Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Washington.
Spring practice begins: Monday, April 2.
Spring game: Saturday, April 28 at CenturyLink Field.
Returning starters: Eight on offense and eight on defense.
Three Things To Watch For:
1. New staff mixing things up. The last time the Huskies took to the field, they were putting up a record-setting performance at the Alamo Bowl - but not in a good way. Giving up 67 points and 777 yards tend to spark changes on defense and that's just what 4th year head coach Steve Sarkisian did, bringing in new coordinator Justin Wilcox, linebackers coach Peter Sirmon, defensive line coach and ace-recruiter Tosh Lupoi and defensive backs coach Keith Heyward in a complete overhaul. The staff is known for bringing their energy and there will be a bit of 'get back to the basics' with the players this spring as they look to turn things around on that side of the ball.
"There's new stuff going on. The field. The time. The new coaches. There's plenty of newness in this thing that makes it feel fresh, makes it feel alive," Sarkisian said. "There's a bit of excitement in the air -- but yet, a little bit of anxiety in the air, quite honestly. I think guys are anxious to get on the field and get going. They want to prove to their new coaches that they can play.
"We are starting at ground zero on the defensive side of the ball. We have to teach every aspect from it, from stance and start and alignment and assignment."
Though the offense won't change that much since the head coach handles so much, new offensive coordinator Eric Keisau will have 15 practices to get up to speed and then some.
2. Skill position starters and offensive depth. Quarterback Keith Price had a great first season as the full-time starter and set a few school records as the offense outperformed everybody's expectations last year. With only two signal-callers in camp he'll get plenty of work but will likely be somewhat limited as he looks to head into the fall fully healthy. While most are penciling in Jesse Callier at tailback, there will be an interesting competition to see who can replace Chris Polk as the starter this spring with expectations running high for Deontae Cooper, who will see some limited action. The wide receivers are somewhat inexperienced while the offensive line will have to develop some depth with several starters missing time due to injury and something to keep an eye on.
3. Taking the next step. Washington has had quite a turnaround over the past four years under Sarkisian, going from doormat to knocking on the door. Last year gave a lot of Huskies fans hope about 2012 and, though Oregon is likely a top 10 team and Stanford will still be solid, early departures by several players have opened the door slightly in the Pac-12 North next season. This will be a good offensive team looking to come out of spring with talk of being great and if that coincides with an improved defense then the Huskies will be a team that could find themselves in the top 25 early and often.