Pre-Season Top-10’s - #2

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. 2 - Dwayne Washington. Washington’s time is now, literally and figuratively. And given how Bishop Sankey literally put Washington’s offensive fortunes on his back for long stretches of the 2013 season, one of UW’s running backs may have to do the same in 2014. Lavon Coleman has shown that he could be that guy, but will that happen sooner rather than later? I think, at least based on past production and potential, Dwayne Washington has to be seen as the guy that has the most to offer when looking to replace Sankey as much as possible. At 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds, the converted receiver plays rough and tough behind his pads, and runs as aggressively as any running back I’ve seen since Corey Dillon. That doesn’t mean Dwayne Washington IS Corey Dillon; just means I haven’t seen a back initiate contact and run over defenders with quite the same ferocity in a long, long time. With such heady praise, you might be asking yourself - sounds like he’s a shoe-in! Well, because he’s not a natural running back, he’s having to learn the nuances of the positions, as well as the basics - like holding onto the ball. His two fumbles at Illinois put him in the Dawghouse for a while, and there’s no doubt fumbling will not keep him anywhere near the field in this year’s offense. If Washington can shore up the ball security issues and do the basics well, his natural ability will take over. When that time comes, look out!
No. 3 - John Ross
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. 2 - Tristan Vizcaino. This one was a toughie, because the frosh specialist could end up being the most important part of Washington’s 2014 special teams, or he could just be a part of their collective effort. But when Chris Petersen said that Vizcaino was being told to get ready to compete for all three kicking jobs - kickoff, punting, and placekicking - you began to understand not only the serious nature of the position battle, but also the talent the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Vizcaino possesses. So while I’m nowhere near writing off Korey Durkee, Cameron Van Winkle and Mitch Johnson as serious contenders for the various kicking spots, I am willing to at least believe it’s well within Vizcaino’s ability to do all three like Travis Coons was forced to do last season. There is a possibility Vizcaino could just be another piece to the special teams puzzle, but I have a feeling he could end up making an impact similar to Coons, or that of another frosh kicking sensation - John Anderson.
No. 3 - Brian Clay
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. 2 - Running Back. This one should be really fascinating. Unlike the secondary positions, where building depth is going to be as big a component as the actual battles for starting positions, there’s no question the amount of talented depth with Washington’s running back corps. They are deep, and they are stacked with ability from front to back. But who is going to stake their claim as top Dawg? Who is going to fall by the wayside? My early guesses would have Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman taking hold of the majority of reps by the end of camp. My reasoning is simple; Washington and Coleman possess the biggest bodies, capable of handling a season’s worth of punishment - and they also happen to be the most explosive, game-breaking runners that the Huskies have. But my logic would be to discount Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier at my peril. And then there’s always Jomon Dotson, who should redshirt but he could also explode onto the scene with a fall camp that squarely puts him in the conversation. So many options to choose from, and while I believe Cooper is the No. 1 back coming out of spring ball, the position battle here is nowhere near complete. Ultimately I think we’ll come back to this discussion after the season with the realization that it was always going to be a bit of ‘running back by committee’, with two of the four experienced backs getting a substantial amount of carries. This battle will rage far into the season, because Keith Bhonapha will have choices. With said choices, he can sub guys in and out to keep them fresher longer - and that means more effective tailbacks for the whole year. Will that be enough to create a ‘Sankey Effect’?
No. 3 - Cornerback
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. 2 - Has the team completely bought in to Petersen’s way of doing things? I suppose this could really be the number-one storyline coming into fall, especially on the back of a productive spring and seemingly successful summer in the weight room, but I think most can guess what the number one narrative will be. As far as the above question, it’s going to be tough to tell for a few reasons. Petersen even admits that the process is always ongoing, whether it’s getting the players to buy in or the coaches to constantly innovate to create a competitive advantage. He seems satisfied with the progress, but as long as there is still attrition due to ‘team standards’ - as was the case with defensive end Marcus Farria, there’s always going to be questions. And ultimately, until Petersen has a roster full of his kinda guys, the buy-in question will always dog him to a certain extent. I suspect, as long as the team is winning the games they should and pulling in 10-plus wins a year, no one is really going to care about the buy-in question because by then it will already be assumed to be moot point. So the reality is, the quicker Washington wins under Petersen, the less the media or the fans will question the players’ trust and belief in the coaches - and vise-versa - as they will move on to other questions…like ‘Is Washington ready to compete year-in and year-out for league titles’?
No. 3 - Is Petersen prepared for a huge step up in competition?
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. 2 - 9/27 Stanford. Talk about another game the Huskies put in the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ win column for 2013…wow. They give up an opening kickoff return, yet lose by three. So many things went wrong, and they were still in it until the final whistle. In my mind, this game was a real tossup with UCLA in terms of importance, but since Stanford is in the North Division and the road north is the way for UW to get to the Pac-12 Championship game…that’s why I put this late summer encounter in Seattle as UW’s second-biggest game of the 2014 season. The 2012 win over the Cardinal at CenturyLink Field was gift-wrapped by Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes, but I don’t think Kevin Hogan is going to be anywhere near as charitable. Their defense might, though, as they lose a number of key starters. Either way, whenever you get a chance to upend the division champs at home, you have to take advantage of that opportunity. With a late September start and fresh off a non-conference slate that should see the Huskies come off undefeated, Washington fans should be prime tailgating mode by then. While the weather will most likely be a non-factor, a stadium packed to the brim with liquored-up Dawg fans always makes a difference for the home team. Not exactly predicting a win right now, but there’s no question that if UW can get past Stanford they stand an excellent chance of being 6-0 by the time they travel to Eugene October 18th.
No. 3 - 11/8 UCLA
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


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