coupled with his ability to step in at a moment’s notice, have put him in good stead with Secondary Coach Jimmy Lake and will ensure him playing time - provided he continues to progress from where he left off in the spring. He’s a natural defender who seemed to quickly pick up what Lake was asking of him. There are so many true frosh defensive backs enrolled this summer, you have to think one or two of them are going to break out and do something special this season for the Huskies. But until that time comes it’s going to be important to have a player who has already been through a fall and spring, has been on the sidelines for games, and has some veteran presence about him. Brian Clay has all that going for him, and based on what he did in spring should be trending up on Lake’s leaderboard.
No. 4 - Naijiel Hale
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. 3 - Cornerback. And the reality of this position battle is that it’s just one of the cornerback spots, as Marcus Peters has one of them on lockdown - just like Chris Petersen hopes Peters has his side of the field locked down all season long. The 6-foot, 190-pound Peters has a chance to be as dominant as Desmond Trufant was back in 2012. If Peters lives up to the hype, he won’t be around Montlake to see his senior season, opting instead to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. So the main question is; who will start opposite Peters? You have some veteran options, like one time Alabama player Travell Dixon, a player who has never quite caught on at UW - or the player we just talked about, Brian Clay. Then there’s redshirt frosh Jermaine Kelly, a player we’ve spotlighted earlier in the series. Kelly has all the talent in the world, and he’s the player - if I had a gun to my head - I would pick as my choice opposite Peters. And then there’s the impact frosh, players like Naijiel Hale, Sidney Jones, etc… Don’t discount these two from causing a ruckus. And we haven’t even touched the idea of players like John Ross and Jaydon Mickens entering the fray from the other side of the ball! That’s why this position battle could be so interesting; it’s not just to see who starts, but who can also come off the bench in a pinch to provide quality cover when needed. Getting to the point where they feel good with their starters is one thing; Jimmy Lake needs to get to the place where they have five or six legitimate cornerback options that they can use at any time to help supplement the defense in clear passing situations.
No. 4 - Safety
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. 3 - Is Petersen prepared for a huge step up in competition? The easy answer for this is yes, and I could get all funny and talk about how he’s been training for this moment his whole life - but the reality is Petersen has been great against BCS programs - but in very small doses. It’s always been a team here, a team there - but how will he adjust to life where your brains are getting beat out of you week in and week out? Fine, if I had to guess. There’s no doubt he’s up to the challenge, and frankly I think he relishes the idea of taking his system and seeing how he can make it work at the highest levels of college football. But is one ever truly prepared for a life change like that? Eight years in the WAC/MWC… not sure how that prepares a coach when they jump into the cauldron of Pac-12 play, but if there’s anyone that will be as ready as possible - it’s Petersen. His organizational skills harken back to coaches like Gary Pinkel, and obviously Don James before that. He wants to be in Seattle, he wants to be coaching the Washington Huskies, and he wants to bring the Dawgs back to national relevancy. The ‘want-to’ is certainly there, the hunger to be great is there. Now we’ll see if Petersen’s system can adapt and succeed at the BCS level. Steve Sarkisian famously said upon his arrival to Montlake back in 2008 that the system he learned under Pete Carroll was one that has stood the test of time. I’m sure Petersen would argue the same, that his system that he perfected during his tenure at Boise State has stood the test of time.
No. 4 - Are Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington ready for the spotlight?
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. 3 - 11/8 UCLA. Everyone at UW wants the UCLA Bruins bad, for a few reasons. First, they beat the Huskies last year in a game UW choked away in the first quarter. The Huskies know they had a chance to win that one, had the team to do it, but got caught up in the Myles Jack Express and couldn’t get off it. Second, every UW fan wants to see the first time Budda Baker takes down Jack. The Bellevue teammates now find themselves on opposite sides of this battle, and Jack has told Baker he’s going to high-hurdle him the first time he sees him. That’s not going to happen, and the reason I know it’s not is because Baker won’t let him get that far. Third, Jim Mora. I don’t need to say any more, but I will. The UW alum flirted with the UW job before it was offered to Chris Petersen, turning enquiries from his alma mater into major facilities upgrades at UCLA. Fact is, he was never coming back to Seattle, and while I hear it’s because he was afraid of failing a second time in Seattle, I call BS. I’d use much stronger language if this wasn’t a family-friendly list. To paraphrase the Young brothers and Bon Scott, if you want blood - you’ve got it. This game is going to be a blood game, at least for the home team. Given the relative lateness of where it lies within the Pac-12 schedule, it will most likely also be a game with plenty at stake from a conference title standpoint.
No. 4 - 11/29 at Washington State
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 Top Stories