K.J. Carta-Samuels is the obvious choice here. Jeff Lindquist started a game in 2014 and had a strong spring; he’s as much of a known quantity as Washington has right now at quarterback. But of the unknowns, the redshirt frosh is the one best equipped to move ahead in the game when it comes to playing time this season. If fall unwinds like we expect it to, Lindquist and Carta-Samuels should be the two quarterbacks Washington relies on in 2015. And if Lindquist hesitates, he may lose the spot permanently. Carta-Samuels has the talent and the physical abilities to play the position. Now it’s a matter of seasoning, of getting more turns and getting the young talent ready to play in the big moments.
Jomon Dotson is just a redshirt freshman, but he showed enough in spring to be included here. Again, Washington has three known entities at running back: Dwayne Washington, Deontae Cooper, and Lavon Coleman. They ran for a combined 1705 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cooper and Coleman are the work horses, the ones Jonathan Smith will rely on for the tough yards, the first downs in third-and-short situations. But the Huskies need another home run threat besides Washington, arguably one of the best running backs in the Pac-12 no one is talking about. That’s where Jomon Dotson fits in. With the running backs taking more punishment than any other position, Smith will have the luxury of rotating at least four backs - and Dotson is the one that can break out, show the fans that speed that put him second-fastest on the team during their spring Combine Day.
This one is another easy choice. Brayden Lenius came up with seven catches in 2014, but he’ll get that many in 2015 just from jump balls alone. At 6-foot-5, the British Columbia native will have a sizable advantage over nearly every Pac-12 corner he faces this fall. He will be an instant mismatch, especially in the red zone, and that’s something all quarterbacks look for time and time again. There’s no doubt one or two of the true freshmen will show up and make in impact, but Lenius is the receiver Washington fans should look at as the one to help out the quarterbacks the most.
Joshua Perkins is the senior stalwart, and Darrell Daniels’ talents are well known now after a 68-yard catch and sprint for six against Oregon State. But sophomore David Ajamu has not been asked to do much - until now. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ajamu showed off during spring ball, catching three passes for 53 yards in the final practice. He’s got the size to affect the game as a traditional inline tight end, as well as out in the slot where his size and speed will cause slower linebackers and smaller defensive backs fits.
Many will look to Jake Eldrenkamp as a clear pick along the offensive line simply because he has to break out. For the Huskies to come together as a younger line, the junior from Bellevue has to show he can pick up where three-year starter Micah Hatchie left off. And since Eldrenkamp’s had the last two springs alone as the clear No. 1 left tackle to work on technique, there’s no reason he can’t break out and be the player Chris Strausser envisions. He’s played in 19 games in his Washington career - mostly on special teams - and he’s had plenty of time to prepare for this moment. 2015 is his Eldrenkamp’s to shine.
There could be a couple seniors - Taniela Tupou and Jarett Finau - listed here because of the fact that they don’t have any more time left, and they will be asked to shoulder some of the defensive line load decimated by graduation. But it’s true sophomore Will Dissly that will break out. He showed glimpses, most notably helping hold California out of the end zone last year in the Huskies’ 31-7 win in Berkeley. Dissly really showed up in the spring, running around from Hau’oli Kikaha’s old spot at BUCK, as well as from a traditional defensive end position. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, the Bozeman, Mont. native looked poised to really wreak havoc this fall.
There’s one clear defensive player that will get enough turns to break out and prove his worth; MIK Azeem Victor. Victor set forth rising to the challenge of replacing John Timu, and so far through spring he showed enough talent, skill, and physicality to take the middle linebacker spot by force. Victor played in 10 games in 2014, so he’s caught a glimpse of what it’s going to take in order to play to the level he needs to as a redshirt sophomore. Washington Linebackers Coach Bob Gregory needs Victor to grab hold of this opportunity, and right now there’s no apparent reason why Azeem can’t take advantage.
Moving Naijiel Hale to the top of this list wasn’t as clear-cut. Darren Gardenhire was arguably the breakout player of spring regardless of position, but at this point he’s won the spot opposite Sidney Jones. There’s a chance Hale could unseat Gardenhire, but he will also have to go through Kevin King, who has moved over to cornerback from safety. That leaves Hale with a chance to make the nickel back spot his own. And it makes sense; Jones and Gardenhire appear to be the starting corners, with King and Hale waiting in the wings to finish out the two-deeps. It’s doubtful King, at 6-foot-3, will be used in any other capacity than that of a shut-down corner, leaving Hale to move inside to do his damage.