NCF Nation: Tre Watson

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Previewing the 2014 season for the California Golden Bears:

2013 record: 1-11, 0-9 Pac-12.

Final grade for 2013: F. You don’t beat an FBS team, you don’t pass. It’s as simple as that.

[+] EnlargeJared Goff
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesJared Goff passed for 3,508 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Key returnees: QB Jared Goff, WR Bryce Treggs, WR Chris Harper

Key losses: OLB Khairi Fortt, TE Richard Rodgers, DT Viliami Moala

Instant impact newcomers: WR Trevor Davis, RB Tre Watson, WR Erik Brown

Projected winning percentage (ESPN.com Stats & Information): .313

Chances to win the conference (ESPN.com Stats & Information): 0.0 percent.

Most important game: vs. Colorado, Sept. 27

Biggest question mark: Can they stop anyone? Defensively, Cal was historically bad in 2013 and unless that’s rectified, it won’t matter how potent the offense might be.

Best-case scenario: 4-8

Worst-case scenario: 0-12

Over/under win total (Bovada): 2.5

Upset special: Northwestern. Cal came within a few tipped passes of beating Northwestern last season and we have to allow for the possibility the Bears made the most of the offseason and start the season on the right foot.

They said it: "You know, in our profession, you are kind of what your record says you are. So you go from being pretty smart to being pretty dumb overnight, and it's a tough thing to live with.” — coach Sonny Dykes
Unlike last year, there aren't nearly as many questions surrounding the Washington defense as the Huskies head into the final stretch before fall camp.

Last year a new scheme and new coaches were being installed, headlined by new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Huskies' defense was abysmal in 2011 -- so head coach Steve Sarkisian blew it up and started from scratch.

Now the Huskies are looking to build off of the momentum they gained in 2012 when they made huge strides in one year under Wilcox & Co.

"The numbers don't lie," Sarkisian said.

They certainly don't.

The biggest advances were in the secondary, where the Huskies jumped from 87th to 27th in pass efficiency defense, 106th to 31st in total defense, 108th to 39th in scoring defense and 116th to 23rd in pass defense. They had 17 interceptions last year compared to 10 the year before.

"Our secondary really had a very good season for us last year," Sarkisian said. "I thought Justin Wilcox, Keith Heyward, our secondary coach, really came in and did a great job. ... You look at the increase in play we had in the secondary -- our pass defense numbers, our ability to create turnovers -- I think really speaks volumes to their coaching and their ability to develop our players."


That's what Sarkisian is banking on in 2013 -- player development. More specifically, at the cornerback spot where they have to replace first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant. Sarkisian called the competition "healthy" this spring, but isn't anywhere closer to declaring anyone as the leader in the clubhouse for that starting spot. And it might end up being by-committee or which player has the hot hand that week. A few defensive backs have switched positions or spent time at safety and corner in an effort to make the defensive backfield deeper and more versatile.

With Marcus Peters, who started the final eight games opposite Trufant last season, back on one side, the competition heated up over spring between Travell Dixon and Greg Ducre. Sarkisian said that redshirt freshman Cleveland Wallace has also made a big push. Dixon is a JC transfer (once committed to Alabama) and Ducre had 15 tackles while appearing in 13 games last season.

"Desmond Trufant was a great player for us," Sarkisian said. "Anytime you have a first-round draft pick at corner it tells you the quality of player you have. But I think we've got some really capable guys that are stepping in."

If the Huskies can shore up that spot, expect the secondary to make even bigger strides in 2013. Sean Parker, who started all 13 games at safety, returns as the unquestioned leader of the secondary. Will Shamburger, who started two games last year, will see a larger role. But there's some good competition there as well. Tre Watson (who can pitch in either at corner or safety) is in the mix, and early enrollee Trevor Walker had a strong first spring. Brandon Beaver, who converted from corner to safety late last season but was limited in the spring, is also going to press for playing time.

Lots of names. But that also means lots of depth.

"We've got a good amount of talent back there," Sarkisian said. "It's about finding the right combination of those guys. For some of those guys who were redshirt players for us last year, Travell, Brandon, Cleveland, fall camp is going to be big for them. This spring was good to get the terminology and fundamentals and techniques after spending all year on the service team last year. There is a healthy competition going on back there and the end result is we're fortunate to have good depth and good coaches and we feel good about our pass defense when the fall rolls around."

Huskies roll Portland State

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
8:07
PM ET
If there was a hangover for the Washington Huskies following last week’s ill-fated journey to Baton Rouge, where they were roughed up by LSU, it didn’t show. The Huskies were almost -- dare we say? -- Oregon-esque, jumping out to a 45-0 lead at halftime. The Ducks have been pounding inferior competition with first-half barrages so far this season and the Huskies did the same Saturday.

In the end, Washington (2-1) blasted FCS Portland State 52-13, extending the lead to 52-0 before Portland State (1-2) finally got on the board midway through the third quarter.

Keith Price threw three touchdowns to three different receivers on 14 of 19 passing for 181 yards. Bishop Sankey rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Austin Seferian-Jenkins (5 catches, 78 yards) Kasen Williams (6-69) and DiAndre Campbell (2-28) all caught touchdowns for Washington.

For the Huskies, this was more of a tune-up game as they head into a bye week and then kick off a brutal stretch that includes four consecutive games against teams ranked in the AP top 25 heading into Week 3.

First, Washington will take on Stanford on Sept. 27, followed by Oregon on Oct. 6, USC on Oct. 13 and Arizona on Oct. 20.

The Huskies also picked up a special teams touchdown when Tre Watson returned a blocked field goal 79 yards and a defensive touchdown on Marcus Peters’ 21-yard pick-six.

Still there were a few issues for the Huskies, who were flagged nine times for 80 yards in penalties and converted only 5 of 12 third downs. Overall, Washington outgained Portland State 429-261 in total yards.

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