Husky land is in a period of transition, and time is running out before the Washington football team needs to know how to fill the key openings in the roster.
The Huskies will play their spring game on April 19, which is the perfect time to organize the team’s state of possible disarray. Their previous coach, Steve Sarkisian, departed to USC. Their former quarterback, Keith Price, has finished his playing days with the school. Star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Bishop Sankey have decided to enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
All of these things raise questions for the Huskies.
1. How Will the team Respond to a New Leader?
Even though Sarkisian left to coach USC, a program that has the pieces to be a threat in the Pac-12 this season, the Huskies found a highly-suitable replacement. Former Boise State coach Chris Petersen comes into the Washington program with a 92-13 record, which includes two undefeated seasons. While the Mountain West Conference is not regarded as highly as the Pac-12, Petersen has the coaching tools to keep this Huskies team in contention.
Petersen has also shown his competency in bowl games throughout his career. His Boise State teams have reached eight bowl games. The combination of those teams’ performance and Petersen’s coaching ability has led him to a 5-3 record in the college postseason. The Huskies won their bowl game last season, so fans will be expecting a similar outcome in 2014.
Petersen will need to at least produce a team with a winning record in 2014 to endear himself to the Husky faithful. A bowl win during this transition period in the program would be icing on the cake for the incoming coach.
2. Who is the Next Quarterback for the Huskies?
Coaching isn’t the only leadership position that was vacated after last season. The Huskies entered this season without a quarterback as well, and judging from the spring roster, this will be one of a few problem areas for Washington this season. The Huskies are currently working with two quarterbacks but neither of them have much experience. Sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams will compete for the starting job, unless Cyler Miles returns from his suspension following an investigation for an alleged assault during the offseason.
Miles was supposed to replace Price, and was the backup for Price last season. His experience would be vital to the Huskies’ success, but he has yet to practice this spring. Price left a huge hole in terms of offensive production, putting up almost 3,000 yards of passing with 21 touchdowns. He was also accurate, completing 66.2 percent of his passes and throwing only six interceptions. The spring game will be a good showcase for both Lindquist and Williams.
3. What Type of Offense Will the Huskies Run Without Their Standout Tight End?
Seferian-Jenkins tied down the tight end position for Washington but will no longer be an option for either young quarterback. The Huskies have five tight ends on their spring roster, but only one of them has game experience with the team. Joshua Perkins caught three touchdown passes last season, and only had five receptions, which means he likely will score when he gets his hands on the ball.
The Huskies would be wise to use Perkins as their primary tight end, but if he doesn't produce like he did briefly last season, a new offensive scheme might be the better option. Washington has two seniors and two juniors on the roster at the wide receiver position. More raw receivers with age could help the younger quarterbacks.
4. Can Washington Run the Ball Successfully Without Bishop Sankey?
Sankey's 20 touchdowns on the ground and one through the air in 2013 will be sorely missed by the Huskies this season. However, all three of the other running backs who found the end zone last year are coming back: Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier and Dwayne Washington combined for 10 touchdowns in 2013, and so all have Pac-12 experience. The Huskies could run the ball by committee this season, but if one of these running backs stands out in the spring game, he could be the one to pursue as the feature back going into the regular season.
Petersen has his work cut out for him with the vacancies at important positions on his inherited roster. However, this is Pac-12 talent that he is dealing with, so good coaching should whip the new faces of the program into shape quickly.