Confused? Check out the glossary here.
1. Perfectly average
What's the most bland, middle-of-the-road FBS program? Like, so perfectly mediocre you'd almost respect them more if they were really awful.— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) June 21, 2013
In the Adj. Points measure I use below, the idea is to take a team's performance in a given week and gauge what would have happened if that team had played a perfectly average opponent that week instead of whoever it played. It is an attempt to adjust for schedule and look at a team's in-season trends. But really, it could also be titled "WashingtonScore." because Washington has spent most of the last eight seasons as an almost perfectly average team.
In terms of F/+ rankings, the Huskies ranked 78th in 2005, 60th in 2006, 50th in 2007, 63rd in 2009, 70th in 2010, 67th in 2011, and 56th in 2012. Average ranking in those seven seasons: 63.4. Granted, this ignores a year in which they were, in Matt Hinton's words, "really awful" (that would be the 2008 season that saw them go 0-12, rank 117th, and get Ty Willingham fired), but that one outlier aside, there has been almost no trend, just slightly different grades of average football.
That Steve Sarkisian has gotten Washington back to average after the 2008 debacle is impressive. He's come across some nice wins in his four seasons in Seattle (16-13 over No. 3 USC and 42-10 over No. 19 California in 2009, 32-31 over No. 18 USC and 19-7 over No. 17 Nebraska in 2010, 17-13 over No. 8 Stanford and 20-17 over No. 7 Oregon State in 2012, and a 3-1 Apple Cup record versus Washington State).
But he has also come across a rather meager nickname: Seven-Win Steve. Washington has gone 7-6 for three straight years, with nice wins offset by dramatic breakdowns. A brutal schedule kept Washington's win total tamped down a bit, but so did a slipup to Washington State and a blowout loss at Arizona. The defense improved dramatically in its first year under new coordinator Justin Wilcox, but the gains were mostly offset by offensive regression.
2. Youth = ceiling
The main problem in 2012 was youth -- Washington simply had too much of it. The top two running backs were a sophomore and a freshman. The top six receiving targets were four sophomores and two freshmen. Of the eight offensive linemen with starting experience, six were sophomores and two were freshmen. The top three tacklers on the line were sophomores. The top three linebackers were a sophomore and two freshmen. A freshman cornerback was one of the key defensive cogs. Not only was the senior class of little help, but the junior class was almost nonexistent.
There is just no way you can build a consistent team with this much youth involved. And as we'll see below, Washington didn't reach the No. 56 F/+ ranking with perpetually average play -- the Huskies were a frequently good team done in by a handful of outright disasters.
2012 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 56|
|Date||Opponent||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L|
|1-Sep||San Diego State||21-12||W||27.7 - 22.2||W|
|8-Sep||at LSU||3-41||L||12.5 - 37.2||L|
|15-Sep||Portland State||52-13||W||27.4 - 24.8||W|
|27-Sep||Stanford||17-13||W||25.1 - 12.5||W|
|6-Oct||at Oregon||21-52||L||31.2 - 29.6||W|
|13-Oct||USC||14-24||L||27.5 - 22.3||W|
|20-Oct||at Arizona||17-52||L||20.1 - 35.0||L|
|27-Oct||Oregon State||20-17||W||23.6 - 28.0||L|
|2-Nov||at California||21-13||W||28.1 - 26.3||W|
|10-Nov||Utah||34-15||W||32.9 - 17.0||W|
|17-Nov||at Colorado||38-3||W||26.1 - 9.4||W|
|23-Nov||at Washington State||28-31||L||17.2 - 30.6||L|
|22-Dec||vs. Boise State||26-28||L||36.7 - 22.5||W|
|Points Per Game||24.0||90||24.2||39|
|Adj. Points Per Game||25.9||84||24.4||32|
3. Bad was really bad
Let's look at Washington's Adj. Points averages in two different ways.
Adj. Points Per Game (first 9 games): Opponent 26.4, Washington 24.8 (minus-1.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Washington 28.3, Opponent 19.9 (plus-8.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (vs. LSU, Arizona, & Wazzu): Opponent 34.3, Washington 16.6 (minus-17.7)
Adj. Points Per Game (other 10 games): Washington 28.6, Opponent 21.5 (plus-7.1)
The first set of averages shows us that, in all, Washington showed late-season improvement that, with so many interesting returning pieces, could be sustainable in 2013. The second set of averages tells us that this was a pretty good team that saw its averages wrecked by three specific performances. (Consider this a nice case for use of median versus mean.) But experience tends to improve consistency, which means that both averages here point to potentially nice fortunes for the Huskies moving forward.
|Q1 Rk||79||1st Down Rk||84|
|Q2 Rk||40||2nd Down Rk||60|
|Q3 Rk||84||3rd Down Rk||68|
4. Style emphasized weakness
Wilcox was the more high-profile of Washington's two new coordinators last season, but Eric Kiesau certainly made some interesting changes on the offensive side of the ball. (And no, "interesting" doesn't always suggest "good.") Kiesau was California's passing game coordinator in 2011, and he did his part in utilizing a pass-first attack in Seattle; long-term, this could be an interesting fit -- Cal certainly had a lovely passing game for most of the time he was there -- but while Washington seemed to have the receivers to fit what Kiesau wanted to do, his changes did not necessarily fit quarterback Keith Price's skill set.
Kiesau's and Sarkisian's system gives quarterbacks a lot of options and puts pressure on them to make precise, quick reads. When it worked, it was beautiful. When it didn't, it resulted in an indecisive Price either freezing up and getting sacked or throwing the ball away. The latter happened enough to stunt the offense's growth quite a bit.
In 2011, Washington ran the ball 56 percent of the time on standard downs and 33 percent on passing downs; in 2012, those numbers sank to 52 percent and 30 percent. In 2011, Price averaged 30 pass attempts per game, was sacked seven percent of the time, completed 67 percent of his passes, and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt (including sacks). In 2012, he averaged 36 attempts, was sacked eight percent of the time, completed 61 percent of his passes, and averaged a paltry 5.3 yards per attempt. Despite a lovely pair of receiving options in Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Price was not quick to thrive in this system.
Meanwhile, the emphasis on quick reads and passing potentially took opportunities away from a running game that was much better than expected. Between a season-opening injury to starter Jesse Callier and a line that had to replace all-conference tackle Senio Kelemete (and would be forced to do a ton of shuffling in 2012), it was easy to assume that Washington might struggle to move the ball on the ground. And hell, with a running back corps that was basically sophomore Bishop Sankey and a bunch of freshmen, it's possible that Washington called more pass plays because it didn't have a choice. (And yes, it should also be mentioned that a lot of Washington's packaged option plays include both a run and pass option.)
Regardless, Washington was actually quite proficient on the ground. The Huskies improved from 52nd to 33rd in Rushing S&P+ and from 34th to sixth in Adj. Line Yards. Sankey was not a particularly explosive option, but with the blocking he received, he didn't need to be.
It will be interesting to see how this offense splits between run and pass in 2013. Price, in his second year with this coordinator, could improve just through familiarity and a higher comfort level. But with Sankey, Callier, and explosive (and little-used) sophomore Kendyl Taylor back, along with eight linemen with starting experience (81 career starts), Washington could have one hell of a ground game, too.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Steven Bisig, US Presswire.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Keith Price||6'1, 202||Sr.||*** (5.5)||263||432||2,726||60.9%||19||13||37||7.9%||5.3|
|Derrick Brown||6'2, 245||So.||*** (5.7)||2||5||23||40.0%||0||1||0||0.0%||4.6|
|Cyler Miles||6'4, 223||RSFr.||**** (6.0)|
|Jeff Lindquist||6'3, 234||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
5. Throw the ball, Keith
Keith Price will have options. Sankey and Callier are strong and competent, and in Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, he has one of the best one-two receiving combos in the conference. Seferian-Jenkins is basically everybody's preseason All-American (assuming he's on the field), and with ASJ receiving so much attention, Williams, an all-everything local recruit, has almost become underrated. Washington doesn't really have a field-stretcher in this quick passing game (not a single player could top ASJ's meager per-catch average of 12.3); if that changes with the addition of incoming four-star freshmen Damore'ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels, however, this could quickly become one of the nation's best batches of receivers.
That said, the quality of the receiving corps only matters if the quarterback throwing them the ball is actually throwing them the ball. Price hesitated far too much in 2012 and took far too many sacks. He wasn't Braxton Miller-, Tino Sunseri-, or Jordan Webb-esque in this regard, but anything higher than a 5 percent sack rate is damaging to your offense, and Price's was well over 5 percent. Plus, it was nearly 10 percent on standard downs, the downs on which the offense has the advantage and the defense cannot pin its ears back. Hesitation kills.
|Bishop Sankey||RB||5'10, 200||Jr.||**** (5.8)||291||1,445||5.0||4.1||16||+2.7|
|Jesse Callier (2011)||RB||5'10, 211||Jr.||*** (5.7)||47||260||5.5||N/A||1||N/A|
|Kendyl Taylor||RB||5'10, 200||So.||*** (5.7)||33||203||6.2||6.4||0||+3.6|
|Keith Price||QB||6'1, 202||Sr.||*** (5.5)||32||203||6.3||3.5||2||+3.7|
|Erich Wilson II||RB||25||140||5.6||3.9||1||+1.0|
|Ryan McDaniel||RB||6'0, 227||RSFr.||*** (5.7)|
|Kasen Williams||WR||6'2, 216||Jr.||**** (5.8)||109||77||878||70.6%||8.1||28.1%||57.8%||8.0||112.7|
|Austin Seferian-Jenkins||TE||6'6, 266||Jr.||**** (6.0)||96||69||852||71.9%||8.9||24.7%||55.2%||8.8||109.4|
|Bishop Sankey||RB||5'10, 200||Jr.||**** (5.8)||42||33||249||78.6%||5.9||10.8%||50.0%||5.8||32.0|
|Jaydon Mickens||WR||5'10, 170||So.||**** (5.8)||34||20||190||58.8%||5.6||8.8%||55.9%||5.5||24.4|
|DiAndre Campbell||WR||6'1, 198||Jr.||** (5.3)||31||16||167||51.6%||5.4||8.0%||51.6%||6.0||21.4|
|Kendyl Taylor||RB||5'10, 200||So.||*** (5.6)||20||14||110||70.0%||5.5||5.2%||45.0%||5.4||14.1|
|Kevin Smith||WR||5'11, 213||Sr.||**** (5.8)||12||6||68||50.0%||5.7||3.1%||25.0%||4.2||8.7|
|Michael Hartvigson||TE||6'6, 255||Jr.||*** (5.7)||10||6||55||60.0%||5.5||2.6%||60.0%||5.5||7.1|
|Evan Hudson||TE||6'5, 262||Jr.||*** (5.5)||5||5||31||100.0%||6.2||1.3%||60.0%||6.2||4.0|
|Marvin Hall||WR||5'10, 181||So.||*** (5.5)||3||2||21||66.7%||7.0||0.8%||0.0%||4.2||2.7|
|Jesse Callier||RB||5'10, 211||Jr.||*** (5.7)||2||2||8||100.0%||4.0||0.5%||100.0%||2.4||1.0|
|Joshua Perkins||WR||6'3, 216||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Damore'ea Stringfellow||WR||6'2, 205||Fr.||**** (6.0)|
|Darrell Daniels||WR||6'4, 205||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
6. So many sophomores and juniors
Price cannot use youth as an excuse for his hesitation last year, but it very much bears mentioning that a) Washington played a ridiculous number of freshmen and sophomores in 2012, ans b) you tend to see your biggest improvement in your first two years on campus. Sankey was a sophomore, and his backups were freshmen. Williams and Seferian-Jenkins were both sophomores. And all of Washington's returning line starters were freshmen or sophomores last fall.
Inexperience becomes experience, and enough Washington youngsters showed promise last year that it's easy to envision a pretty high ceiling for the offense in 2013 ... as long as Price is ready to lead it.
|Drew Schaefer||C||43 career starts|
|Erik Kohler||RG||6'4, 299||Jr.||**** (5.8)||19 career starts|
|Micah Hatchie||LT||6'5, 293||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13 career starts|
|Colin Tanigawa||LG||6'3, 281||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13 career starts|
|Dexter Charles||LG||6'4, 292||So.||*** (5.6)||11 career starts|
|Ben Riva||RT||6'6, 302||Jr.||*** (5.7)||8 career starts|
|Mike Criste||RG||6'5, 295||Jr.||*** (5.6)||7 career starts|
|James Atoe||RT||6'6, 335||Jr.||** (5.2)||6 career starts|
|Shane Brostek||RG||6'4, 280||So.||** (5.4)||3 career starts|
|Siosifa Tufunga||LG||6'2, 307||So.||*** (5.5)|
|Q1 Rk||55||1st Down Rk||28|
|Q2 Rk||30||2nd Down Rk||29|
|Q3 Rk||43||3rd Down Rk||78|
7. A few too many big plays
Washington's defense wasn't as bad as Baylor made it look in 2011, but it wasn't good. The Huskies ranked 100th in Def. F/+, 107th in Rushing S&P+, and 86th in Adj. Sack Rate. Opponents could run without resistance, and a decent secondary was repeatedly put in impossible positions.
Under Justin Wilcox in 2012, the D came around dramatically. And like the offense, it leaned on an incredibly young core of players in the process. With just marginal improvement in the sack rates, Washington's pass defense became one of the nation's best, and the line held up against the run at least well enough for the linebackers to clean up and for the Huskies to improve to 42nd in Rushing S&P+.
The improvement was profound, especially considering the youth, but Washington did still struggle with big plays at times. The pass defense was aggressive and efficient (14th in Passing Success Rate+) but leaky (52nd in Passing PPP+), and the passing downs defense suffered because of it. (And like the team as a whole, when the defense struggled, it really struggled.)
If experience smooths out the breakdowns, Wilcox's 3-4 could continue to improve.
Josh Shirley. Kirby Lee, USA Today.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Danny Shelton||NT||6'1, 317||Jr.||**** (5.8)||13||32.5||4.8%||4||0.5||0||0||0||1|
|Andrew Hudson||DE||6'3, 249||Jr.||*** (5.7)||13||31.5||4.7%||9||6.5||0||1||0||1|
|Josh Shirley||RUSH||6'3, 230||Jr.||**** (5.8)||13||27.0||4.0%||9||6.5||0||1||6||0|
|Hau'oli Jamora (2011)||DE||6'3, 260||Jr.||*** (5.5)||4||11.5||1.6%||3||1||0||0||0||0|
|Sione Potoa'e||DE||6'2, 271||Sr.||**** (5.9)||13||6.5||1.0%||0.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Pio Vatuvei||DE||6'2, 281||So.||**** (5.8)||9||6.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Banks||DE||6'2, 265||Sr.||*** (5.6)||9||5.5||0.8%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Lawrence Lagafuaina||DT||6'0, 317||Jr.||*** (5.5)||3||4.5||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarett Finau||DE||6'2, 260||So.||** (5.4)||9||1.5||0.2%||0.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Connor Cree||RUSH||6'4, 245||So.||*** (5.6)|
|Elijah Qualls||DT||6'1, 282||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Joe Mathis||DE||6'4, 254||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|John Timu||LB||6'1, 231||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||67.5||10.0%||3.5||2||2||4||1||0|
|Travis Feeney||LB||6'4, 209||So.||*** (5.5)||12||62.5||9.2%||6||4||2||0||1||0|
|Shaq Thompson||LB||6'2, 225||So.||***** (6.1)||13||59.0||8.7%||8.5||2||3||3||0||1|
|Thomas Tutogi||LB||6'0, 242||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||32.0||4.7%||3||1||0||0||0||1|
|Princeton Fuimaono||LB||6'1, 210||Sr.||*** (5.5)||10||24.5||3.6%||1||0||0||0||1||0|
|Cory Littleton||LB||6'3, 230||So.||*** (5.5)||9||10.0||1.5%||1.5||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jamaal Kearse||LB||6'1, 226||Jr.||*** (5.7)||5||0.5||0.1%||0||0||0||0||0||1|
|Sean Constantine||LB||6'3, 218||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
8. The star recruits are adding up
Wilcox was the primary addition to Sarkisian's defensive staff in 2012, but Sarkisian also stole defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi from California, and that move could begin to reap as many rewards. Lupoi is a potentially solid line coach, but his calling card is his recruiting prowess. He steered stud sophomore Shaq Thompson from Cal to Washington, and while the Huskies' recruiting rankings have improved slightly since Tupoi joined the staff (23rd in 2011 according to Rivals.com, then 21st in 2012 and 18th in 2013), the effects on the defense have been particularly noticeable.
Washington will boast three four star freshmen and sophomores up front (along with two four-star upper-classmen), two four- or five-star freshmen or sophomores at linebacker, and two four-star freshmen in the secondary. Throw in a pair of three-star sophomore studs -- corner Marcus Peters, linebacker Travis Feeney -- and you've got yourself a defense that has is improved and could threaten to improve even more.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Sean Parker||S||5'10, 190||Sr.||**** (5.8)||13||65.5||9.7%||3.5||0||2||4||3||0|
|Marcus Peters||CB||5'11, 194||So.||*** (5.7)||13||35.0||5.2%||2||0||3||8||0||1|
|Tre Watson||CB||5'9, 183||Sr.||** (5.3)||13||21.0||3.1%||0||0||1||4||0||0|
|Will Shamburger||S||6'0, 185||Sr.||*** (5.5)||13||16.0||2.4%||0||0||0||1||0||2|
|Gregory Ducre||CB||5'10, 177||Sr.||*** (5.6)||12||13.0||1.9%||1.5||0||0||3||0||0|
|Taz Stevenson||NB||6'1, 215||Sr.||*** (5.6)||13||6.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Brandon Beaver||S||6'0, 181||RSFr.||**** (5.8)|
|Jermaine Kelly||DB||6'2, 185||Fr.||**** (5.8)|
|Trevor Walker||S||5'11, 180||Fr.||*** (5.6)|
9. Three awesome sophomores
Washington benefited greatly from the presence of corner Desmond Trufant last year. Picked in the first round of the NFL Draft by Atlanta, Trufant was a true lockdown corner, a rare luxury in college football. He defensed 10 passes, and 4.5 of his 31.5 tackles were behind the line of scrimmage. (If you're defensing 10 passes and only making 31.5 tackles, that means the guy you're covering is almost never catching the ball. Well, that, or when he does, you miss the tackle. In Trufant's case, it was more former than latter.)
What benefited Washington even more, however, was the simple fact that opponents avoiding Trufant still had to throw toward Marcus Peters; just a three-star redshirt freshman, Peters did a remarkable job, defensing more passes than Trufant (11) while logging only 3.5 more tackles. Yes, there was some risk-reward going on here, and yes, Washington gave up a few too many big plays through the air. But Peters held his own for a newbie, and he could become a Trufant-esque star in the coming years.
That Peters wasn't the best freshman in the lineup is staggering. Shaq Thompson has moved from nickelback to linebacker, but with his size, speed, and coverage ability, that should work out just fine. Even with Trufant around, Thompson may have been the best player on the defense. He in no way looked the part of a freshman (even a blue-chip freshman), and he was capable of both making plays behind the line and covering the pass.
The move to linebacker will put him closer to another stud sophomore, Travis Feeney. Throw in linebacker John Timu, and an active trio of junior linemen (Danny Shelton, Andrew Hudson, Josh Shirley), and you've got a lineup that is full of both playmakers and players who could very well return in 2014.
|Travis Coons||6'2, 205||Sr.||54||39.8||5||21||15||66.7%|
|Korey Durkee||6'4, 225||So.||15||36.9||2||5||4||60.0%|
|Travis Coons||6'2, 205||Sr.||63||59||11||17.5%|
|Travis Coons||6'2, 205||Sr.||39-39||5-7||71.4%||4-7||57.1%|
|Jaydon Mickens||KR||5'10, 170||So.||19||21.5||0|
|Marvin Hall||KR||5'10, 181||So.||16||22.3||0|
|Marvin Hall||PR||5'10, 181||So.||6||5.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||98|
|Field Goal Pct||91|
|Kick Returns Avg||71|
|Punt Returns Avg||85|
2013 Schedule & Projection Factors
|19-Oct||at Arizona State||34|
|23-Nov||at Oregon State||25|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||83|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||18|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+5 / +2.9|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||18 (10, 8)|
10. Beat Boise State, and everything changes
Even though Keith Price is a senior, and even though this could be the last year that Austin Seferian-Jenkins and/or Kasen Williams don the purple and gold, Washington could be really, really good in 2014. The improving defense is still young, the better-than-expected offensive line is still good, and the running back position is in pretty good hands. The future is looking pretty bright for UW, but I'm not completely sure about the present tense.
The 2013 schedule is both challenging and much easier than last year's. Instead of getting LSU on the road, the Huskies get Boise State at home, and while there are still three games versus projected top-12 teams, there are also six versus teams projected worst than 40th. There are wins to be found here, but my expectations today could change drastically on August 31.
The season opener versus Boise State is enormous. Lose that game (as they will be projected to do), and they're perhaps looking at yet another seven-win season or so. That's certainly not bad, especially with how experienced the Huskies will be in 2014, but if the natives aren't restless now, they definitely would be then. Beat Boise, however (and it bears mentioning that they almost did just that in the Las Vegas Bowl), and you can begin to see how a nine- or 10-win season could come together quickly.
This is a good team that will get better next season. How good the Huskies will be in 2013, however, depends on Keith Price, quick maturation, and August 31.