Pac-12: Garret Gilliland

Washington spring wrap

May, 14, 2012
2011 overall record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 5-4 (3rd, North)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
QB Keith Price, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Kasen Williams, S Sean Parker, CB Desmond Trufant, DT Danny Shelton, DE Josh Shirley

Key losses
RB Chris Polk, OT Senio Kelemete, WR Jermaine Kearse, DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison

2011 statistical leaders (*returner)
Rushing: Chris Polk (1,488 yards)
Passing: Keith Price* (3,063 yards)
Receiving: Jermaine Kearse (699 yards)
Tackles: Cort Dennison (128)
Sacks: Josh Shirley* (8.5)
Interceptions: Sean Parker* (4)

Spring answers
1. For the defense: Coach Steve Sarkisian rebuilt his defensive staff around star coordinator Justin Wilcox, and the early returns are promising. And not just because of the coaches. There's more talent on defense than the Huskies showed during a terrible 2011 campaign. The chief task this spring, however, was blending in the new coaches -- five of them, including offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau -- with the players and Sarkisian's ways.

2. Secondary not an issue: The Huskies have some folks who can play -- and have played -- in the secondary, starting with cornerback Desmond Trufant and safety Sean Parker. There's also Justin Glenn, Greg Ducre, Will Shamburger and Tre Watson, a transfer from Central Washington. Plus, touted safety Shaq Thompson arrives in the fall, and redshirt freshman Travis Feeney is promising.

3. Not unskilled: There was reason entering spring to fret about the skill positions, other than quarterback. The Huskies lost running back Chris Polk as well as receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. But, after spring, things seem at least solid. At tailback, it's probably going to be by committee with Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey, as well as junior-college transfer Antavius Sims and redshirt freshman Dezden Petty. And maybe Deontae Cooper comes back healthy? At receiver, James Johnson, Kasen Williams, Cody Bruns, who redshirted last season, and Kevin Smith (if healthy) give the Huskies a solid crew. Some redshirt freshmen and intriguing incoming players could also get into the mix.

Fall questions
1. Oooooo-Line? The Huskies should be welcoming back four starters, but guard Colin Porter was forced to retire due to injuries, and other guys were beat up this spring. If Colin Tanigawa, who missed all of spring with a knee injury, tackle Erik Kohler and center Drew Schaefer all come back healthy, then things should be OK. But that remains to be seen.

2. LB woes? It's still uncertain whether the Huskies will be primarily 3-4 of 4-3 on defense, so we don't know how things will shake out at linebacker. We do know that the Huskies were bad there last year. Three safeties -- Taz Stevenson, Nate Fellner and Evan Zeger -- moved to LB to bolster things, while John Timu, Princeton Fuimaono -- both returning starters -- Thomas Tutogi, Garret Gilliland and Jamaal Kearse are in the mix. Next to the offensive line, this is a position where fans should feel free to be concerned.

3. Backing up Price? Redshirt freshman Derrick Brown is No. 2 at present, mostly by default. But two touted freshmen arrive in the fall: Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles. Brown improved over the course of the spring, but the freshmen are good enough to challenge him immediately. And, keep in mind, the No. 2 QB isn't important until he becomes your most important player.

Exiting the spring: Washington

April, 29, 2011
Washington concludes spring practices with its spring game on Saturday. Here's a brief primer.

Spring game: The Huskies play their spring game at 2 p.m. ET -- 11 a.m. PT -- at Husky Stadium. Admission is free.

Questions answered: Garret Gilliland's move from middle linebacker to replace Mason Foster on the weak side appears successful. True freshman TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, an early arrival, proved equal to his recruiting hype. He and Michael Hartvigson will provide a huge upgrade at a position that used to be a program strength. Kevin Smith asserted himself as a potential No. 3 receiver behind Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar in what should be a deep crew of receivers. DE Josh Shirley showed a nice burst off the edge as a speed rusher. The defensive front, as a whole, looks sneaky good.

Questions unanswered: Coach Steve Sarkisian has yet to tap a replacement for Jake Locker at QB, though there was a sense that sophomore Keith Price holds a lead over Nick Montana entering the offseason. The offensive line didn't have a great spring, though it hurt that LT Senio Kelemete was out with an injury. Line issues are not a good thing for a run-first offense breaking in a new QB. The pecking order at safety wasn't resolved in large part because of an injury to sophomore Sean Parker. The third LB spot on the strong side remains up for grabs (a number of candidates battled injuries this spring).

Spring stars: Shirley was a revelation as a speed rusher, while Hartvigson answered the challenge from Seferian-Jenkins. Two big, athletic tight ends will provide a nice security blanket for the new QB. Smith asserting himself is important because touted incoming freshmen Kasen Williams is expected to be in the mix immediately.