Midterm time: Grade your players! How is each unit performing based on your level of expectation coming into the season?
Chris Landon, UW Dawg Pound:
The new up-tempo attack installed by Husky offensive coaches last spring has clearly had the desired impact. The Huskies, who were among the worst of the offenses in the Pac 12 a year ago, are now chewing up yardage and creating big plays in a system that plays to the strengths of some of its key playmakers while hiding some of the weaknesses along the offensive line. The numbers, when adjusted for the strength of Stanford's and Oregon's defenses, are outstanding. A high number of penalties, many born from a lack of tactical mastery over the new offensive system, is the one major critique of the unit.
The Husky defense has continued their resurgence from a year ago and entered the discussion as one of the top 3 defenses in all of the Pac 12. Built on the premise of speed and versatility, playmakers like Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton, John Timu and Marcus Peters are now mentioned among the "best of their positions" and the unit, overall, has shown an ability to force its opponents - all of them to date - to their lowest offensive outputs of the season. There are still holes to be sure, including not enough turnovers being generated, but the results have easily exceeded expectations to date.
Special Teams: D
Special teams have cost the Huskies one game (Stanford) and kept them from getting a fair shot at winning another (Oregon). Low / short kickoffs and an inability to generate their own returns are issues that are plaguing this unit.
QB - B: Price is much improved from 2012 but still doesn't seem to see the entire field that well and has yet to win the Huskies a big game.
RB - A-: Sankey is the best running back in the country. The only gripe here is that the backups are a complete non-factor.
WR/TE - B-: They have looked great against softer competition, but struggled against Stanford and Oregon. Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins' production is shockingly low.
OL - B-: They have improved their pass protection from last year and have been blocking well for Sankey but they still have a very long ways to go in both regards.
DL - B-: The return of Hau'oli Kikaha has been crucial in forming a little bit of pass rush, but they still struggle to do it against good offensive lines. They have been strong in run defense, but really need another big guy to accompany Danny Shelton.
LB - B+: Maybe the best, at least deepest unit on the team these guys have been good in run and pass defense.
DB - B: Marcus Peters is turning into a star and Sean Parker is making plays all over the field, but, Gregory Ducre and Will Shamburger have struggled at times.
ST - C-: Worst unit on the team that cost them the Stanford game. Have struggled with stopping returns, can't make a return themselves without getting a penalty. The only saving grace is Travis Coons being solid in field goals and punting.
Washington will be tasked with another difficult test when they head to Tempe. Based on what you've seen of the Sun Devils, what are the keys to victory?
Chris Landon, UW Dawg Pound: The Sun Devils, defensively, are a smallish overall unit that can really take advantage of their athleticism when they are afforded the opportunity to tee-off and play ultra-aggressively. However, they are not accomplished in the secondary and their defensive line can get gassed with a steady, physical attack by the opposing offense. If the Huskies are going to pull off a road victory against a fringe ranked opponent, the key will be to be patient with the rushing attack and the short passing game so as to wear out that ASU front line. On the flip side, the Huskies are going to have to return to the form they showed in the weeks before the Oregon game and feature a heavy dose of man coverage with a goal towards getting extra bodies in the backfield to pressure Taylor Kelly or stop Marion Grice before he gets loose. If the Huskies can't get into the backfield, Kelly's efficiency and ASU's pace will become problematic pretty quickly. Keeping in mind that the ASU defense gets pretty nasty when they can play aggressively, it would be ideal if the Huskies could find a way to come up with an early lead (hint: Special Teams, how about a hand?)
Jack Follman, Pacific Takes: The Husky offense has to be able to be able to score. I have no doubt that they can run against Arizona State's soft run defense with Bishop Sankey, but they need to be able to win the field position game and score points as opposed to just racking up yards, especially in the first half. On defense, they have to be able to prevent a guy like Jaelen Strong from being a one-man show and killing them and play well in the flats against Marion Grice and D.J. Foster in the red zone.