Pac-12: pac12 spring wrap 2011

Spring wrap: Washington

May, 9, 2011

2010 overall record: 7-6

2010 conference record: 5-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, Defense: 8, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse, OT Senio Kelemete, DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison, CB Desmond Trufant

Key losses

QB Jake Locker, LB Mason Foster, LB Victor Aiyewa, SS Nate Williams

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: Chris Polk* (1,415)

Passing: Jake Locker (2,265)

Receiving: Jermaine Kearse (1,005)

Tackles: Mason Foster (161)

Sacks: Foster (6.5)

Interceptions: Nate Fellner* (5)

Spring answers

1. Tight end now a strength: Tight end quickly transformed into a position of strength this spring. True freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins, an early enrollee, proved equal to his recruiting hype and showed he's ready physically to play at the Pac-12 level. When you toss in a strong spring from Michael Hartvigson, the Huskies now can line up in double-tight formations and make defenses respect the pass or run.

2. Defensive line stands out: Led by massive, disruptive defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, it appears that for the first time since perhaps the 1990s, the Huskies will have a deep, formidable defensive front. Redshirt freshman Josh Shirley looked like an explosive edge rusher this spring who could compliment Hau'oli Jamora. There are four or five quality guys that could complement Ta'amu inside.

3. There's good depth at receiver: Whoever wins the quarterback competition, he's going to have plenty of guys who can catch the ball: Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Kevin Smith, James Johnson, DiAndre Campbell and Cody Bruns. Prep All-American Kasen Williams arrives in the fall. Toss in the improved tight ends, and the passing attack could be solid if things work out at ...

Fall questions

1. Price is right? It appears that sophomore Keith Price surged into the lead over redshirt freshman Nick Montana in the quarterback competition, but there's still fall camp for things to shake up. It will be interesting to see how long coach Steve Sarkisian waits before making a call. Price looked in control in the spring game, showcasing skills passing and running. Montana hasn't looked bad; it's more a matter of Price, who started at Oregon last season, asserting himself.

2. What's up with the offensive line? The defensive line looked good this spring, so perhaps that's why the offensive line struggled. But it's still a concern, even with tackles Senio Kelemete and Ben Riva out with injuries, particularly when you consider the revolving door last fall that included seven different lineups of a starting five. The Huskies figure to be a run-first team in 2011 with running back Chris Polk. The line needs to be squared away for that to be an effective plan.

3. Settling on the 'backers: Cort Dennison returns in the middle, and Garret Gilliland, who played middle linebacker behind Dennison last year, has looked good at weakside linebacker, where Mason Foster starred in 2010, but the "Sam" strongside linebacker spot is still up for grabs. John Timu and Jamaal Kearse were the top guys this spring to replace Victor Aiyewa, but Princeton Fuimaono should be a factor in the fall after not being able to participate in contact work this spring. And there's the question of depth.

Spring wrap: Washington State

May, 9, 2011

2010 Overall record: 2-10

2010 conference record: 1-8

Returning starters

Offense: 8, Defense: 7, punter/kicker: 0

Top returners

QB Jeff Tuel, WR Marquess Wilson, DE Travis Long, SS Deone Bucannon

Key losses

C Zach Williams, DE Kevin Kooyman, P Reid Forrest

2010 statistical leaders (*returning starter)

Rushing: James Montgomery (483)

Passing: Jeff Tuel* (2,780)

Receiving: Marquess Wilson* (1,006)

Tackles: Deone Bucannon* (84)

Sacks: Travis Long* (4)

Interceptions: Aire Justin, Bucannon, Alex Hoffman-Ellis* (2)

Spring answers

1. Passing happy: With quarterback Jeff Tuel, who is entering his third year as the starter, and a deep crew of receivers, led by Marquess Wilson, the Cougars passing game could be as good as any in the conference. Coach Paul Wulff's no-huddle offense, which didn't really work the previous three seasons, in large part due to a lack of talent, should be able to dictate tempo this fall instead of being victimized by it.

2. Ready to run: And this should also help the passing game: The offensive line is deeper and more talented than it has been during Wulff's tenure, and freshman running back Rickey Galvin is the explosive sort who can exploit even small creases for big gains.

3. Fronting the seven: The ultimate success of the Cougars season might come down to the defensive front seven, which is a question, but new coaches -- Chris Tormey with the linebackers and Todd Howard with the defensive line -- have injected some new ideas and energy. Both have coached elite defenses, so they at least know what they look like.

Fall questions

1. Front-7 rotation: There's some experience and talent on the defensive line and at linebacker: The Cougars will have a legit 2-deep going into the season if they stay healthy. That said, the defensive front needs to be better -- much -- in 2011. On the defensive line, Travis Long, Brandon Rankin and Jordan Pu’u Robinson sat out this spring with injuries, which allowed other players to showcase their skills. The competition will pick up in the fall as far as establishing a pecking order. At linebacker, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Mike Ledgerwood had good springs, but young players will need to step up. Will C.J. Mizell become consistent? And where might Louis Bland fit in if he's healthy?

2. Special teams? Two of the Cougars' best players in 2010? Punter Reid Forrest and long snapper Zach Enyeart. Both need to be replaced. Forrest was a Ray Guy Award finalist. Based on performances this spring, there might be a bit of a drop-off in production -- perhaps a steep one.

3. Belief: No question Wulff is on the hotseat. The general feeling is Wulff needs to produce substantial improvement in order to be retained, whether that's bowl eligibility or five or so wins. The program has been in the dumps with four consecutive losing seasons, including just five wins during Wulff's tenure. These players don't know winning. On paper, there's been a talent upgrade. And the Cougars were far more competitive in 2010. But winning is a different animal. To perform well in the fourth quarter when a game is on the line, a team needs confidence. The Cougars need to develop a foundation of confidence this fall. They will need to believe they are good before they actually prove they are.