Post-Season Awards and A Look Ahead

Now that the 2014 season is over for Washington Football, it’s time to take a little inventory, hand out some post-season awards, and throw out a few oh-so early predictions for 2015. Here we go!

Post-Season Awards:

Player of the Year:
Scott Eklund: Hauoli Kikaha. While you could argue that Danny Shelton belongs here, Kikaha was the first consensus All-American at Washington in over a decade. He also holds the single-season record for sacks with 19 and is the career sack leader with 36.

Kim Grinolds: Danny Shelton. We haven't seen that type of play on the DL since Steve Emtman. He opened it up for the guys coming off the edge. Rarely do you see a man of that size run down the line and pursue the ball like Danny Shelton. He was a force and a vocal leader all year. He will be missed both on and off the field.

Chris Fetters: Danny Shelton. This one wasn’t hard for me to figure out. Everything starts at the line of scrimmage, and the senior defensive tackle from Auburn was the focal point for everything opposing offenses had to account for. And when they decided to single-block him - like they did at Arizona - he made them pay time and time again. Any interior linemen that is mentioned in the same breath as Steve Emtman is good enough for me.
Offensive MVP:
Scott Eklund: Is there one? Lots of arguments could be made that the offense was a big reason why the team struggled to an 8-6 record. Since we have to name one, I will go with OT Micah Hatchie who had one of his best seasons and generally held up well in pass protection.

Kim Grinolds: Micah Hatchie. All he did was go unnoticed, which is what you want from your left tackle. Nobody else on the entire offense really stepped up this year

Chris Fetters: Cyler Miles. In some ways, this is like handing out an award to the tallest short person, but in my mind Washington’s offense would have taken an even bigger step back if it hadn’t been for the play of Miles. And a lot of that comes down to the fact that Troy Williams or Jeff Lindquist couldn’t beat out the sophomore from Denver, so how would the offense have fared with the alternatives available? Lindquist won his only start, at Hawaii, but was far from convincing. Williams got his chance to start against Arizona State and wasn’t good enough to keep Miles on the bench. This award is about most valuable, and when you don’t have anyone else on the offense that’s truly invaluable, the quarterback most likely ends up with this award by default - especially when the options aren’t exactly appealing. So while it’s hardly a ringing endorsement, Miles and his 2400 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a completion percentage of 67 percent - should have been good enough for more, and there were other pieces of that offense just as culpable, or moreso, for their overall lack of production.
Defensive MVP:
Scott Eklund: Danny Shelton was the engine of the Husky front-seven this season. He was a man among boys causing tons of issues for opposing offensive lines. Shelton finished the season with an amazing 93 tackles, absolutely unheard of for an interior player and his ability to force double and triple-teams allowed Kikaha and Andrew Hudson to really tee off on the quarterback. At times, Shelton even moved outside and was a load for tackles as well. He did it all and should go on to an outstanding NFL career.

Kim Grinolds: Danny Shelton. See above. Absolute force in the middle. Hopefully we'll see the barrel roll again at some point.

Chris Fetters: Danny Shelton. This is a clean sweep, and for obvious reasons. Shelton dictated play up front, took his share of double and triple-teams, allowing the rest of the senior defensive line to shine. It will be very interesting to see how much players like Elijah Qualls were able to learn from Shelton, because that’s where the biggest hole will be come spring ball.
Special Teams MVP:
Scott Eklund: I'm going to go with John Ross although arguments could be made for Dante Pettis and Brian Clay as well. Ross is so explosive, he's a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns, but he also had three that were called back. Washington hasn't had a kick returner like Ross in a long, long time.

Kim Grinolds: Korey Durkee. Could boom it when needed and was fantastic with his directional kicking. He finished 4th in the conference in average net. His kicks allowed very few returns

Chris Fetters: John Ross. Another easy call for me. Ross is the one true home-run threat with the ball in his hands, and he showed it twice this year and should have had more like four or five house calls to his credit. With that kind of explosion available in the return game, it’s still a mystery why he wasn’t exploited on offense.
Offensive Coach MVP:
Scott Eklund: Considering what little he had to work with, Brent Pease did a good job with the receivers this year. Kasen Williams was hurt, two true freshman were counted on a lot more than you would expect and he lost his most explosive player mid-way through the season when Ross was moved to corner full time.

Kim Grinolds: Tough one. The offense struggled most of the year and we just didn't see the development we expected. Guys just didn't get better. Gun to my head? Keith Bhonapha. Didn't have much to work with and is one of the best recruiters on the staff

Chris Fetters: Brent Pease. Again, not sure the disconnect with John Ross and the lack of focusing on him as a home run threat given his abilities, but that aside Pease was still able to generate a decent receiving game despite his top big returner (Kasen Williams) not 100 percent healthy for much of the year and his top big newcomer (Damore’ea Stringfellow) gone to Ole Miss. Blocking out wide was typically a strength, and drops never seemed to be an outstanding issue.
Defensive Coach MVP:
Scott Eklund: We could probably give a co-award here as both Jeff Choate and Pete Kwiatkowski both worked extensively with the defensive line. The Huskies got All-American performances out of Kikaha and Shelton and squeezed outstanding senior seasons out of Evan and Andrew Hudson. They also brought along young players like Will Dissly, Jojo Mathis and Elijah Qualls who will all be counted on to fill the shoes of Kikaha, Shelton and the Hudsons who all finished up their eligibility this season.

Kim Grinolds: Jimmy Lake. First of all, he dealt with all the nonsense from Marcus Peters. Then he lost his other started, Jermaine Kelly. He was forced to play way too many freshman, who actually played well considering. Playing those freshman will pay dividends next year.

Chris Fetters: Pete Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski was the architect of this year’s defense, which included a move from Hau’oli Kikaha from a standard DE to the BUCK position. All Kikaha did was become an All-American and have a record-setting year in terms of sacks. But the biggest thing Kwiatkowski was able to accomplish early on was get the defensive seniors to completely buy in to the new schemes and concepts. With players like Kikaha, Shelton, Andrew Hudson, Evan Hudson, and John Timu completely bought in, they brought the rest of the defense with them. That buy-in was huge, and in my opinion the biggest reason for their success.
Play of the Year:
Scott Eklund: The barrel roll sack by Danny Shelton against Washington State was hysterical. To see a man that size roll to his right before the snap, then split a double team and sack the Cougars' QB, it was a thing of beauty while also awe-inspiring.

Kim Grinolds: Danny Shelton's barrel roll and QB sack at WSU. Freak show play.

Chris Fetters: Shaq Thompson’s 100-yard fumble return. To me, that was the Play of the Year and it helped cement Shaq’s reputation as a true two-way threat. I think that play also got him a ton of votes nationally for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. It was incredible recognition, reaction, and ultimately playmaking ability for an athlete that will be sorely missed as he moves to the NFL.
Game of the Year:
Scott Eklund: Many in Husky nation were fearful that the Huskies could lose to Washington State in Pullman, but the Huskies would have none of that type of talk. They just went out and got up on their cross-state rivals 31-0 before allowing two late scores to end the regular season on a positive note.

Kim Grinolds: Apple Cup. 10-12 degree weather on the road and they played their best game of the year. Easily their best game of the year

Chris Fetters: Arizona. To me, this is the game Washington fans will remember the most, simply because of the fact that it was lost in the most amazing way possible. But more importantly as fans look to the future under Chris Petersen, that’s the way the Huskies are capable of playing when everything comes together. They had a top-20 team on the ropes for basically the whole game, dominated them statistically, and it took poor clock management and a fumble from a player that had never fumbled before to lose it at the death.
Looking Ahead

Thoughts On Chris Petersen’s first year:
Scott Eklund: I think the returns on the 2014 season are mixed. You had one of the best Husky defenses in recent memory and lots of returning players from a team that went 9-4 in 2013. You also got All-American seasons out of three players. Combine all that before the season and you'd think we'd be talking about, at a minimum, a 10-win season. Instead, the Husky offense was absolutely brutal at times, causing them to lose easily winnable games to Arizona State and Stanford and miscues against Arizona also cost the Huskies a game.That being said, you could see the improved play of a very young secondary even though the Huskies lost Marcus Peters and the coaches did very well in closing out the 2014 recruiting class with players like Budda Baker and Kaleb McGary and they seem poised to close very well this year. If we're grading the class, I'd probably put things around a B- because I think there were some missed opportunities, but the team seemed to improve as the season went along, save the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State in the bowl game.

Kim Grinolds: I didn't expect to take a step back to move forward, which is what happened. I think pete had a wake up call and realized this conference is much tougher than anticipated. Also, changing the culture and implementing his systems has been a tougher job than anticipated. His off season evaluations of the team and staff are going to torment him for a while. Change isn't easy, but I expect him to change things along the way, which he hasn't really had to do much of in the past. He'll get it right. It may take longer than first thought though.

Chris Fetters: I mis-read this year and how it would evolve about as bad as you possibly could. I took Petersen’s reputation as a two-time National Coach of the Year at face value, expecting him to simply pick up where Steve Sarkisian left off and hit the ground running straight into at least a 10-win season. Boy was my radar off. I vastly underestimated the culture change that is still ongoing. And ultimately, I was very underwhelmed by everything I saw. I saw a team that beat everyone they were supposed to and lost to those that were better than they were. That means UW was extremely average in almost every respect, and that’s a weird take to have considering this team had more AP All-Americans on it than any UW team ever.
2015 Recruiting Class Prediction (Where will it rank nationally?):
Scott Eklund: 20 to 25 with an outside shot at 18 or 19 if some things fall their way.

Kim Grinolds: 25-30

Chris Fetters: Low 20’s. Too many moving parts to get a true gauge, but if UW finishes with Benning Potoae, Chris Warren, and another impact receiver, that’s about as good as you could have expected in Chris Petersen’s first full recruiting class.
2015 Recruiting Class Preview:
Scott Eklund: One of the main themes we've heard from the staff is balance in the classes. They are working to even out position groups and they've done their best to achieve that, hauling in three very good line prospects, five linebackers, three receivers, three defensive backs as well as a quarterback and a long-snapper. Jake Browning, a record-setting quarterback from California, will enroll this month and he will take part in spring football hoping to push for the starting job in 2015.

Chris Fetters: I think one of the main narratives coming out of the 2015 class is Petersen’s early ability to lock down the state. He was able to snag Budda Baker and Kaleb McGary late for 2014, and he’s gotten five of the top seven in-state players so far, and Benning Potoae is odds-on to add to the list. And if Jake Browning hadn’t committed in front of him, Brett Rypien would have been a Husky. That would have been their top-7 in-state targets, all in the boat. That’s really only happened in one other class; 2011. The other narrative that immediately sticks out is Browning. Name a passing record - either in California or nationally - and there’s a good chance it belongs to Browning. His ability to throw the football is well-documented, but can he factor into the 2015 starting quarterback battle right away? He’s coming in early to do just that.
The 2015 Starting QB Will Be…:
Scott Eklund: K.J. Carta-Samuels.

Kim Grinolds: K.J. Carta-Samuels.

Chris Fetters: K.J. Carta-Samuels.
Will There Be more Transfers Before Spring Ball?:
Scott Eklund: Yes. We already know Troy Williams is leaving and I expect at least a couple more.

Kim Grinolds: Yes. 3-4 more in addition to Troy Williams

Chris Fetters: Yes. It’s already happened with Troy Williams, and I definitely expect a few more before the end of spring ball. Happens every year nowadays, and 2015 will be no exception.
Which redshirt will have the biggest impact in 2015?:
Scott Eklund: Carta-Samuels is the easy choice here since he plays the most important position and would have the biggest impact. If you want to consider another spot, keep an eye on Jesse Sosebee. The Huskies will be looking to replace all five starters along the offensive line and Sosebee's been drawing rave reviews for his play since he arrived last summer.

Kim Grinolds: K.J. Carta-Samuels.

Chris Fetters: K.J. Carta-Samuels. Stands to reason that if I think Carta-Samuels will be Washington’s starting quarterback in 2015, he’s the one that should have the biggest impact. It’s just that simple.
Things To Be Wary Of…:
Scott Eklund: Honestly, I'm not really sure what to be wary of aside from a losing season in 2015.The Husky coaches will have their work cut out for them next fall as they try to replace three All-Americans on defense and the entire offensive line. They also need to continue the change in culture they began when they arrived last winter. If they can avoid a losing season, things should continue to progress in the right direction. A losing season will be a tougher sell, but these coaches don't back down from a challenge and they will continue to recruit hard regardless of the outcome of the season.

Kim Grinolds: Impatience of the fan base.

Chris Fetters: The offense taking significant steps backward. 2013 was a record-setting year for Washington’s offense; 2014 was nothing but mediocrity, or worse. I suspect another quarterback change is going to take its toll, at least initially. And losing basically their starting offensive line won’t be easy to overcome. But then again, the offensive line in 2014 didn’t show up. Defensively they lose as many crucial pieces, but there’s at least some talent on that side of the ball that looks like they can play. I’m not nearly as sure about that when it comes to the offense.
2015 Record Will Be…:
Scott Eklund: 5-7

Kim Grinolds: 7-5

Chris Fetters: 6-6


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