Tag Archives: Shaq Thompson

Washington Huskies: Return of The Dawgs?

When I was growing up you could count on a few things in life. First, you could always watch “Looney Tunes” on a Saturday morning, “The Love Boat” on a Friday night, and knowing that the Washington Huskies would be reigning supreme in the Northwest and the Pac-12 in football. The “Dawgs” as everybody in the Northwest called them were the premier program in the region. Rose Bowls after Rose Bowls, conference titles, and even a National Championship were the norm and what was expected. Anything less was viewed as failure. Oh, how have times changed.

The Huskies are not the “team” in the Northwest anymore. To most of the alumni, their rival in Eugene is now the team in the region. That alone drives Husky fans up the wall. They hate the Duck program with a passion and with every win over the Huskies, every Rose Bowl, or National Championship appearance, that hatred grows deeper. Fans and everybody associated with the Husky program wants that dominance back with the program. Here is the question. What has happened to the once mighty Husky program?

One thing that has happened is that they are not recruiting the type of players it takes to sustain dominance like they had. Don James, the old Husky Head Coach built a fence around the state of Washington and the Northwest and all the great players were coming to him. With his Rose Bowl appearances, Don James could also get his hands on some of Southern California’s best talent and that added to the dominance of the program. When you dominate, you win, so the recruits come to you. Now, Chris Peterson, the current Husky Head Coach has to fight very hard to keep the best Washington recruits from leaving the state. Peterson has vowed to put a fence around the state and keep all the talented in-state. He’s only entering his second season with the Huskies, so his fence is still in the build stage.

The program has languished in mediocrity for the past 20 years after Don James, “The DawgFather”, resigned amid sanctions that found that many of the players at Washington were getting improper benefits. As stated earlier, there was a ton of success in James time as coach. He even had three national coaching honors and a 22 game winning streak to add to the allure of the program. The program had their knees cut from underneath them with these sanctions and they really haven’t recovered. Enter Chris Peterson 20 years later.

Let’s face facts here. Chris Peterson and all his accolades he got in his tenure at Boise State, needs to come up with some success at Washington in his second year. Husky fans are tired of being average and want the return of fear when the Huskies come to town or when the opponents have to enter into Husky Stadium. Husky Stadium can be a very difficult place to play. When I was youngster, and went to Husky Stadium for a couple of games, it was so loud and the fans were right on top of you. Much like it is at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. I didn’t think a stadium could be so loud, but this is something Peterson has to restore to the program as well.

Chris Peterson has his work cut out for him, but I do think he is the guy to restore the honor to the program. To me he’s a proven commodity, even though he did the majority of his winning at a smaller school at Boise State. He proved he could beat the bigger schools or at the very least compete with the likes of Oregon, Georgia, and let’s not forget the Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. One of the best college football games I have ever seen. It’s not like he DOESN’T know how to get the job done. Entering this second season at the helm of the Huskies, fans want results yesterday. The honeymoon is over. Was there ever one?

Peterson needs to do better against ranked opponents too. They were 0-5 against those type of teams and that will also cause some more angst in latte’ capital of the world. They also have to win the bowl game they go to as well. They came up short against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl in Tempe. That didn’t sit well with the UW fan base, plus if you factor in the near upsets by the likes of Eastern Washington and Hawaii and you have a thought that Peterson was lucky to finish with the 8 wins that the team had. Peterson nearly had a very dismal opening in season number one.

The facilities and resources at Washington are such that Peterson can just be average in recruiting or any aspect of major college football. He needs to get the top recruits to the school and build those players into a cohesive unite to compete with the likes of Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, ASU, Arizona, and Utah. Sounds pretty tough doesn’t? Well, if you are the coach Washington, you can’t be scared of a scenario like that in the Pac-12. I don’t think Peterson is scared of anything, if anything he likes a challenge because he faced challenges coaching at Boise State, so something like this challenge is nothing for him. It’s just on a much bigger scale than normal.

In his second year the Huskies and Peterson need to get a big time win, such as beating Oregon or Stanford, plus make strides to being in contention for the Pac-12 title in future years. If this can be accomplished, Peterson will get more of a leash (no pun intended), but if the program continues to be mired in mediocrity then he may not be around that much longer.

One of things that may make that a little more difficult is the huge amount of change on the defensive side of the ball. They lost probably the best DT in the Pac-12 in Danny Shelton and all-everything Shaq Thompson. With the type of wide open offenses in the conference, replacing talent like that is going to be difficult. Offensively he loses Cyler Miles, a quarterback, who has stepped away from football for personal reasons. There will be questions all around this team, but Peterson knows he won’t get any extra leash because his depth chart is shallow. He is known for building programs and he is in the midst of probably his toughest job yet.

The one question I have is…. will Chris Peterson be around long enough to see the success he wants and the success the fans want? I hope so. Go Dawgs!

What Happens in the Pac-12 North in 2015?

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Predictions can be a tricky thing. Half the time you’re right, half the time you’re wrong. When you get it right, people don’t care and when you get it wrong, let’s just say people notice in a big way. Fans don’t want to admit that you got it right, they only want to admit when THEY got it right. Seeing that it is the end of April and fall camp is about another 125 days out, I figured, now is better than any time to throw a prediction out there. My prediction will deal with the Pac-12 North division.

Six teams comprise the Pac-12 North. You have Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, California, and Stanford. This is a division that has been pretty much dominated by two teams. Oregon and Stanford, with Oregon garnering most of the accolades and press. This year may be just a little different in the division.

I will put the teams in reverse order of how I think the division will work out. Starting at the bottom, I still think Washington State will be bringing up the rear of the division. They haven’t proved to me or anybody yet that they will make “the turn” towards being competitive. The one thing that they do have, is a returning quarterback, in Luke Falk. but in terms of anything else, it is anybody’s guess as to how Mike Leach gets this program moving in an upward direction. Falk is going to have to have his skill players have big games to get wins, but the one area where they may show some game is on the defensive side of the ball. The Cougs have people coming back defensively, so if they can keep people from putting up big points and the offense be better than advertised, then I’ll be wrong with this prediction, but for right now, they are just an unknown to me with very little sample size.

Oregon State is next. Even though I root for my school, I’m a realist when it comes to them. New coach, new schemes, new philosophy, a new, young quarterback, and replacing nine guys on the defensive side of the ball could spell trouble in Corvallis in 2015. Replacing the all-time Pac-12 passing leader will be no small task. Sean Mannion will be missed, especially his leadership that he brought to the offense. Coach Anderson has three freshmen quarterbacks battling it out for the starting job. Seth Collins, Nick Mitchell, and Marcus McMaryion are the new guys under center. I think Seth Collins wins the job in the end, but as of right now, it is anybody’s guess. Replacing nine guys on defense will be a huge task as well. At some point in the Pac-12 you have to stop somebody from scoring to have any chance or you just might get 80 points dropped on you. It’s going to be a year of transition for the Beavers. Do I want better than this spot in the North? Of course, but I need to be realistic about the Beavers too. This is where I think they will fall.

Washington comes next. Washington is an enigma to me. I want them to do well, but every time I believe that they could be turning the corner, they don’t live up to the expectations that I have. They lost some talent, Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton to name a couple. Both will be NFL draft picks in the coming week. Even though they have lost two great defensive starters, defense will be the stronger side of the ball for the Dawgs. Quarterback will be the position where the most uncertainty lies. Even after the Spring Game, Head Coach Chris Peterson still doesn’t know who the leading candidate will be. Junior quarterback Jeff Lindquist has shown some improvement, but has not separated himself from the other two QB’s vying for the starting job. Jake Browning and K.J. Carta-Samuels had moments in the spring game, but like Lindquist, did not show beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong in the starters role. Finally, the biggest part of the Husky program that I have questions about is Coach Peterson. Now, he’s only been on the job about 18 months, but I still have questions about whether he can coach on the Pac-12 level. Yes, he had tremendous success at Boise State, but he wasn’t facing the greatest competition week in and week out like he is the Pac-12. The jury is still out on him for me. Hopefully, he proves me wrong.

California is next for me. I think what Sonny Dykes is doing up in Berkley is exciting. He has a pretty good quarterback in Jared Goff and talent at the skill positions to help Goff out. He is certainly trying to run his offense at fast break speed. The school may be doing some pushing for Goff to be a Heisman candidate. That may be a bit of a stretch for me, but he is certainly talented. Luke Rubenzer is making the switch to the defensive side of the ball, so there won’t be a rotating quarterback issue like there was last year. Rotating quarterbacks probably is one of the worst decisions that a coach can make, so by taking that issue away, the quarterback can stay in the rhythm that he gets in and doesn’t have to look over his shoulder every time he does something wrong. With a good home schedule, the Bears should be able to make the jump to be bowl eligible this year. The Bears get Grambling State, San Diego State, Oregon State, Washington State, USC (tough), and a tough game with the Sun Devils at home. They could win all these games at home, and they are going to have to. The road games are pretty tough. Road games include Stanford, Oregon, Utah, and UCLA. That’s a pretty tough sled right there. The one game on the road that they may be favored in will be their game with the Washington Huskies and that may decide whether or not they become bowl eligible or at home watching the bowl season again. I have them ranked ahead of Washington because they have a more settled quarterback situation. Of course, this could all blow up in my face, but for now, I see Cal finishing ahead of Washington.

Oregon comes in second in the division. Granted, they do have some talent coming back, but they did lost their Heisman Trophy leader in Marcus Mariota and that can be overstated enough. The Ducks will pick up the quarterback from Eastern Washington, Vernon Adams during the summer once he graduates from Eastern Washington. Jeff Lockie was the one seen as the successor to Mariota and he’s played well during the spring practices and the spring game, but he won’t THE guy once Adams arrives on campus in Eugene. As good as Vernon Adams was at Eastern Washington, that still was at a lower competition level then the Pac-12 level. We don’t know what the Ducks really have with Adams an whether or not he will be as good as advertised at this Division one level. He will have great skill guys behind him to help him out, but you still have to get used to each other and that may take a bit to happen. The one thing that is an understated loss is the loss of all-everything center Hroniss Grasu. Having a great leader on the O-Line is something that every coach wants and Grasu was THAT guy. It’ll be a year of transition for the Ducks, but there is also enough talent on the team to make the transition not as severe as it would be for other teams.

Stanford. The Cardinal will finish first in the division. They have their veteran quarterback Kevin Hogan, in the fold on The Farm, plus they return all the young talent that they had last season. One of those returning guys is Christian McCaffrey who provided a big spark to the offense last season. He’s one of those players that makes you take notice of him as well. He runs hard, he’s disciplined, and comes to play every Saturday. The other player that will help contribute is Barry Sanders, no, not that one, but his son. He’ll be a senior, he knows his role and has shed weight and will provide senior leadership for the Cardinal this fall. The one area that made me waver a little bit between the Ducks and the Cardinal is special teams. The Cardinal missed a lot of field goals last season, and that aspect of the team needs to get better, so they can win some of those close games. In the end, I still think the Cardinal have enough to win the division. Is it going to be enough to win the Conference? That’s a question for another day.

At the end of November, early December this should come down to a two horse race in Stanford and Oregon, with Stanford coming out on top. Whoever comes out of the North division is going to have their hands full with the South division winner. Here’s to a crazy race in the North in 2015.

 

 

Teams Hit Hardest by Early Departures

Another college football season is in the books and with that a litany of players has decided to leave school early to follow their dreams of becoming a pro player. The build-up is about to start for the NFL draft, one of my favorite days of the year. With this time also brings one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s all the lists detailing the “underclassmen” that are leaving school early and declaring for the NFL draft. Why are they called underclassmen when 80% or more of the players on the list are juniors? I’ve been following the draft since I was eight or nine years old so maybe I just haven’t come across the answer. But I’ve never heard it brought up. Is there a reason? Is it something where as soon as I find out the reason I’m going to feel like an idiot? I need answers.

Aside from my personal sanity, there was actually a surprise with these lists this year. There were actually less players that declared early than last year. The number has risen year after year but this year only 86 chose to leave school early as opposed to 102 last year. Many on these lists are from the top teams, which makes sense. Those are the teams that have the best players and thus more likely to have a number of them leaving early and drafted high. Programs can generally last a few years before losing handfuls of players early catches up with them.

So what programs will go into the 2015 fall hurt most by players having decided to leave early? The pure number of players a program loses is part of it, but so is the quality of player and the potential replacements that team has for the departed athlete. Melvin Gordon is a pretty special running back, but Wisconsin still has Corey Clement to lean on next year and hasn’t had trouble running the ball in forever. Here are the five teams I believe are hurt most by players leaving early.

1. Florida State

The Seminoles’ rise to the top the last two seasons was propelled by plenty of five-star recruits developing into pro prospects as hoped. This year Florida State loses Heisman winning quarterback Jameis Winston. That would already be enough to put them on the list, but the Seminoles will also be without four stand-out defensive players, DL Mario Edwards Jr and Eddie Goldman as well as CBs PJ Williams and Ronald Darby. Florida State might have more top recruits waiting, but the Seminoles defense played significantly worse in 2014 than 2013 after losing multiple top draft picks and 2015 won’t be any easier.

2. Oregon

Like Florida State, Oregon is losing a Heisman winning quarterback. Marcus Mariota’s departure leaves behind a void at quarterback in leadership and maybe the best player under center (or in the shotgun) in college football history statistically. Even if the Ducks have faith in their offensive system, it will be impossible to replicate 2014’s success. Add in DL Arik Armstead, one of the best players on the Ducks’ defense, and Oregon will have a lot of work to do before the 2015 opener.

3. Alabama

By now Alabama is used to losing a bunch of guys to the pros, but it may have started to catch up with them this past year. 2015 might only get worst. The Tide already lost numerous playmakers on offense along with Blake Sims who was arguably the best QB in the conference. Then WR Amari Cooper and RB TJ Yeldon decided to leave early for the draft, leaving the Tide with only a couple offensive starters returning for 2015. The cornerback play should be improved for Alabama next fall, but they could’ve used a return by Landon Collins to help avoid the breakdowns in the secondary that occurred this year.

4. USC

It’s starting to look like the USC of a decade ago with top-flight players. The question is will the Trojans have the depth to replace them now that their sanctions are over. The best player leaving early is DL Leonard Williams who should be a Top 5 pick. The offense was hit hardest in numbers however as RBs Buck Allen and George Farmer and WR Nelson Agholor will be looking to cash in on Sundays next fall. Farmer made little impact during his Trojan career but Allen and Agholor were both All-Pac-12 performers. USC has plenty of momentum going into next year, but a return by either of those guys may have solidified them in pre-season title contender status.

5. Washington

Washington finished 97th in total defense this year. It’s going to take a lot to vastly improve on that with the departures that side of the ball will see. DT Danny Shelton was already on his way to being a first round pick after wrapping up his senior season. Now CB Marcus Peters and LB Shaq Thompson are both on their way out as well, both declaring early for the NFL Draft where they could join teammate Shelton as first round picks. Washington isn’t exactly rolling in five-star recruits to replace these players like the top programs either.

Other schools hit hard: Florida, Louisville, Miami (Fl), Mississippi State, LSU