Huskies eager to get started vs. San Diego St.
Last season’s opener was considered a lock for Washington
against lower-division Eastern Washington.
Then it took an end zone interception from cornerback Desmond
Trufant in the final moments to preserve Washington’s 30-27 win,
allowing everyone to escape with a reduced heart rate.
It was also Keith Price’s debut as the starting quarterback –
the beginning of what turned out to be a record-setting season.
This Saturday’s season opener against San Diego State and its
tricky defense will present the first challenge for a Washington
program hoping to get to its third consecutive bowl game.
”You can feel the eagerness from everybody,” sophomore wide
receiver Kasen Williams said.
Much of the offense’s excitement should be dedicated to watching
tape. The Aztecs use a 3-3-5 defense earmarked by multiple shifts
up front meant to confuse and hurry a quarterback. San Diego State
was plus-12 in turnover margin last season when it went 8-5 and
made an appearance in the New Orleans Bowl.
”From an identification standpoint, they can be challenging,”
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. ”You can’t worry about
the numbers. They’ve got guys moving around, playing different
spots. A guy might be free safety one snap, the next snap he’s
blitzing off the edge. They can cause some hesitation for you. They
can create errant throws and in turn create turnovers.”
An important element to slowing San Diego State’s rush will be
Washington’s new co-starters at running back. Jesse Callier and
Bishop Sankey will alternate series in the backfield as the Huskies
try to replace record-setting back Chris Polk, who declared for the
NFL draft following his junior season. Polk has the most carries in
”I wouldn’t say pressure; I would say opportunity,” Callier
said of replacing Polk. ”How many carries I get, I’ll make the
best of them.”
The Aztecs will also be trying to baffle a revamped offensive
line and two freshman receivers. Washington’s first depth chart has
three sophomores – Micah Hatchie at left tackle, Colin Tanigawa at
left guard, and Ben Riva at right tackle – among the starters. Only
Tanigawa started multiple times last season.
Two Huskies youngsters will be split out wide, as well as
freshmen Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor atop the wide receiver
depth chart with Williams.
”I always tell them, if you don’t understand something, just
tell me,” Price said. ”Once they get hit, banged around a couple
times, they’ll wake up.”
Saturday will also be the first opportunity for the Huskies
defense to create a new impression than their last, when they gave
up 67 points to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Former Oregon State
quarterback Ryan Katz transferred to San Diego State and will start
Saturday. The Aztecs like to take deep shots in their pro-style
offense and are likely to do so against an unproven defense.
”I think the reality of it is, I think they want to play well.
I don’t know if it’s about proving anybody wrong or right,”
Junior transfer Tre Watson is on top of the depth chart at
corner opposite senior Desmond Trufant. New Washington defensive
coordinator Justin Wilcox has changed the Huskies’ scheme, allowing
speedy talents like Josh Shirley and touted freshman Shaq Thompson
room to roam.
Most of Washington’s injury issues headed into the opener rest
on the defensive side. Defensive end Hau’oli Jamora will have
surgery Thursday on the same knee he injured last season, which
caused him to miss the rest of the season after four games.
Sarkisian would not commit to a timeframe for Jamora’s return.
Linebackers Nate Fellner, Cooper Pelluer and Jamaal Kearse are
all out Saturday.