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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Season review: Washington

By Kevin Gemmell

Before we focus forward, we're going to look back with team-by-team season reviews.

We continue today in reverse alphabetical order.

WASHINGTON

Grade: C

MVP: Running back Bishop Sankey transformed from a by-committee guy to a primary back when Jesse Callier was hurt in the first game of the season. As he grew into the role, he went from serviceable, to good, to elite right before our eyes. He finished with 1,434 yards -- fourth best in the conference -- with 16 touchdowns. In any other league in college football, he'd be a first- or second-team all-conference player with those credentials. But three All-Americans happened to be in the Pac-12, making him, in one blogger's opinion, the most underrated player in the conference. He was one of the few bright spots on an offense that took a major step backwards in 2012.

What went right: For starters, the defense showed a drastic improvement from the 2011 edition that was, well, epically bad. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has a lot to do with that. Consider: In 2011, Washington ranked 106th in total defense nationally and 108th in scoring defense -- allowing an average of 35 points per game. In 2012, the defense shaved off an average of nine points per game, checking in nationally at 39th in scoring defense and allowing 24 points per game. They were also 31st in total defense. That's legitimate improvement with the numbers to back it up.

What went wrong: All those numbers cited above about the defense, well, flip them around and that's what happened to the offense in 2012. After averaging 33 points per game in 2011 and ranking 25th in scoring offense, the Huskies dropped to 88th in 2012, posting only 24 points per game. In total offense, they slipped from 38th nationally to 97th in 2012. A lot of that had to do with injuries to the offensive line. Already short heading into the season, they lost Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler early in the year and that forced younger players like Shane Brostek (who also had to play some defense) into action sooner -- and the depth just wasn't there to absorb those kinds of losses. Keith Price also took a big step backwards as a quarterback -- completing just 61 percent of his throws with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, down from 67 percent and 33 touchdowns in 2011, where he had 11 interceptions. It didn't help that he was sacked 37 times (Washington ranked 102nd nationally in sacks allowed). If the offseason project last year was fixing the defense, this year's priority has to be getting the offense back on track. Oh yeah, they choked up the Apple Cup (in case anyone forgot).

2013 Outlook: The good news is there are plenty of key players coming back. Washington welcomes back 10 starters on offense and eight starters on defense. The talk was always that Washington would make its big push in 2013. Price, Sankey, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (who has to be the preseason front-runner for the Mackey Award) and wide receiver Kasen Williams are all back. The hope is that the continuity will help the offense return to its 2011 form. The schedule isn't nearly as tough as it was last season, but they still play in the Pac-12 North, which will arguably be the toughest division in all of college football next season with Stanford and Oregon expected to be ranked in the top 10 and Oregon State in the Top 25. The new facility upgrades should provide a nice emotional boost -- especially in that season opener against Boise State.