The Washington Huskies Football team enters the 2019 football season with goals and aspirations of staying at the top of the Pac-12 Conference, and maybe something more special.
Entering this season, there are many questions for the Huskies as a new era of younger players are set to enter the fold, and establish themselves as the next Husky greats.
On the defensive side, the Huskies lost nine starters and will look to maintain their physical, dominating and intimidating style of defense at an elite level.
With a ton of young and talented players, coupled with the development that defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake accomplishes each season, the defense is expected to remain superb.
What about the offense?
Many believe the success of the Huskies upcoming season all hinges on the offense and their ability to consistently put points on the board.
Last season, the Huskies offense struggled the entire season which was a major factor in not making another appearance into the College Football Playoff.
There were several factors that attributed to the Husky offense going through frequent struggles last season.
Breaking in a brand new offensive coordinator in Bush Hamdan definitely played a factor with the offense trying to find a rhythm.
One of the biggest areas the Huskies couldn’t rectify during the season was their inefficiency in the redzone area.
The Huskies ranked 11th in the conference last season in redzone percentage at 79% percent and only converting touchdowns 57% of the time.
This past offseason, head coach Chris Petersen and Hamdan extensively analyzed the offense with the idea of finding the main ingredient for success.
“I think Bush and I have looked at this long and hard.” Petersen said before Fall Camp started.
With the new season on the horizon, the offense is ready to introduce some new faces at a couple key positions.
For the past four years, Husky fans have been graced with having experience and stability at the quarterback and running back positions.
Recently departed quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin are off to the NFL now and their spots need productive replacements.
As Fall Camp is currently underway, the quarterback competition is currently ongoing and a starter should be named soon.
Most Husky fans have already written junior Jacob Eason into the starting lineup because of his size and massive arm strength that he possesses.
Eason already has a year of college experience under his belt in the SEC conference as the former starter for the Georgia Bulldogs. Make no mistake..he is talented and battle tested.
The coaching staff insists that the quarterback battle is real and to not write off sophomore Jake Haener. Petersen really likes Haener because he has a full grasp of the offense and has a strong work ethic.
The million dollar question is..what is the main ingredient that this offense needs this season?
“Some of it is we just have to take more chances and throw the ball downfield. So we truly can put it on those guys (wide receivers) cuz I do think they have the ability. I think in college football now, a lot of these colleges are lining up and playing man coverage. You gotta beat that guy down the field but we gotta as coaches give those guys an opportunity to go make a play. We also understand that some of those percentages will be lower the further you throw it down the field. So you probably have to call a few more of those to equal out the percentage. You don’t have to hit them all, but you have to hit a couple and it all starts with us as coaches.” Petersen said about fixing the offense.
In what may be the most telling statement from Petersen heading into Fall Camp, the emphasis and success of the Husky offense will lie in its ability to make plays downfield.
A clamoring need for a successful passing game is just what the doctor ordered for this offense and look for Hamdan to take full advantage of his quarterbacks arm strength.
Hamdan has made it an emphasis to practice getting the ball downfield during Fall Camp.
“We have definitely made it an importance to push the ball downfield”. Hamdan told DubLife.
If Eason gets the nod, then he will fit perfectly into this equation. He has the ability to throw the ball 60 plus yards and make it look effortless.
This aspect is what has Husky fans excited for this season. Haener to his own credit, possesses full zip on his passes and can get the ball out of his hands in a hurry.
The identity of the Husky offense these past four years has been a vaunted running attack with Gaskin fully spearheading the offense.
Will that identity change this season?
Successful offensive coordinators are those who take full advantage of the strengths of their personnel and tailor the play calling to reflect that.
With Gaskin’s exit, freak athlete and junior running back Salvon Ahmed will be looked upon to shoulder the load and increase his carries from last season, but just how much?
The Huskies have a talented “stable” of running backs behind Ahmed with junior Sean McGrew, junior Kamari Pleasant, redshirt freshman Richard Newton, true freshman Cameron Davis and senior Malik Braxton.
Time will tell if Ahmed will be able to handle a similar workload just like his friend and predecessor in Gaskin. He may not need to carry the ball that many times with a more balanced attack this season.
If the Huskies can maintain consistent production from their “ground and pound” game then that will prove essential in Hamdan’s efforts to open up the passing lanes and get the ball downfield.
The addition of first year wide receivers coach Junior Adams has already yielded dividends on the recruiting trail but he is also making an impact with his players on the field.
“A new person teaching you things. Just new things that you can craft and add to your game which is what I like about it”. Senior wide receiver Aaron Fuller told DubLife during Fall Camp about having Adams as his coach.
With the emphasis being to get the ball down the field this season, the Husky quarterbacks will have a plethora of talented receivers who can get the job done.
Players like senior Aaron Fuller, senior Chico McClatcher, senior Andre Baccellia, junior Ty Jones, senior Quinten Pounds, redshirt freshman Trey Lowe, sophomore Terrell Bynum, redshirt freshman Marquis Spiker, redshirt freshman Austin Osborne, junior Jordan Chin, freshman Puka Nacua and freshman Taj Davis.
The Husky offense will receive a huge jolt from McClatcher who was absolutely sensational through the beginning of Fall Camp and already looks in midseason form.
He is just the kind of deep ball threat the Huskies need to run past defenders and stretch the defense, which will open up passing lanes and running lanes consistently.
The wide receivers group feel like outsiders view them with skepticism!
“It’s no secret that people on the outside think that our receiver group is not the best in the country and things like that, so just coming out and having that chip on your shoulder and proving it everyday.” Fuller told DubLife during Fall Camp.
With Hamdan breaking in a new starting quarterback this season, the timing works out with the experience on the offensive line this season.
Throughout the beginning of Fall Camp, the offensive line consisted of senior Trey Adams (left tackle), junior Luke Wattenberg (left guard), senior Nick Harris (center), sophomore Jaxson Kirkland (right guard) and senior Jared Hilbers (right tackle).
This projected starting lineup had a combined 54 starts last season which is definitely crucial for a new quarterback to feel comfortable.
“It’s critical! Inside and out we always thought of it that way. I think the comfort we have in those guys as a cohesive unit, taking a lot of reps is really important.” Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan told DubLife.
Once the Husky offense is able to penetrate the secondary downfield, the intermediate passing lanes will open up for a talented and promising tight ends group.
Junior Hunter Bryant is just the kind of ultra-talented hybrid tight end that will flourish and feast on opposing defenders. He will be relied upon heavily to help the offense find their way all season.
Now that Hamdan is in his second season as an offensive coordinator, expect the play calling to run smoother and the playbook to open up.
“I think it’s a good thing for him personally, his growth to be able to analyze and take that next step, I really do! It’s good for us too you know, to be able to do the same thing and progress as an offense and have some continuity at the things we want to be better at but sometimes take longer than we would like them to take, so I think it’s good and I’m excited”. Petersen said about second year offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.
Husky fans should feel optimistic about the offense this coming season and all the potential that it has at all positions.
While the main ingredient through analysis and reflection as an offensive coaching staff was getting the ball down the field more, it doesn’t just come down to one single aspect.
There are plenty of moving parts that make up a successful and efficient offense and the Huskies have all the components to put it all together this season.
The comforting part for Husky fans is that the coaching staff has identified it and it’s being addressed and worked on as we speak.
Plain and simple, the Husky coaches need to trust their receivers more to go and make plays downfield!
Can Hamdan get into a rhythm as a play caller?
Will a new starting quarterback be able to control the offense?
Can Ahmed carry a full load as an every down back?
Should an experienced offensive line be enough to keep the offense consistent?
Can the receivers and tight ends make plays consistently?
Most importantly, can the quarterbacks get the ball downfield enough?
Every question that the Huskies need to answer on offense simply comes down to trust!
“I’m not ever going to just put it on any one group or guy. It’s all of us on offense.” Petersen said.