Washington 2003 Football Outlook
Aug. 20, 2003
Overview: With a current string of 26 consecutive winning seasons, it's no surprise that Washington is an annual contender in the Pac-10. Considering the personnel on hand, the Huskies again have to be listed among the favorites for the league crown. The passing game features not one, but two Heisman Trophy candidates, so Washington will be able to move the ball through the air. If the Dawgs can step up the running game and tighten up the defense, as anticipated, big things could be in store in Seattle. The season will open on a challenging note, as the Huskies meet defending National Champion Ohio State in Columbus.
Offense: Eight starters return to a unit that averaged 429.7 yards per game last year and ranked fourth in the nation in passing at 346.2 yards per game, a figure that led the Pac-10 by a wide margin. The flip side was a running game that averaged just 2.1 yards per carry and 74.5 yards per game. Those numbers need to be juiced up. The Husky offense features quarterback Cody Pickett and wide receiver Reggie Williams, in what likely is the nation's premier pass-catch combination. Pickett last year shattered the UW season passing record and became the first Pac-10 quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season. His numbers speak volumes as he put the ball up 612 times, completing 365 (.596) for 4,458 yards, 28 TDs and just 14 interceptions. Williams had equally impressive stats as he recorded the best receiving numbers in school history. He pulled in 94 receptions for 1,454 yards (15.5) and 11 TDs, good enough to earn him first-team All-America honors as a sophomore. Overshadowed by Williams is wideout Charles Frederick, who has matured into talented receiver and will be counted on to take some of the defensive pressure away from Williams. The Huskies will be looking for a new tight end, with Joe Toledo and Jon Lyon the leading contenders. As noted, Washington is intent on improving its ground game this season. The most seasoned running back is senior Rich Alexis, who has appeared in 35 games and rushed for 1,805 yards and 24 touchdowns. Junior Chris Singleton also is on hand and two highly touted redshirt freshmen - Kenny James and Shelton Sampson - will enter the fray this fall. Washington should have depth on the offensive line as four starters return to what was a young group last year. Tackle Nick Newton is a standout at one tackle and he is joined by fellow returnees Khalif Barnes at tackles, Aaron Butler at guard and Todd Bachert at center. Dan Dicks and Rob Meadow should fight it out for the open guard position and guard Tusi Sa'au and tackle Francisco Tipoti will be pushing for playing time. There may be some position shuffling here to get the five best players on the field.
Defense: Washington returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. The Huskies have three starters back on the defensive line. There is depth at tackle with the return of starters Terry Johnson and Josh Miller, along with experienced reserves Jerome Stevens and Junior Coffin. Manase Hopoi, who notched 17 tackles for loss last year, is back at one end. UW lost a couple of solid starters at linebacker, but are not in bad shape as Marquis Cooper, who rang up an even 100 tackles last year, returns inside, and Greg Carothers moves to outside backer from strong safety, where he has started the last two years. Holdovers Tim Galloway and Joe Lobendahn will vie for the remaining inside starting post. Washington's secondary play was spotty last season, but some former starters have returned from injury to make the defensive backfield an area of depth and experience this year. Junior Derrick Johnson, who had five picks last year, is an emerging star at cornerback and the return of Roc Alexander from a shoulder injury gives the Huskies a talented duo on the corners. James Sims, Jimmy Newell and Evan Benjamin all have some starting experience at safety.
Kicking Game: The Huskies lose both kickers from a year ago, with four-year placekicker John Anderson, who had 61 career field goals, the biggest void. A pair of incoming freshmen - placekicker Michael Braunstein and punter Sean Douglas - will be expected to take over the kicking chores.