Washington Huskies: Spring football storylines to watch

Spring football practice officially got underway for the Washington Huskies this week as new head coach Chris Petersen got a first look at his roster. Peterson will have until Apr. 19 to work with the team and prepare the Huskies for the Spring Football Game.

Everything has not gone according to plan for the Huskies this offseason, however. Petersen has already had to suspend three players, all of whom were expected to be starters. That leaves plenty of storylines to watch on Montlake this spring.

The quarterback situation

Nothing was set in stone coming into the year for the Huskies at the quarterback position, but redshirt sophomore Cyler Miles appeared to be the favorite to land the starting job. Miles appeared in relief of Keith Price on multiple occasions last season and started the Huskies blowout win over Oregon State, looking capable through the air and making some big plays with his legs. However, Miles has remained suspended indefinitely for about a month due to an undisclosed violation of team rules, leaving the quarterback situation in considerable doubt.

That means the Huskies only have two quarterbacks for spring practice: Sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams. Both quarterbacks were highly recruited, and both have enough ability to make a run at the starting job. K.J. Carta-Samuels, Petersen’s hand-picked quarterback, might have the most upside of them all, but won’t be joining the team for spring ball. With no timeframe on when the Miles situation might be resolved, there won’t be a starter named this spring, but either Lindquist or Williams could build a big lead.

The future of running back

The UW has been blessed over the past five seasons to have either Chris Polk or Bishop Sankey in the backfield. Sankey departed early for the NFL, leaving a major hole in the UW offense.

As many as five players all have a chance to be the starting running back for the Huskies’ opener at Hawai’i. Veterans Jessie Callier and Deontae Cooper will both be over a year and a half removed from ACL tears (three in the case of Cooper), and will have the ability to demonstrate they are completely healthy. Keep an eye on Dwayne Washington, a physically imposing downhill runner, as well. Spring is also the time for relative unknowns like Ryan McDaniel and Lavon Coleman, both raved about by the previous coaching staff, to emerge. It’s a toss-up at this point, but Peterson will have a much better idea of the depth chart following spring.

Who are the offensive weapons?

With leading receiver Kevin Smith graduated and record-breaking tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins headed to the NFL, the UW will look for some new weapons on the offensive side. Kasen Williams will be the No. 1 receiver if healthy, but will miss all of spring recovering from a broken leg. Demore’ea Stringfellow has all the tools to be a top target, but is suspended in connection to the Miles incident. That leaves Peterson in search of some depth this spring.

The player to keep an eye on is sophomore John Ross. Ross has incredible ability in the open field and finally broke out with a kick return for a touchdown in the Fight Hunger Bowl. Petersen, one of the most creative offensive minds in the country, will be thinking of schemes for Ross for the regular season.

Petersen and company will also get some work with Jaydon Mickens, who had 688 receiving yards a year ago but suffered from a major drop problem. Besides that, an intriguing wide-open battle for the starting tight end spot will begin, and Peterson will look for receiving depth among the young players.

Can the defense continue improving?

The UW defense made incredible strides in the last two years, becoming the strength of the team in 2013. Outstanding defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has departed to USC, leaving the UW with some questions but still plenty of optimism. Boise teams under Petersen typically had strong defenses, and he inherits two legitimate stars in Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson with Budda Baker on the way in the summer.

At first glance, the Huskies’ front seven appears to be a strength, with few position battles. The suspension of starting middle linebacker John Timu (unrelated to the Miles/Stringfellow incident) for the first two weeks of practice briefly changes that. Look for redshirt freshman Azeem Victor to get the snaps with the first-team with a chance to prove something.

The secondary is a different story. Until Baker gets to Montlake, there is little depth behind Peters. If anyone on the roster can impress this spring, they will be a major step closer to a starting cornerback or safety spot for the opener.        

Photo Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press 

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.


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