We sat down with Kirk DeGrasse of UW Dawg Pound to discuss Washington Husky football prior to Saturday's clash at Stanford Stadium
1. With Josh Rosen garnering so much attention, Jake Browning has slipped under the radar with a very impressive campaign as a true freshman. What should we expect to see out of Browning should he be healthy to go Saturday? How big an impact will his absence be, should he be held out with his recently injured shoulder?
Browning has flashed his potential at times, particularly vs. Utah State. At his best, he'll be a QB that shows terrific anticipation and accuracy and the ability to read the defense to make the right pre-snap reads and adjustments and decisions on his run/pass options. But he's adjusting with the speed of the college game and with not having a terrific OL that allows him all kinds of time in the pocket. He's also not getting a lot of help from his wide receivers, which is why you see a TE and a RB leading the team in receiving yards. It's hard to say what we'll see if he can't go. K.J. Carta-Samuels has barely played and Jeff Lindquist has been used almost exclusively as a glorified wildcat QB since his start against Hawaii last year. Both KJCS and Lindquist are bigger and better runners than Browning, so they could potentially provide a legitimate running option on the read-option plays. Lindquist was noted for being the "safest" of the quarterbacks in the spring and fall camps, taking the easy underneath completions and being the least prone to risky throws.
2. In an ever competitive Pac-12, Washington has lost three games by a score or less. We Stanford fans became painfully aware of how difficult it can be to lose by such a small margin in 2014. How close is this team to being a major player in the conference?
When you consider how much youth and inexperience there is throughout the 2-deeps, it's exciting to think of the growth potential for this team - not just next year, but over the remainder of the season. The defense is playing at an elite level right now (#7 in both FEI and S&P) and the special teams have been a net plus (#22 by FEI), so it's been the struggles of the offense that have held this team back. As the offense continues to gain experience and develop, it wouldn't take a huge bump in their play to turn some of these close losses into wins. By next year the Huskies could (and probably should) be major players in the conference race.
3. Offensively, Washington certainly has some players. Myles Gaskin is averaging 6.3 yards per carry while Browning has been solid throwing the ball. Who are some other players we should keep an eye on?
If Dwayne Washington is able to play, he's the fastest player on the roster (with John Ross out for the year) and has big-play potential as a back and a receiver. Josh Perkins is the most consistent receiving threat, a guy Browning will often go to down the seam on run/pass option package plays. Jaydon Mickens can be maddeningly inconsistent with his drops, but he's a jitterbug receiver that can make big plays in space. Darrell Daniels is another big WR converted to TE (like Perkins), and he's got outstanding speed, but he hasn't been targeted much yet in his career; if they can get him one-on-one against a LB though, he's going to win those footraces.
4. Defensively, the Huskies have looked very solid. Is defense the strength of this team? What has made them so successful in the first half of the year?
Defense has definitely been the cornerstone of this team so far this year. What makes them so good is they are playing so well at all three levels of the defense and they have multiple playmakers in each position group. They also have enough depth that they've been able to rotate in the 2's without much drop-off, allowing the 1's to not have to play 70-80 snaps per game. They are executing their assignments, and aside from some tackling issues vs. Boise State and Cal and losing receivers in scramble drills vs. Oregon, they've played fundamentally sound.
5. On a scale from 1 to Oregon, how sick are you of these night games?
Well, it's getting to the point of Oregon for me on these night games. While I don't hate the idea of a night game, the hassle of getting to and from the games in the dark and increasingly poor weather as the season goes on isn't much fun, and now that my 5-year old son is going with me to games, these late starts are now that much more of a pain. We just found out we're hosting an 8PM start time Halloween night against Arizona, and that's obviously causing a lot of outcry - really tough for families that bring kids to the games to forego trick-or-treating that night.
6. What's your prediction for the game?
I think Washington has a puncher's chance simply because of our defense and special teams. But the uncertainty at QB on top of an already struggling offense makes it hard to predict a win. I'm expecting a defensive slog, but short of a big edge in turnovers favoring the Huskies, I think Stanford wins something along the lines of 27-17.