Cleat Geeks

2016 Pac 12 Preview: Washington Huskies

For nearly the past decade, the North division has dominated the Pac-12, bringing in the conference champion every year since 2008 and hovering as the best overall division in all of college football. In a division that has been headlined by Oregon and Stanford during that span, there is much more competition heading into 2016. Washington is much stronger this season and faces huge national expectations with a possible conference crown on the horizon. Washington State is no team to sleep on due to their fast-paced offense and high-powered passing attack headlined by All-Pac 12 QB Luke Falk. The bottom feeders of the division this season figure to be California and Oregon State. The Golden Bears are faced with the tough task to replace 1st overall pick Jared Goff under center, while the Beavers are tasked with the mission of bouncing back from a winless season in conference play. Both, however, will be scrappy teams who could serve as a threat to end a team’s Playoff hopes.Pac12IntroPhoto

Take a look as we dig deep into the Pac-12 North division. Comment with some predictions of your own for the Washington Huskies and if you think they’re ready to take the North division this season. Follow @JonValencia_WiB for more Pac-12 updates throughout the offseason as we gear up for opening week.

2 – Washington Huskies (9-3, 6-3 – NORTH)

Players to Watch: QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, WR John Ross, CB Sidney Jones, S Budda Baker
Key Departures: RB Dwayne Washington, WR Jaydon Mickens, LB Travis Feeny

For a team that went 7-6 last season, the Washington Huskies are getting quite a lot of buzz, but for good reason. One of the up and coming teams in college football, people in Seattle have a lot to be excited for. To start, they have one of the best QB-RB tandems in the conference, both of whom are just sophomores. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin return to complete one of the most dynamic backfields in the Pac-12.

The true freshman Jake Browning saw some growing pains early on last season, but he finished the season strong and threw for 2,955 yards which is 5th all-time in school history. With a year under his belt, he’s ready to emerge as a standout QB for the Huskies with an offensive line that keeps three starters along with the return of speedy receiver John Ross who missed all of last season. Myles Gaskin adds another dimension with his hard-nosed, shifty running style. His 1,302 yards on the ground were 2nd among all freshmen. Gaskin is primed for All-conference honors and Browning could be on his way there as well.

Photo by: Lindsey Wasson / The Seattle Times

Photo by: Lindsey Wasson / The Seattle Times

Browning has a solid group of receivers at his disposal, headlined by the return of redshirt junior John Ross. In 2014, Ross scored 7 total TDs on the year with an average of 75 yards per TD play. He’ll provide a lethal deep threat and a guy who can make something out of nothing on short routes. Dante Pettis will be the go-to guy for Browning as he brings more of a reliable, possession playing style. Chico McClaster has received rave reviews over the Spring. At 5’7” the sophomore will fit perfectly into the slot and prove to be a slippery weapon in the offense.

The offensive line was a bit shaky last season for the Huskies, but with three returning starters, they should be a bit more stout this year. If they can come together, this offense could be the most exciting of any team in the conference headlined by Myles Gaskin and the maturation of Jake Browning who has All-Pac 12 potential.

WashingtonHuskiesDeathRowTo Washington’s delight, their defense stepped up in a huge way last season despite losing four starters to the NFL. The self-proclaimed “Death Row” bolstered the conference’s best defense as they topped in points and yards against. The tandem of Budda Baker and Sidney Jones highlight one of the best secondaries in the nation. Both of whom should be 1st Team All-Pac 12 this year. Senior Kevin King lines up opposite Jones at corner – his 6’3” size and length will be coveted. Any way you put it, the defensive backfield will cause fits for QBs throughout the season.

Against the run, Washington is just as good. The tackle tandem of Greg Gaines and Elijah Qualls helped lead the run defense to a league-low 3.3 yards allowed per carry. While he’ll be primarily lined up in the LB corps, senior Buck LB Joe Mathis will see some snaps off the edge and is poised for a breakout season as the team’s primary pass rusher. A LB corps which will need some rebuilding, Mathis leads the charge with junior Azeem Victor staying sturdy in the middle. Camilo Eifler is the freshman to watch for on this team. The four star recruit held offers from teams such as Michigan, Oregon and UCLA, among others, but committed to UW early in the process. He could be a lethal pass rusher off the bench.

The Huskies are blood thirsty for their first league title since 2000 back in the Rick Neuheisel days. They ended last season on a three game winning streak where they outscored opponents by a staggering 141-48 which includes a win in the Dallas Bowl and a blowout of rival Washington State. Chris Peterson has proven to be one of the most consistent coaches in college football, and this will be his best year at Washington to date. While they may still be a year away, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Huskies found themselves in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game.

9/3: vs Rutgers WHuskyBlueEye
9/10: vs Idaho W
9/17: vs Portland State W
9/24: @ Arizona L
9/30: vs Stanford W
10/8: @ Oregon L
10/22: vs Oregon State W
10/29: @ Utah W
11/5: @ California W
11/12: vs USC L
11/19: vs Arizona State W
11/25: @ Washington State W

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