(31) DB Myles Bryant (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

Spring Preview - Five Things To Watch 

Saturday's Spring Preview is the culmination of Washington's 15 spring practices, the time where they lay the foundation for what is to come in the fall. Here are five questions Washington fans should keep in the back of their minds as they watch the Huskies this Saturday with an eye toward August.

Have any of the quarterbacks behind Browning made significant progress?

(11) QB K.J. Carta-Samuels (©M.Samek / SCOUT)

As we have seen in the past, especially when looking back at 2008, the loss of a starting quarterback can have devastating consequences. As important as Jake Browning is to the Huskies, UW can still win without him if their backup play allows them to manage things effectively while the defense and special teams pick up the slack. Things aren't as dire as they were a decade ago, but losing Browning for any amount of time would still have consequences: instead of winning a Pac-12 Championship and competing for a National Championship the Huskies might just win 7-8 games, for instance in a worst-case scenario. It's hard to pencil out the hypotheticals depending on when the loss of a starting quarterback happens, but there's no question it would impact the season in a fairly dramatic way. But the backup quarterback doesn't have to be Browning. They just have to be efficient in their distribution and eliminate mistakes, keep the chains moving and allow the skill players around them to drive the offense. 

K.J. Carta-Samuels appears, based on his play this spring, to be the next player in line, but Tony Rodriguez and Daniel Bridge-Gadd have both flashed moments. Bridge-Gadd, in particular, has shown he can keep things ticking along when scrambling and using his legs to get downfield. 

The competition shall be joined in earnest come August, but Saturday should provide a glimpse or two of who can step up behind Browning. Has Carta-Samuels improved his decision-making? Can Rodriguez step out on his own to lead the Huskies? Is Bridge-Gadd the heir apparent? 

Has Brayden Lenius signaled his full return to the team?

(81) WR Brayden Lenius (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

There's no question that, if based just on this week's work the junior is fully back and ready to make the mark he was set to make last year as Washington's 'big' receiver. At 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds, Brayden Lenius has gotten bigger, faster and stronger since last year's indefinite suspension, but is he all the way back? Has he put all his baggage in the rear view? Obviously the answer to that will come once the games are played, but with the loss of John Ross UW needs someone at the receiver position to step in and help reproduce his numbers. What Lenius (or pretty much anyone else, for that matter) can't do in terms of taking the top off defenses in the manner Ross did, he can get over defenses in the red zone with his sheer reach and size. He's a length mismatch the moment he steps on the field. While Ty Jones certainly looks the part of a big-time receiver in waiting, it's tough to envision him getting more than 15-20 catches this fall. But Lenius? He could score 10 touchdowns in his sleep just on jump balls alone. 

New UW Receivers Coach Matt Lubick doesn't have history with Lenius, so it's a clean slate. Can Lenius take advantage of a second chance to make a first impression on the first team? Remember the catch he had on the sidelines in the 17-12 win at USC? That was Lenius at his best. The Huskies need him to be his best again to partner with Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher to form this fall's fearsome threesome. 

Will Scott Huff rely on Andrew Kirkland the same way Chris Strausser did?

(73) OL Andrew Kirkland (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

Upon first inspection, the answer to this question would be no. Strausser moved Andrew Kirkland around as the ultimate swiss army knife. Like Coleman Shelton, Kirkland has multiple starts at multiple positions. But the new UW Offensive Line Coach hasn't moved Kirkland much at all from left guard, apparently the man tasked with replacing Jake Eldrenkamp. That move begs another big question - literally: if Kirkland is going to start at left guard, who comes in when Trey Adams or Kaleb McGary aren't available at their respective tackle spots? 

Kirkland has starts at both those positions, but Jared Hilbers on the left and Devin Burleson on the right have been given those turns almost exclusively.  So does that mean Huff is going to rely solely on the relatively untested Hilbers and Burleson this fall? Or is he going to fall back on using Kirkland in spot duty if needed, thus necessitating a bit of a guard scramble? In other words, is Kirkland going to be the full-time left guard come the season? If a situation occurs where Adams or McGary are out a considerable amount of time, does Huff go back to Kirkland as the sure bet, moving another veteran guard like Jesse Sosebee back to left guard in the meantime? 

By the looks of how things have lined up this spring, it feels like Hilbers and Burleson are going to get their chances to prove themselves, leaving Kirkland as the man inside. But UW fans Saturday should look at the various line combinations to get a feel for the 7-8 linemen Huff most likely will lean on during the season. 

Have Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy won the starting cornerback jobs?

(6) DB Byron Murphy (©M. Samek / SCOUT)

The short answer to this question is yes. If pressed to pick two cornerbacks out of the returning group, those would have been the two players, followed closely by Austin Joyner and Kentrell Love, as the ones most likely to follow the path blazed by Sidney Jones and Kevin King. Miller's development was stunted slightly by Jones and King: he simply had nowhere to play because those guys were just that good. But this spring has been Jordan's coming out party, and that was fully expected. 

Murphy ascension probably was expected by those enamored with recruiting rankings, but until you see them emerge from the off-season you really never know how quickly the learning curve gets ramped up. Development doesn't come with a calendar, but with Murphy it was clear from last fall he was a special talent that Jimmy Lake was holding in reserve for just this time. 

Washington fans should pay close attention to Miller and Murphy on Saturday. Can they pick up the considerable slack left by Jones and King? Is it fair to even be compared to those two at this point in time, especially given the fact neither one of them has started a game yet for the Huskies? Fair or unfair, the bar has been set, and that's what they will be measured against. 

Has Myles Bryant done enough to warrant a scholarship?

©M. Samek / SCOUT

As those who follow recruiting and the numbers have noticed, there's very little attrition that takes place under Chris Petersen's watch. The players he sign stick, and that's typically due to proper character evaluation during the recruiting process, as well as just plain good luck when it comes to avoiding injuries and other things that contribute to the normal weeding out process that takes place with any college football roster. 

So it's no surprise that scholarship spots are in very short supply at Washington. With turnover taking place either due to graduation or early entry, numbers can be predicted at a higher rate of success than perhaps at other programs. But if Petersen finds himself with a spare one this fall there's one walk-on candidate who has established himself worthy of a scholarship: Myles Bryant. 

Ironically, the Huskies already know this. They knew it years ago when they offered Bryant a ride out of high school, but he didn't jump on the opportunity when it was on the table. Hopefully that chance comes again for the 5-foot-8, 178-pound true sophomore, as he has shown this spring he deserves one. 

Bryant can play corner, play nickel, play special teams - so there's true value. Lake has enough bodies at his disposal that he can use Bryant in a variety of ways and in a number of different situations. One thing has become clear throughout this spring: there's a reason he played in so many games last year as a true frosh walk-on. Dude can play. 

And UW fans Saturday should pay close attention to No. 31 on defense. See where he lines up. See how he tracks his man. See how he breaks up plays. Watch how tenacious he is despite not being blessed with uncommon size or athleticism. 

Then ask yourself: how do you keep him off the field?  


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