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Football midseason report cards: Grading the Huskies by position for their first six games

Report card: Timu

Report card: Timu -

Middle linebacker John Timu tackles Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison. Timu leads the UW’s linebacking group  that was expected to be the strongest defensive unit for the Huskies this season.

Photo by Joshua Bessex

Report card: Mickens

Report card: Mickens

Get out your red pens and grade books. It’s midseason evaluation time. The Huskies got off to a hot 4-0 start but are dragging a heavy two-game losing streak into Tempe, Ariz., this weekend. The offense has been stellar, as it ranks eighth in the nation in yards per game, and the defense has been stout, checking in at 20th in the country in yards allowed, but there’s still plenty of football left to play. With exactly one-half of the football season over and six more games still left to go, we break down each position group and see where they check in on our midseason midterm.

Offense

Quarterbacks: B+

After an up-and-down 2012, much-maligned quarterback Keith Price has become the threat that head coach Steve Sarkisian needed under center. Price has thrived in the UW’s high-speed offense, throwing for more than 260 yards each game,[ with a 12-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Perhaps most importantly, he has become extremely efficient, improving his completion percentage by almost nine points and his QB rating by more than 30 points. He fought through a thumb injury and almost led the Huskies to a massive road upset against Stanford but then struggled against Oregon when he was clearly bothered by the same thumb.

Running backs: A

There’s a reason why Bishop Sankey’s name keeps popping up on those midseason All-American lists. Through six games, Sankey leads the nation in rushing, with 149.8 yards a game. His nine touchdowns are second in the nation, just one behind the leader’s. He has become a dominant force in the up-tempo offense. Meanwhile, the depth behind Sankey has been tested, and Jesse Callier has emerged as the best of the rest. Callier scored touchdowns in three straight games earlier in the season, though both Stanford and Oregon shut him down. The Huskies would have liked a bit more production out of Dwayne Washington, whose carries have been limited since fumbling twice against Illinois. But this grade is all about the overall production, and Sankey has been productive enough for all the running backs.

Wide receivers: B-

Some wide receivers have stepped up this season for the UW, while others have stepped back. Sophomore Jaydon Mickens has developed into Price’s favorite target underneath, as he leads the team with 34 catches. Senior Kevin Smith has become a force on the outside, with 24 catches and a team-high 389 yards. But with the emergence of those two, Kasen Williams has dropped out of the spotlight. Last season’s leading receiver has just 24 catches and one touchdown this year, which are low numbers given the talent he has and the season he had in 2012. In addition, UW fans have seen glimpses of John Ross’ talent, but he has yet to break out. DiAndre Campbell has been a nonfactor, and Damore’ea Stringfellow has not made the impact the UW coaching staff was hoping for from the freshman.

Tight ends: C

By far the most disappointing aspect of the offense has been the play of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Last season, Seferian-Jenkins was one of the nation’s premier tight ends, with 69 catches for 850 yards and a team-high seven scores. But he missed the first game of the season and hasn’t returned to last season’s form. He has just 16 catches through five games, although he does lead the team with three touchdowns. His backup, Joshua Perkins, has been a nice surprise, scoring two touchdowns in limited action.

Offensive Line: B+

During the 2012 season, the offensive line was the biggest problem for the UW. Injuries and inconsistency decimated the Huskies up front, and Price was the one to suffer. But this year has been a different story. The same five players have started every game (though that streak could come to an end if Dexter Charles’ shoulder injury keeps him out of Saturday’s game at Arizona State), and the UW offense has been rolling. The line has helped Sankey become one of the best in the country, and it’s given Price enough time to throw for the most part. However, over the past two weeks, Price has been feeling the pressure, as he was sacked nine times against Stanford and Oregon. But still, on the whole, the line has been a major improvement in 2013.

Defense 

Defensive line: B-

A main concern for the Huskies entering this season was whether they could generate a consistent pass rush. It’s still a concern six games into the season. The coaching staff has gotten creative when necessary, unleashing several different personnel packages like the small, speedy Jetsons and cheetah groups and the larger, stouter Flintstones group. Those looks worked against Illinois and Arizona. However, pressure was minimal, to say the least, against Oregon and Stanford. The pieces are coming together: Danny Shelton is a 327-pound nose tackle that may or may not give opposing centers nightmares, and Hau’oli Kikaha has been a steady presence in the backfield since coming back from two knee injuries. They just need to come together on a more consistent basis.

Defensive backs: B+

Marcus Mariota sliced up the UW secondary, passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns, which was the first time this season the Huskies allowed more than 200 passing yards. But let’s be real: Mariota is one of the best college football players in the nation, if not the best. With the exception of that blip on the radar, the Huskies have been spectacular in the defensive secondary. They still lead the conference in pass defense (182.2 passing yards allowed per game). Sean Parker has made a habit of coming up with some big plays when his team needs them most, and Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters have combined to make a reliable duo at the corners. 

Linebackers: B

The linebacking group was supposed to be the UW defense’s strongest unit this season. So far, senior Princeton Fuimaono, junior John Timu, and sophomore Shaq Thompson haven’t disappointed. They’re a reliable group, setting the tone for the whole defense. Timu stepping up to the line at the middle linebacker position and making adjustments on the defensive line is like a general organizing his troops. Fuimaono came on strong during fall camp, taking the starting spot from Travis Feeney at outside linebacker opposite Thompson. Fuimaono leads the team in tackles, and Thompson’s athleticism is still surprising. 

Special teams: C

Is Ty Montgomery still running? Kickoff coverage has been suspect to say the least, but the Huskies have to be glad Travis Coons is perfect (5-of-5) on field goals. 

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen and reporter Daniel Rubens at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitters: @thucnhi21 and @drubens12

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