Washington Huskies Riding NFL Draft Success Into Key Position Battles
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Jarreau Brown, Oregon Sports News
The Washington Huskies are coming off their most successful season in the past 10 years. The only season that rivals is their 2014 campaign in which they went 9-4, 5-4 in PAC 12 play. The argument can even be made that they should’ve been seeded higher than Ohio State for a more favorable matchup with Clemson.
Last year’s team was loaded, and it showed on draft day. Five Huskies were selected and four went within the first two rounds. Each of those players in addition to a few graduating seniors need to be replaced.
Below are the key position battles as they get deeper into fall camp.
WR – The top receiver should be Dante Pettis, but the versatility and big-play ability of John Ross is one of the keys to the offense. Connor Griffin, Quinten Pounds, Andre Baccellia, and Aaron Fuller will all compete for the spot.
My Pick: Chico McClatcher. He resembles Ross in stature and offers similar explosiveness. If they opt to go with another returner other than Pettis, he’ll be their man.
DT – One of the unsung heroes of Washington’s 3-4 defense is the defensive ends. Maintaining run lanes and collapsing the pocket was Elijah Qualls’ primary role. Last year’s rotation consisted of Vita Vea, Jaylen Johnson and Greg Gaines to compliment the sixth-round pick, Qualls. With the three having a considerable amount of previous playing time, two being Pac 12 selections, it’s tough to call.
My Pick: Gaines and Vea. While Johnson is no slouch, I think it’ll be tough to unseat Vea, the Second Team Pac 12 selection, and Gaines, the Honorable mention. All three will see a considerable amount of playing time.
S – Budda Baker was the heart and soul of last year’s defense. While his replacement won’t be tasked with filling his leadership role, they’ll look for the same sure tackling. Jojo McIntosh and Ezekiel Turner will be the primary two competing for this spot, but there shouldn’t be much controversy. The winner will accompany Taylor Rapp on the back end.
My Pick: McIntosh should be an immediate plug and play in this role. He tied for third on the team with 67 tackles and only missed one game due to injury.
CB – I saved the best for last. This will be the most intriguing battle of camp for the Huskies. They’re replacing the best cornerback tandem in the PAC 12 and arguably in the NCAA. There isn’t one player competing with significant playing time. On the bright side, there are two four star recruits from 2016 and Coach Peterson signed two more for this year’s class. This will likely be decided the week before the season.
My Pick: Jordan Miller and Austin Joyner; both have a career interception and playing briefly in 12-14 games last year will give the coaches comfort to start the year. Byron Murphy, one of the highly touted recruits from the 2016 class, could unseat one of the starters mid-season and Joyner would be my pick for that.