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October 2, 2008In order to give readers a better idea about what kind of team Arizona is facing in the Washington Huskies, GOAZCATS.com caught up with Ryan Petit of UDubSports.com, who answered a series of questions about the UA's fifth opponent.
What are the strengths of the 2008 Washington football team?
That is a great question and one the coaching staff, players and fan base are still attempting to figure out. Ok that is a little harsh, but there have not been many positives to speak of in 2008.
Right now the strengths would have to be the young receivers and a very special tight end. Freshman receiver Jermaine Kearse looks like a star in the making and his former high school teammate, tight end Kavario Middleton, is probably the best NFL prospect on the roster. Combine them with a host of talented young receivers and the future is very bright on offense.
Also, despite not playing up to their potential, or perhaps not being asked to play to their strengths, the offensive line is talented. They were expected to be one of the best in the Pac-10 and against Stanford they finally started to look the part.
The linebackers are a talented group, but have been asked to carry the world on their shoulders. Everyone knows a linebackers' best friend is the defensive line and right now they are not getting help.
True sophomore Mason Foster will be an All-Pac player before it's said and done and inside linebacker Donald Butler is a 240-pound converted high school running back that still can move like one.
What do the Huskies have to do to beat Arizona?
Defend. That seems simple enough, right? Not for these Huskies, who are giving up nearly 507 yards of offense per game ranking them No. 118 in the country.
Everyone thought it was just a product of a young defense going against three of the top offenses in the nation to begin the season. Then Stanford came to town and put up its season average on offense in the first half alone on the Dawgs. That is a scary thought considering last season Willie Tuitama put up 510 yards on the Huskies.
The only way Washington could hope to contain the Wildcats is if they hurried, hit and sacked Tuitama early and often. That isn't going to happen as Washington hasn't recorded a sack in the first four games and have only been close on a few occasions.
At this point the Husky offense will be asked to keep pace with Arizona and that is far too much to ask of a freshman quarterback.
Tell us about quarterback Ronnie Fouch.
Fouch is a very good quarterback and will surprise people on Saturday. He was an early enrollee last spring and he picked up the complexities of a college offense the moment he stepped onto campus.
Since redshirting last season he has added 20 pounds of muscle and now looks and acts the part of a Pac-10 quarterback. He has a strong arm and is capable of making every throw on the field and he's much faster then people would imagine.
No, he isn't going to make you forget about Jake Locker when he is running around, but he can run the option effectively. However, that is not his strength and he is much more comfortable sitting in the pocket delivering passes to his playmakers.
On a side note, I believe his presence could be beneficial for this Husky team in the long run. Locker gives you the best chance to win, but with a team that starts six or seven freshmen and just as many sophomores, Fouch could help more with their progression.
The team cannot just rely on Locker to get them yards on third and short. No more calling a shotgun and letting Locker run for two yards. Now the offense will have to execute the playbook and rely on each other.
Also, Fouch is a more accurate passer and will bring stability to a group of young receivers. Once again, he isn't going to make anyone forget about Locker, but in a seemingly lost season he will impress some people.
Who is the best Husky football player we haven't heard of yet?
That would be wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Perhaps some of you have heard of him, but he was a three-star recruit who has looked like a blue chipper ever since stepping onto Montlake. He is tall, fast, and catches everything. He's also one of the hardest workers on the team and an extremely coachable player.
There is another player who is redshirting this season that the Pac-10 will get to know in the coming years. He's an offensive lineman named Mykenna Ikehara.
This 6-foot-3, 300-pound guard only had one Pac-10 offer and teams will kick themselves when they see him play. He is a beast who pushed around every player put in front of him during fall camp. He became a media darling down here because of the way he manhandled people.
What are the weaknesses of the Washington football team?
The problems with the Washington Huskies starts and ends on the defensive side of the football. The defensive line will be good in the future, but right now they are outmatched and out of their league. They are relying on three true freshmen to give them quality minutes and it's too much to ask too soon.
Besides the defensive line, youth is the single biggest factor hurting the Huskies. One sophomore and six freshmen lead them in receptions and yards. They are relying on three freshmen and one sophomore at running back.
With Locker out a freshman will take over at quarterback. One freshman starts and two others play significant time on the defensive line. In the secondary two freshmen and one sophomore start. There is loads of talent on the Husky roster, but it will take at least a full season to realize it all.
What is the injury situation going into the game?
Injuries have hampered this young team's progress since fall camp. Now heading into the Arizona game, Washington could be without its best player in Jake Locker, its best wide receiver in D'Andre Goodwin, its starting halfback David Freeman and its starting middle linebacker Donald Butler.
S: Jason Wells (Hamstring)
S: Victor Aiyewa (Groin)
S: Darin Harris (Concussion)
QB: Jake Locker (Thumb)
MLB: Donald Butler (Concussion)
RB: David Freeman (Ankle)
WR: D'Andre Goodwin (Ribs)
Compare this year's team to last year's team. Where do you see the Huskies finishing the season in the Pac-10?
With the loss of Louis Rankin and the senior leadership on the defensive line this team has taken a large step back. There are far too many freshmen and sophomores playing to have expected a great improvement from last season but no one was expecting such a regression.
The secondary is actually playing better than its 2007 counterpart, but because of the poor defensive line play you would never know. The offensive line is not living up to its potential and it appears too big and slow to run the spread option offense Locker is best suited for.
Perhaps with Ronnie Fouch staying in the pocket and passing more and offensive coordinator Tim Lappano implementing more two-back running sets they could improve.
At this point I see UCLA, WSU and UW battling for the last three spots in the Pac-10. Before the season started I thought Washington could win six games, but after losing to BYU by one point and Stanford by a touchdown that dream is now down the pipe.