Midseason grades – Offense

A unit averaging only 17.7 points per game can't get anything but an F right? Wrong. While it's been a struggle offensively, injuries and youth have been factors and there are signs of improvement, although it's slow, it's still improvement.

Many were encouraged by the progress of the offense in 2007. More big plays, mainly by QB Jake Locker, with an infusion of young playmakers at the skill positions gave people plenty of hope for this season. However, Locker's hamstring injury in fall camp meant new offensive threats had to emerge and unfortunately more injuries occurred and the offense has sputtered most of the first half of the season.

Quarterback – C

Locker's accuracy improved marginally in the four games he played before injuring his right thumb against Stanford. However, he wasn't the running threat he was in 2007, mainly because teams game-planned for him and he was still recovering from a terrible hamstring injury suffered during fall camp.

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch took over following Locker's injury and will likely quarterback the team for the rest of the season.

While he's not the athlete Locker is, Fouch still is relatively elusive and he's probably a better passer at this point in his development, but he's still struggled to generate points for the Dawgs.

In his two starts and the minimal playing time he received while Locker was still healthy, Fouch has completed 54 of 107 passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Generally his decision-making has been good and he's made some deep throws that belie his youth. Where he struggles is throwing on the run – two of his four interceptions have come in these instances – and teams have blitzed him mercilessly anticipating he won't be able to read what is coming.

As the season progresses and if he stays healthy, expect Fouch to become better at reading defenses and thus he'll be better at making plays down the field.


Running Backs – C-

It's tough to run when you don't have much in the way of holes, but there has been some promise shown by some of the younger running backs.

It was thought that either freshman Chris Polk or sophomore Brandon Johnson would get a bulk of the carries this fall. However, Johnson has struggled with a knee injury that has not fully healed and Polk suffered a separated shoulder in game two that ended his season.

In their places, players like Willie Griffin, David Freeman and, most recently, Terrance Dailey have stepped up and showed their playmaking skills.

Freeman was a pleasant surprise for the coaches when he stepped on campus. His speed and vision, along with his quickness made him an asset early on, but an ankle injury slowed the gifted runner and he's just now starting to get back to being healthy.

Griffin had some fumbling problems and was replaced in the lineup by Dailey in last week's loss to Oregon State, but the coaches said they remain faithful that the redshirt freshman from the Bay Area can be trusted with the ball in his hands.

The furor over burning Dailey's redshirt against Arizona was quieted last week when the true freshman carried the ball 18 times for 102 yards and a touchdown against a solid Oregon State run defense.

Dailey is widely considered the fastest running back among the group and it will be interesting to see how he fares as he shares carries with Freeman, Johnson and Griffin down the stretch.

At fullback, the Huskies have one of the better players in the country in Paul Homer. He's a devastating lead-blocker as well as a great pass-protector. Homer rarely touches the ball, but when he does he usually makes something positive out of his opportunity.

Luke Kravitz is the designated short-yardage guy, but he hasn't had many opportunities and when he did last week against the Beavers he was stuffed on three plays from the one.

Backing up Homer is Austin Sylvester. He's a good blocker and he's maturing into a player the Huskies will use in the coming years once Homer moves on.


Wide Receiver – C-

While many will point to the struggles of the young receiver corps, I'm choosing to look on the bright side.

First off, you have a sophomore WR D'Andre Goodwin who is by far Washington's biggest threat on offense now that Locker is out. While he doesn't have a touchdown, Goodwin has managed to get open on a regular basis and leads the Huskies in receiving with 32 receptions for 451 yards.

Goodwin has also shown the knack for making plays on the long passes that Fouch has dialed up, making three circus catches against Oregon State alone. While he's great with the ball in the air, Goodwin has shown the propensity to drop the easy catch and that is where the Husky coaching staff has worked with the gifted playmaker.

As he matures, Goodwin could end up being one of the best deep threats in the conference down the road.

To illustrate how young Washington is at the receiver spot, two freshmen Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse are the second and third leading receivers for the Huskies.

Aguilar runs the best routes of any of the receivers and he's been able to be physical with the defensive backs he's been matched up against. He's also an above-average blocker and he too has been able to make acrobatic plays down the field. With 16 receptions for 200 yards, expect him to see more passes thrown his way in the second half of the season.

Kearse isn't as crisp in his route-running, but there's no question he has the ability to be one of the better receivers in the conference in a few years. He's managed to haul in 14 receptions for 204 yards and two scores, including one from 45 yards out against BYU. With Kearse it's all about learning the nuances of being a great receiver and if he does that he'll be playing on Sundays soon enough.

Redshirt freshman Alvin Logan has started three games this year, but he only has four receptions for 30 yards to his name so far this year. He's Washington's biggest wideout and the team likes to use him as a blocker on the edge during running plays.

Freshman Jordan Polk is slowly being worked into the framework of the offense and he's going to be a good one down the road. He's made a name for himself as a kick returner and as the season moves along, expect the coaches to get the ball into his hands more.

Charles Hawkins and Tony Chidiac are both valuable walk-ons that have had a chance to see some playing time this year, but neither are threatening for playing time.

Also, look for freshman Cody Bruns, who has only seen minimal time to this point, to be worked into the offense more.


Tight End – B-

The re-emergence of Michael Gottlieb after he struggled through camp and the early part of the season with a hamstring injury has been a pleasant surprise for the Husky offense.

Gottlieb is Washington's best all-around tight end. He understands the offense and where he needs to be and he's also an excellent blocker, able to seal the edge on plays to the outside.

Where Gottlieb is limited as an athletic down-field threat, that role was taken over early on by freshman Kavario Middleton who would have to be considered the biggest addition to the offense this year.

The youngster from Lakes High School in Lakewood has struggled to get healthy after getting injured against BYU, but there's no denying he will be a deadly threat for the offense in the future.

Until he got hurt, Middleton had been worked into the offense more and more every week and with the mismatches he creates in the secondary it will only be a short time before he hops into the top of the conference and probably the nation as far as tight ends are concerned.

This offseason, Middleton will need to work on his strength and his blocking to become an every down tight end, but the sky is the limit for the gem of Washington's 2008 recruiting class.

Senior Walt Winter has been a key addition on short-yardage plays this season as a blocker and he's contributed on both the return and coverage units.

So far redshirt freshmen Chris Izbicki and Romeo Savant have been unable to work their way into playing time.


Offensive Line – D

There hasn't been a more disappointing unit on the offensive side of the ball than the offensive line, but I believe it has more to do with the scheme they are asked to block for rather than the talent of the players.

The offensive line averages 6-5, 325 pounds among the top six offensive linemen, but they are asked to do things, like pull and block in space, that their massive bodies aren't able to do well. Most lines the size of Washington's use a drive-blocking scheme that allows them to fire off and physically dominate their oppenent, whereas the scheme the Husky offense is running uses more finesse and reach blocking and it's been detrimental to the offense as a whole.

The two starting tackles – junior Ben Ossai and sophomore Cody Habben – have been adequate most of the season, but they have had trouble with athletic defensive end tandems. Ossai is the best athlete along the line, while Habben is one of the hardest workers, but the young lineman from Skyline High School in Sammamish has really struggled at times in space.

At the guards, senior's Casey Bulyca and Jordan White-Frisbee are huge men, but neither is athletic enough to make a difference in space. White-Frisbee has seen a resurgence in his career after flip-flopping back and forth from defense to offense before finding a home inside along the offensive line last fall. With his size and strength alone, he has a chance to play on Sundays next year.

Bulyca worked hard last offseason dropping over 40 pounds to get down to 330, but he injured his knee against Arizona and will miss the rest of the season. In his stead will be sophomore Ryan Tolar who was a freshman All-American in 2007.

Tolar is Washington's most physically dominant offensive lineman. Look for him to add quite a bit to the offensive line down the stretch this season.

Sixth-year senior Juan Garcia holds down the pivot and he's been a miracle of sorts in that he's been able to play after it was feared he would miss the entire season with a Lisfranc sprain to his left foot. He opted not to have surgery in the hopes of playing at some point during the season and he's amazed everyone but himself by starting every game at center so far.

Garcia isn't the biggest or most physical center out there, but he's smart and he's about as intense as it gets.

Few of the young linemen have seen time, but players like Matt Sedillo, Mark Armelin and Skylar Fancher have shown plenty of promise during their short stints on the field.


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