Hope & concern: Washington


Every team has hope heading into the offseason. And every team has concerns.

Ergo, we're going to run through the conference and look at the chief matters -- on the up and downside -- for each Pac-12 team.

Next up:


Biggest reason for hope: Chris Polk + an improved defense.

Washington flashed signs of becoming a physical football team in 2010, which means the Huskies looked -- again, at times -- like the program that became a national power under Don James. What does "physical" mean? It means you run the ball on offense and push folks around on defense. It's what old school UW fans want to see, and more than a few probably got teary-eyed during the Holiday Bowl when the Huskies pounded on Nebraska in a 19-7 victory, a shocking result considering what the Cornhuskers had done to the Huskies just under three months before. It also became clear late in the season that Polk is on the short list of best running backs in the nation, and that the Huskies are this close to developing a defensive culture that matches fiery coordinator Nick Holt. There are questions at linebacker heading into the 2011 season, but tackle Alameda Ta'amu and end Hau'oli Jamora lead an A-list crew on the D-line, and there's a solid mixture of experience and young talent in the secondary. The defense should be a top-half of the conference unit. While the offensive line will fall short of dominant, Polk is one of those backs who often can do it on his own. He almost never goes down on first contact.

Biggest reason for concern: Will quarterback Keith Price be valuable or cost the Huskies?

Price asserted himself this spring in his competition with Nick Montana to replace Jake Locker. He flashed dual-threat ability that suggested he might become an offensive asset, not a liability as a first-year starter. We've already mentioned Polk, but the Huskies also are deep at receiver. If Price presents a consistent passing threat -- in other words, he's more than a game manager -- then the offense should be pretty darn potent. And there's reason to be optimistic beyond Price's spring performance. He turned in an admirable effort last fall starting for an injured Locker at Oregon -- not exactly the best place for a UW QB to make his first career start. Put it this way: While the Huskies don't look like a threat to win the North or even to win 10 games, if Price ends up ranking in the top half of the conference in passing efficiency, it's a good bet that the program will take another significant step forward in 2011.