Lighting up the LEDs this
Richard Linde, 1 April 2009
Washington’s spring game will be held on April 25. Since the team is
playing itself and since the playbook will be limited, with key players
off limits to tackling, an old question arises: How much viable
information about the team can be gleaned from such a limited game?
(Photo by Chris Barnhart, last year's game).
Well last year’s spring game was a harbinger of what took place during
the regular season. For example,
the three long drives (67, 58, and 57 yards) by the second team offense
against the second team defense did not auger well for the Dawgs --
this, being the biggest downer of the game. The Huskies lost seven games
in 2007, in games they had a chance to win in the second half. In part,
they were lost because of a lack of depth on both the offensive and
defensive sides of the ball. The 2008 team ended up 0-12 on the season
and gave up a school record 458.1 yards per game in Total Defense.
Furthermore, the Gold team (second team offense and first team defense)
beat the Purple team (the first team offense and second team defense),
10-7. The anemic 17 total points was a precursor of the average points
scored per game during the regular season: 13.2. (*)
By contrast, in the 2007 spring game, the Huskies put 51 total points on
the board and finished the regular season posting 29.2 points per game
in a season that went 4-9.
Can the Huskies match that offensive output this spring? Put another
way, can they put more points on the board this year than last year’s 17
points, this against a defense that gave up an average of 38.6 points per
game? (The defense is likely to improve this year, but commonsense says
not a whole lot.)
To answer that question, why not go back to the 2007 spring game format,
which matched up the first team offensive and defensive units against
the backups? (See my projected starting lineups in Table 2 below)
1. Goals for putting more points on the board.
Improve passing efficiency
Look for a power running back
Find more playmakers on offense
Look for more touchdown passes
and fewer interceptions.
Improve the offensive line:
both run and pass blocking.
Quarterback Jake Locker needs to improve on his passing efficiency and
be a more consistent passer this season. Because he’ll probably run less
this season under the new offensive scheme, it is important the Dawgs
make up for the deficiency by fielding a more consistent passing attack
than they have had in the last two years. The Huskies ranked 117th in
the nation in pass efficiency offense last season and 107th the year
Over his 16-game career at Washington, Locker has had a passing
efficiency rating of over 100 in 9 games, averaging 129.14. In the other
7 games, he has a mediocre average rating of 77.14, finishing below 100
in all of them.
Over those 16 games Locker has completed 48.7% of his passes, and in
four games last season, completed 53.7% of his passes. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
says he wants Locker to complete over 60% of his passes this year.
Presumably, both Sarkisian and Quarterback Coach Doug Nussmeier will be
tweaking Locker’s throwing motion during the spring. Last spring, in the
spread formation, Locker completed 13 of 17 passes for 159 yards, one
touchdown and one interception for a rating of 161.69? Locker posted a
103.6 in the four games he played in the regular season.
In last year’s spring game,
Locker’s long throws were disappointing, although there were some good
defensive plays made on his receivers. One long throw was intercepted by
Quinton Richardson, who, on the runback, was tackled by a bulling Locker
who ran through Mason Foster to get to him.
in the Stanford game, Locker broke his right thumb
throwing a block on a 27-yard end around for Jordan Polk. His hand
seemed to twist awkwardly on the right leg of safety Sean Wiser, whom he
Bob Condotta, in his column this morning over at the
Seattle Times, writes about the first day of spring practice, saying,
"Locker said he's not quite 100 percent — he said the cold weather
helped remind him of the injury. But he said overall that, 'I felt
pretty good today. It was fun to be able to get back out there again and
be part of it and not just be a spectator.'"
Checkout Nick Daschel's column on Pac-10 cornerbacks
for 2009 over at Buster Sports. (Click on link).
WR D’Andre Goodwin caught 7 passes for 109 yards, which was a precursor
of his 2008 regular season when he caught 60 passes for 692 yards.
However, he only caught one touchdown pass, which mimicked the one
touchdown pass he caught in last year’s spring game. In fact, UW’s
returning corps of pass receivers only caught 3 touchdown passes on the
2008 season: Goodwin (1) and Jermaine Kearse (2). The Dawgs posted 6 in
all, this number against a whopping 15 interceptions.
In last year’s spring game, a pesky Willie Griffin led all rushers with
71 yards on 20 carries. Chris Polk, playing running back and receiver,
led the Purple with 20 yards on five carries and had 25 yards on four
receptions. However, the Purple rushed for just 37 yards, the total
yards being diminished by some sacks and tackles for a loss.
Chris Izbicki looked good at tight end, making two nice catches. During
the regular season, he ended up in Tyrone Willingham’s doghouse and
didn’t play. This spring, Sarkisian has emptied Ty's infamous doghouse,
giving everyone inside a clean slate.
In last year’s spring game, no one assumed an offensive-playmaker’s
role, other than Locker and Goodwin.
In addition to them, that role this spring could be filled from some
viable candidates, such as TE Kavario Middleton, TE Chris Izbicki, WR Devin Aquilar, WR
Cody Bruns, WR Anthony Boyles, WR Jermaine Kearse, RB Willie Griffin, RB
Brandon Johnson, RB Demetrius Bronson, RB Curtis Shaw, RB Terrance
Daily, RB David Freeman, FB Paul Homer, and QB Ronnie Fouch.
One or both of them, a bulked up Curtis Shaw and/or incoming gray-shirt
freshman Demetrius Bronson, could be the power running back for which Sarkisian
is searching. The Dawgs averaged a little over 99 yards per game running
the ball last season, led by Daily who accumulated 338 yard on 75
rushes, for an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
Of course, the offensive line will need to open some holes for them.
Three starters return to the line, which as a unit performed poorly last
season, and far below expectations. This spring, Sarkisian is moving DT
Senio Kelemete over to the offensive line. I expect "Sark" to move one
more defensive lineman over to the offensive line before the spring
10-week winter conditioning program ended, Sarkisian told a group of us
alums at Indian Wells the offensive line combined to lose over 200
pounds. The goal for the coaching staff is to remold the line into a
sleeker, more athletic unit.
we've inherited a team that was a big, physical football team, that
maybe didn't move as well as we liked," Sarkisian said. "...I think
we're starting to shape this team in the way we wanted it to be shaped."
25, the Dawgs need to put more points on the board than they did in last
season’s spring game. Otherwise, they will be in deep yogurt -- more
realistically said, in deeper yogurt -- when they
face LSU in the first game of the regular season.
Nick Daschel of
Buster Sports has an opinion about the Husky fan base (see
Table 2. Potential offensive lineup for Spring Game (my own
WR D'Andre Goodwin
WR Devin Aquillar
TE Kavario Middleton
TE Chris Izbicki
LT Ben Ossai
LT Senio Kelemete
LG Ryan Tolar
LG Scott Shugert
C Matt Sedillo
C Mykenna Ikehara
RG Morgan Rosborough
RG Allen Carroll
RT Cody Habben
RT Skyler Fancher
WR Jermaine Kearse
WR Anthony Boyles
QB Jake Locker
QB Ronnie Fouch
TB Chris Polk
TB Brandon Johnson
FB Paul Homer
FB Austin Sylvester