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Washington lost 3 All-Americans from a mediocre team, but Chris Petersen's building

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The Huskies have a bright future, even if the brightest parts aren't all that immediate.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. A second first year

It's hard for a hire to make more sense than Washington hiring Boise State's Chris Petersen. Petersen produced incredible results at a smaller school 500 miles southeast of Seattle, unearthing diamonds in the rough and crafting teams with talent, chips on shoulders, and unexpected athleticism.

Aside from one season as Pitt's quarterbacks coach more than 20 years ago, Petersen's entire career has elapsed in the West. He is an extreme winner, he's local, and at Washington, he will have the chance to combine his research and development skills with the ability to land a few more four-star prospects. And he only recently turned 50. He checks every box.

Entering his second year, however, he's almost starting from scratch. So much of what he faces feels like what a new coach would face right after taking the job. Quarterback attrition? Check. Star players leaving early? Check. Quite a few transfers related to a culture change? Check.

He faces major rebuilding on both lines, his only quarterback with any experience completed 33 percent of his passes, and he has to replace five massive playmakers in the defensive front seven. Plus, one of his most dangerous skill position guys is out for the year with a knee injury, leaving the Huskies both without ability and without actual warm bodies in the receiving corps. This could be an awfully rough year at Husky Stadium.

Plus, there's the awkward case of diminishing returns. In his last two seasons at Boise, Petersen's team fell from fourth in the F/+ rankings in 2011, to 23rd in 2012, to 50th in 2013. His first Washington team, blessed with quite a few All-American and all-conference players and more four-star talent than he'd ever worked with, ranked 58th.

We've always viewed Petersen as a "Moneyball" type of coach, taking advantage of inefficiencies and focusing on aspects of recruiting that are overlooked by others. But inefficiencies cease and shift. And while coaches don't tend to lose their touch overnight (no matter how many times fans accuse them of doing so), it bears mentioning that it's been three years since Petersen was at the helm of a great team, and this season probably won't end that streak.

Long-term, it's still not hard to see this working out. Petersen's recruiting has been an entertaining mix of four-star locals and "Who's this guy?" According to Rivals, he signed five of the state's top 10 prospects for 2015 and landed the top player in Wyoming and the second-best from Idaho. He is mixing blue-chippers with rugged Boise types, and that could produce exciting results.

Plus, this retooling year could pay off. Washington will be starting either a freshman or a junior QB in 2015, someone who could lead the Huskies through at least 2016. The top returning running back is a sophomore. With John Ross injured, a few more freshmen and sophomores will get time in the corps, and then Ross will return for 2016-17. Quite a few freshmen or redshirt freshmen could end up in the rotation on the defensive line. And the top two returnees in the secondary are sophomores.

Washington might not be very good, but whatever level they produce, they will probably exceed it greatly in 2016, then perhaps in 2017. But after losing more games in 2014 (six) than he did from 2008-12 combined (five), Petersen is likely going to have to suffer through 2015.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-6 | Adj. Record: 7-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 58
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug Hawaii 111 17-16 W 23% -17.0 40%
6-Sep Eastern Washington N/A 59-52 W 48% -1.2 93%
13-Sep Illinois 78 44-19 W 85% 24.3 100%
20-Sep Georgia State 122 45-14 W 73% 14.4 100%
27-Sep Stanford 18 13-20 L 25% -15.4 2%
11-Oct at California 65 31-7 W 75% 15.8 96%
18-Oct at Oregon 3 20-45 L 16% -23.5 0%
25-Oct Arizona State 27 10-24 L 30% -12.4 8%
1-Nov at Colorado 83 38-23 W 56% 3.5 87%
8-Nov UCLA 12 30-44 L 10% -29.7 0%
15-Nov at Arizona 28 26-27 L 54% 2.4 63%
22-Nov Oregon State 74 37-13 W 76% 16.8 98%
29-Nov at Washington State 77 31-13 W 84% 23.5 100%
2-Jan vs. Oklahoma State 75 22-30 L 13% -25.9 4%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 26.0 83 27.2 56
Points Per Game 30.2 57 24.8 40

2. One hell of a range

Linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha was a unanimous All-American, and lineman Danny Shelton and linebacker/jack of all trades Shaq Thompson were named to three All-American teams each. All three were first-team All-Pac-12, and Thompson was a special teams honoree as well.

Despite their presence, Washington ranked 56th in Def. S&P+. And despite a four-star quarterback with experience (Cyler Miles), an experienced line (194 career starts at the end of the year), and loads of former four-star recruits at the skill positions, the Huskies ranked a woeful 83rd in Off. S&P+.

The whole was far less than the sum of the parts.

The above percentile chart, however, shows us that sometimes full-season ratings get to the whole story. Washington was usually either much better or much worse than its overall ratings would suggest. There was no telling what kind of Washington team was going to show up.

  • Average Percentile Performance (5 best games): 79% (~top 25 | avg. score: UW 38, Opp 13)
  • Average Percentile Performance (5 worst games): 17% (~top 105 | avg. score: Opp 31, UW 20)

Now, any team's best performances are quite a bit better than its worst. Of course. But this range is absurd. It screams "young team!!!" but this year's team might be even younger.

Washington had the remarkable ability to stay close on the scoreboard while creating little hope of victory. From a Win Expectancy standpoint (this takes the key stats from a game and says "You could have expected to win this game X percent of the time"), Washington only had about a 2 percent chance of beating Stanford in a seven-point loss and a 4 percent chance of beating Oklahoma State in an eight-point loss.

On the flipside, the Huskies only had about a 40 percent chance of beating Hawaii but lucked out.

Teams that carry a slow tempo tend to keep games closer simply because of fewer plays and possessions. But Washington wanted to move quickly; the Huskies just weren't consistent enough to do it. And games remained close regardless. Odd.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.85 64 IsoPPP+ 93.6 83
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.3% 80 Succ. Rt. + 96.4 80
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.3 60 Def. FP+ 101.0 53
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.2 83 Redzone S&P+ 88.5 101
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.4 ACTUAL 17 -9.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 77 89 83 83
RUSHING 42 68 63 72
PASSING 89 90 101 82
Standard Downs 75 72 79
Passing Downs 98 108 89
Q1 Rk 57 1st Down Rk 65
Q2 Rk 103 2nd Down Rk 108
Q3 Rk 88 3rd Down Rk 63
Q4 Rk 94

3. Raw stats vs. advanced stats

Opponent adjustments can change the story. A cursory glance at Washington's offense tells us that, when the Huskies had a strength, it came through the air. UW averaged 4.4 yards per carry in 2014 and topped 5.1 per carry in just three games (EWU, Colorado, Oregon State).

Meanwhile, the passing game had some delight: 73 percent completion rate and a 171.4 passer rating against Illinois, 70 percent and 155 against Georgia State, 76 percent and 189.1 against California, 79 percent and 195.9 against Oregon State.

Of course, of those four opponents, only one (Oregon State) ranked better than 70th in Passing S&P+, and two ranked 117th or worse. Against better defenses, the Huskies were horrific: 88.4 passer rating vs. Stanford, 98.8 vs. Arizona State, 107.3 vs. Oregon, 104.3 vs. UCLA.

Meanwhile, the rushing totals were dinged by sacks (which are counted as pass attempts in the S&P+ figures), and Washington faced more good run defenses than good pass defenses.

The result: a No. 68 ranking in Rushing S&P+ and No. 90 in Passing S&P+.

Last year's ratings don't matter much, considering what Washington lost. The Huskies return their top three running backs, plus leading receiver Jaydon Mickens and tight end Joshua Perkins. So there's some skill position talent. But they must replace 93 percent of last year's pass attempts and 77 percent of their career starts on the offensive line (and those responsible for 38 of the remaining 45 starts are coming back from injury).

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Cyler Miles
219 329 2397 17 4 66.6% 19 5.5% 6.4
Troy Williams
23 36 176 0 2 63.9% 6 14.3% 3.6
Jeff Lindquist 6'3, 244 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9051 10 30 162 1 0 33.3% 1 3.2% 4.7
K.J. Carta-Samuels 6'2, 219 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9109
Tony Rodriguez 6'3, 180 Jr. NR NR
Jake Browning 6'2, 205 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9619

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Lavon Coleman TB 5'11, 222 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8769 138 565 1 4.1 3.3 35.5% 1 0
Dwayne Washington TB 6'2, 221 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8254 132 697 9 5.3 7.4 31.8% 4 1
Cyler Miles QB
99 484 4 4.9 3.0 52.5% 13 6
Deontae Cooper TB 5'11, 202 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9209 63 285 0 4.5 3.6 38.1% 2 1
Shaq Thompson LB
61 456 2 7.5 7.5 47.5% 0 0
Jesse Callier TB
19 91 1 4.8 2.9 36.8% 0 0
Jaydon Mickens WR 5'11, 171 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9236 17 103 2 6.1 9.2 41.2% 2 0
Jeff Lindquist QB 6'3, 244 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9051 15 79 2 5.3 2.7 60.0% 0 0
Troy Williams QB
10 50 1 5.0 2.3 60.0% 1 1
John Ross WR 5'11, 194 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9056 6 54 1 9.0 11.8 66.7% 0 0
Marvin Hall WR 5'10, 187 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8354 5 17 0 3.4 2.3 40.0% 1 0
Jomon Dotson TB 5'10, 174 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8513
Myles Gaskin TB 5'9, 195 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8791







4. Backs you can lean on

The status of the offensive line could dictate the success of the running game, but if the blocking is decent, I think the backs will be able to take advantage.

Lavon Coleman was reasonably efficient for a redshirt freshman, and he fumbled just once in 138 carries. Dwayne Washington fumbled a little too much but showed off serious potential explosiveness down the stretch: against Arizona, Oregon State, and Washington State, he rushed 49 times for 383 yards (7.8) and five scores. And while three ACL injuries seem to have slowed sixth-year senior Deontae Cooper, he was the most effective back when it came to moving forward -- 38 percent of his carries gained at least five yards.

This trio, plus either of two young change-of-pace backs (Jomon Dotson or Myles Gaskin), could carry a heavy load for a young quarterback.

Washington was a run-first enterprise, and that was with quarterback Miles (who has since retired because of chronic hip issues) and Troy Williams (who transferred). Either junior Jeff Lindquist (10-for-30 for 162 yards last year), redshirt freshman K.J. Carta Samuels, or true-freshman blue-chipper Jake Browning will probably start. (Tony Rodriguez, an unheralded JUCO transfer, committed in June and could play a role.) That probably means the Huskies will lean even more heavily on the run, if they can get away with it.

When the QB does have to pass, he at least has a couple of nice efficiency options. Mickens has never averaged more than 10.6 yards per catch in his career, but he caught three-quarters of the passes targeting him last year, and Perkins' catch rate was 74 percent. John Ross was the home run hitter, but sophomore Dante Pettis hinted at big-play ability, averaging 17.4 yards per catch over the last half of the season.

The tight end position should be a strength, too. Beyond Perkins, UW also boasts former four-star signee Darrell Daniels, and two young guys (David Ajamu, Drew Sample) who had some exciting moments this spring. You could see how coordinator Jonathan Smith might attempt to build an efficiency attack around the run game, Mickens, and the tight ends.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jaydon Mickens WR 5'11, 171 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9236 80 60 617 75.0% 21.0% 58.8% 7.7 -89 7.7 62.7
DiAndre Campbell WR
36 24 231 66.7% 9.4% 58.3% 6.4 -57 6.4 23.5
Kasen Williams WR
35 20 189 57.1% 9.2% 54.3% 5.4 -58 5.5 19.2
Joshua Perkins TE 6'4, 226 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8485 34 25 315 73.5% 8.9% 70.6% 9.3 20 8.6 32.0
John Ross WR 5'11, 194 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9056 30 17 371 56.7% 7.9% 53.3% 12.4 160 12.3 37.7
Dante Pettis WR 6'0, 183 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8453 29 17 259 58.6% 7.6% 72.4% 8.9 50 9.1 26.3
Kendyl Taylor WR
26 18 146 69.2% 6.8% 53.8% 5.6 -69 5.8 14.9
Dwayne Washington TB 6'2, 221 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8254 23 15 91 65.2% 6.0% 30.4% 4.0 -90 3.4 9.3
Darrell Daniels TE 6'4, 230 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9329 18 11 171 61.1% 4.7% 55.6% 9.5 37 9.7 17.4
Deontae Cooper TB 5'11, 202 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9209 16 16 155 100.0% 4.2% 75.0% 9.7 -25 11.4 15.8
Brayden Lenius WR 6'5, 217 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8377 13 7 56 53.8% 3.4% 46.2% 4.3 -32 4.8 5.7
Lavon Coleman TB 5'11, 222 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8769 12 9 35 75.0% 3.1% 33.3% 2.9 -71 4.9 3.6
Michael Hartvigson TE
10 5 65 50.0% 2.6% 80.0% 6.5 1 7.5 6.6
Marvin Hall WR 5'10, 187 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8354 10 6 42 60.0% 2.6% 40.0% 4.2 -32 3.8 4.3
David Ajamu TE 6'5, 251 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8279
Drew Sample TE 6'4, 249 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8244
Nic Little WR 6'4, 210 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7889
Isaiah Renfro WR 6'1, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8898
Chico McClatcher WR 5'8, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8758
Andre Baccellia WR 5'9, 165 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 99.3 2.95 3.13 40.7% 66.7% 20.2% 98.2 4.2% 9.1%
Rank 78 62 80 46 66 77 71 54 91
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Micah Hatchie LT 40
Colin Tanigawa RG
40
Dexter Charles LG 6'5, 312 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585 31
Mike Criste C
25
Ben Riva RT
23
James Atoe RT
21
Coleman Shelton RT 6'4, 282 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 7
Siosifa Tufunga LG 6'3, 313 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8256 4
Shane Brostek RG 6'4, 301 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) NR 3
Ross Dolbec RG
0
Jake Eldrenkamp LT 6'5, 298 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404 0
Michael Kneip LG 6'5, 302 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) NR 0
Dane Crane OL 6'3, 287 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8762 0
Andrew Kirkland OL 6'4, 300 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8157 0
Kaleb McGary OL 6'7, 292 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8969
Matt James OL 6'4, 273 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8479
Henry Roberts OL 6'6, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9049
Trey Adams OL 6'8, 283 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8938
Jared Hilbers OL 6'6, 279 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438

5. A rebuild up front, part 1

Of course, efficiency requires a line that isn't porous. The line ranked worse than 70th in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate, and while young backs and quarterbacks had a role, that was still disappointing, considering the experience.

And now, five of eight players who started games last year are gone, including the three who started all 14 games. Assuming injured Dexter Charles is healthy, Washington does still have some experience, with two senior guards and a few juniors in the two-deep. [Update: It turns out Charles wasn't healthy. He has retired from football due to a lingering knee injury.] But while the backs are more experienced, it's hard to imagine the line stats improving much.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.78 27 IsoPPP+ 112.0 38
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.5% 70 Succ. Rt. + 100.9 59
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.6 80 Off. FP+ 100.0 65
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.8 22 Redzone S&P+ 104.5 45
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 26.8 ACTUAL 29.0 +2.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 80 50 65 38
RUSHING 22 43 58 22
PASSING 123 64 73 55
Standard Downs 52 68 42
Passing Downs 46 55 38
Q1 Rk 76 1st Down Rk 61
Q2 Rk 77 2nd Down Rk 29
Q3 Rk 27 3rd Down Rk 54
Q4 Rk 20

6. Whole vs. sum of parts

It would be easy to spend a few hundred words talking about the quality of the players Washington lost. Linebackers Kikaha, Thompson, and John Timu combined for 29 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, three interceptions, 16 pass break-ups, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and, because of Thompson, blocked kicks and rushing touchdowns, too. And that says nothing of the 32 tackles for loss linemen Shelton and Andrew Hudson generated or the havoc plays first-round cornerback Marcus Peters made before he was kicked off.

So yeah, that's a lot to lose. And considering Washington's defense was pretty mediocre WITH these players ... yikes.

If there's a bright side, it's that the balance between whole and sum of parts can change. And while this is small consolation, all of last year's second string is back, and there will be two Petersen recruiting classes in circulation. And despite last year's issues, coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski is a smart guy with good defenses on his record (Boise State ranked between second and 11th in Def. S&P+ each year between 2010-12).

This is a long way of saying I don't expect too significant a drop. The problem is, it would stretch the bounds of plausibility to suggest that improvement is on the way in 2015.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 95.1 3.03 3.47 34.5% 69.4% 16.1% 122.9 7.7% 9.4%
Rank 87 79 78 23 78 108 30 10 28
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Danny Shelton NG
14 73.0 8.6% 16.5 9.0 0 0 0 2
Andrew Hudson DE
14 65.5 7.7% 15.5 12.5 0 1 3 0
Evan Hudson DT
14 25.5 3.0% 3.0 2.5 0 2 0 0
Joe Mathis DE 6'2, 249 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9193 11 13.0 1.5% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Elijah Qualls NG 6'1, 305 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9452 14 10.5 1.2% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Taniela Tupou DT 6'2, 293 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8766 14 10.0 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jarett Finau DE 6'3, 272 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8424 8 7.0 0.8% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Damion Turpin DL 6'4, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8658
Will Dissly DL 6'4, 275 So. NR 0.7826
Greg Gaines NG 6'1, 306 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8550
Jaylen Johnson DL 6'2, 266 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8525
Shane Bowman DL 6'3, 267 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210
Vita Vea NG 6'5, 329 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8750
Benning Potoa'e DE 6'3, 265 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9099
Jason Scrempos DE 6'6, 252 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8578
Ricky McCoy DL 6'3, 294 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8413








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
John Timu LB
14 83.0 9.8% 1.5 0.0 2 10 2 0
Shaq Thompson LB
14 65.5 7.7% 2.5 1.0 1 4 2 3
Hau'oli Kikaha BUCK
14 62.5 7.3% 25.0 19.0 0 2 3 0
Travis Feeney LB 6'4, 223 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8191 14 51.5 6.1% 4.5 1.0 2 3 1 1
Cory Littleton LB 6'3, 227 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116 14 29.5 3.5% 3.5 1.0 0 2 1 0
Keishawn Bierria LB 6'1, 223 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600 14 28.0 3.3% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Scott Lawyer LB 6'2, 230 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8181 10 18.0 2.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Azeem Victor LB 6'3, 239 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8400 12 4.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sean Constantine LB 6'2, 228 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8777 5 2.0 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Psalm Wooching BUCK 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8378 8 2.0 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Connor O'Brien LB 6'3, 234 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8650
DJ Beavers LB 6'0, 202 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8696
Ben Burr-Kirven LB 6'1, 202 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8569
Tevis Bartlett LB 6'2, 218 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482
Jusstis Warren LB 6'2, 226 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8482








7. A rebuild up front, part 2

Okay, so ignoring the players who are gone, what does Washington return in the front seven?

  • Senior linebacker Travis Feeney, a steady contributor who has recorded 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 11 passes defensed in the last two seasons.
  • Junior end (and former four-star signee) Joe Mathis, who made two sacks among his 13 tackles.
  • Sophomore nose (and former four-star signee) Elijah Qualls, who made two stops behind the line among his 10.5 tackles.
  • Sophomore lineman Will Dissly, a totally unheralded recruit who was good enough to have his redshirt torn off and who brought extreme versatility in spring ball.
  • Sophomore linebacker Keishawn Bierria, who was used aggressively in reserve duty and seems to have nice speed, and two other intriguing sophomores in Azeem Victor and former four-star Sean Constantine.
  • Redshirt freshman road grader Greg Gaines, who fits the "angry bowling ball" persona that so many successful Boise State tackles carried and looked good this spring.
  • Enormous redshirt freshman Vita Vea, who packs all the punch you could want from a 3-4 nose and also looked solid this spring.
  • Two four-star true freshmen (end Benning Potoa'e and linebacker DJ Beavers), a large handful of mid- to high-three-star true freshmen at linebacker and redshirt freshmen up front.

The only thing scarier than losing a ton of known playmakers is having few options in replacing them. That's not a problem here.

We don't know that any of these players will be stars, but Feeney, Mathis, Dissley, Qualls, etc., appear loaded with potential and versatility. That could be key as Kwiatkowski attempts to fool offenses and bait quarterbacks into mistakes.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Budda Baker S 5'10, 176 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9721 14 69.0 8.1% 2 1 1 6 2 0
Sidney Jones CB 6'0, 177 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7985 13 54.5 6.4% 2.5 0 2 5 1 0
Kevin King S 6'3, 182 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8628 13 54.0 6.3% 0.5 0 1 3 1 0
Marcus Peters CB
8 27.5 3.2% 4 0 3 7 0 0
John Ross CB 5'11, 194 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9056 13 14.0 1.6% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Trevor Walker S 5'11, 182 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528 8 12.0 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brian Clay S 6'1, 202 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 14 11.0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Naijiel Hale CB 5'10, 182 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8904 14 9.5 1.1% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Brandon Beaver S 6'0, 191 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8995 12 5.5 0.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Hayden Schuh DB 6'0, 202 Jr. NR NR 8 5.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Darren Gardenhire CB 5'11, 181 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8568 12 5.0 0.6% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Travell Dixon CB
12 4.0 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jermaine Kelly CB
2 3.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
JoJo McIntosh DB 6'0, 204 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8457
Ezekiel Turner DB 6'2, 204 So. NR 0.8549
Austin Joyner CB 5'10, 192 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9074








8. The secondary will probably be ready

Washington's pass defense was shakier than its run defense. Considering the role of youth (freshmen Budda Baker and Sidney Jones saw extensive playing time, as did six other freshmen and sophomores, seven if you include John Ross) and the turbulence surrounding Peters and his departure, that makes sense. But while the front seven is getting remodeled, the secondary returns everybody but Peters and Ross.

Former blue-chipper Budda Baker held his own as a true-freshman honey-badger type, and while Jones had none of the recruiting recognition that Baker had, he also held his own (after the EWU game, at least -- that was a bit of a disaster) with 2.5 tackles for loss and seven passes defensed. Plus, in reserve time, youngsters Naijiel Hale, Brandon Beaver, and Darren Gardenhire made some plays. [Update: Naijiel Hale was dismissed from the program in August.]

And while this might say something about Washington's quarterbacks, Gardenhire was a ball hawk all spring; both he and Jones had pick sixes in the spring game. (I'm mentioning spring ball more than normal, mainly because it's so hard to figure out much about this personnel otherwise.)

If Washington's defense holds steady or even improves, it will be because of versatility in the front seven and playmaking in the back. That's not an entirely unrealistic equation.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Korey Durkee 6'4, 247 Sr. 63 42.1 5 15 19 54.0%
Cyler Miles 7 31.9 1 0 6 85.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Tristan Vizcaino 6'2, 205 So. 70 60.4 17 2 24.3%
Cameron Van Winkle 5'10, 181 Jr. 13 56.2 2 0 15.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cameron Van Winkle 5'10, 181 Jr. 47-49 15-16 93.8% 5-8 62.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
John Ross KR 5'11, 194 Jr. 38 24.7 2
Deontae Cooper KR 5'11, 202 Sr. 5 8.4 0
Dante Pettis PR 6'0, 183 So. 28 10.3 1
Jaydon Mickens PR 5'11, 171 Sr. 3 4.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 21
Field Goal Efficiency 37
Punt Return Efficiency 66
Kick Return Efficiency 9
Punt Efficiency 54
Kickoff Efficiency 70
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 100

9. A strength, even without Ross

Losing Ross means losing an explosive receiver, a decent cornerback, an incredible kick returner, and a good punt returner, all in one. Ouch. But at least the Huskies have other special teams strengths to lean on in 2015; Cameron Van Winkle mixed steadiness (15-for-16 on field goals under 40 yards) and power (5-for-8 beyond 40), punter Korey Durkee mixed power (42.1 average) with height (15 fair catches, 19 downed inside the 20), and the coverage units were at least decent. The legs were reasons why some of Washington stayed close in some otherwise poor performances, and they're all back.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
4-Sep at Boise State 27
12-Sep Sacramento State NR
19-Sep Utah State 59
26-Sep California 51
8-Oct at USC 13
17-Oct Oregon 4
24-Oct at Stanford 11
31-Oct Arizona 34
7-Nov Utah 39
14-Nov at Arizona State 24
21-Nov at Oregon State 70
27-Nov Washington State 66
Five-Year F/+ Rk 8.6% (46)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 34 / 26
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 12 / 0.4
2014 TO Luck/Game +4.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 8 (4, 4)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 7.9 (0.1)

10. Stock up on wins before October

Washington fans were awfully tired of "seven-win Steve" Sarkisian and weren't too regretful when he left for USC, even though he had taken the Huskies from 0-12 in 2008 to 9-4 that fall. With memories of Rick Neuheisel's and Don James' success still in the memory bank, Husky fans aren't regarded as the most patient of bases.

So it will be interesting to see what happens if Petersen's second team indeed regresses, a distinct possibility with so many playmakers out the door and so many unanswered questions.

The schedule will help to ease the pain. The slate features five teams projected worse than 50th, and four of them visit Seattle. Washington laid three relative eggs in a row at home last year, but if the Huskies generate the normal home field advantage, four wins right there. Plus, Arizona and Utah visit Husky Stadium; win one of those and beat Oregon State, and you're bowling.

There's not a lot of margin for error, and trips to Boise State, USC, Stanford, and Arizona State should ensure that any home slip-up could be very costly.

It really isn't hard to see Petersen getting his pieces arranged. It might happen as soon as 2016. But 2015 is a massive transition year, one in which a bowl game would be a nice accomplishment.