I’ve always wanted to do this for games. But usually my brain is so fried postgame that its hard for me to come up with things in the hours after. But after a lunch at Mother’s in New Orleans and then a combined 12 hours in airports and airplanes, I was able to come up with some stuff.
This is a blatant rip off of my buddy Kevin Van Valkenburg’s blog post he used to do after Ravens games for the Baltimore Sun.
But lets get to the observations of my addled and less-than-expert mind
1. It will be a struggle to the run the football all season.
Washington’s ground game was nonexistent on Saturday night — 24 carries for 26 yards and about 25 of those yards came in meaningless mop up time. Obviously, the front seven of LSU is really, really good – maybe the best in the country. The Huskies likely won’t face another defense that good, that physical, that deep or that athletic this season. But they will face some good defenses in Oregon, USC, Stanford and others. And they won’t be able to run the football efficiently unless certain things change.
Let’s be clear — running games aren’t built mid-season. It just doesn’t work that way. And it certainly doesn’t work that way with a patchwork offensive line and running backs that simply aren’t as talented as some of the backs UW has had in the past. The inability to run consistently between the tackles will continue to be an issues. At some point, maybe Steve Sarksisian will have to make some adjustments to get a run game that will at least be mediocre.
With the loss of Erik Kohler for probably a month to another dislocated knee, the Huskies will have to make some adjustments at right tackle. Here’s what I would do. I would move center Drew Schaefer (the best of the offensive linemen) to left tackle, where he has worked out at before. Move left tackle Micah Hatchie to right tackle. And then try to find a center, whether that’s moving Colin Tanigawa there, and putting Dexter Charles or Shane Brostek at left guard, or trying Sifo Tufunga at center. The Huskies to have more depth and talent to play guard and up the middle. It’s a drastic change. But it might be necessary.
As for the running back situation, they don’t have a lot of choices. I still think they go with Bishop Sankey. Maybe Erich Wilson II should see a few more snaps, but really he’s a guy that should have been redshirted. The entire running backs corps has to be in question.
Some people are starting to wonder if Sankey can be a featured back. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but he has struggled with generating yards after minimal contact. One thing that might be necessary is for Sarkisian to re-evaluate the types of run plays they want to use – it goes back to that whole “searching for an identity” comment Sarkisian made postgame. I don’t know that if part of that identity can include the “power” and “blast” plays that UW liked to run with Polk. Perhaps more read-option plays might be in order.
Something needs to change in the run game to at least make it acceptable. I don’t know that any results we some from Portland State will be an accurate indicator.
2. The seemingly endless pass rush and the idea of self-preservation is affecting the way Keith Price played
How do I know this? He’s admitted as much. Price said after the both the SDSU and LSU games that he’s getting caught up looking and watching for pass rushers instead of keeping his eyes down the field. That’s a problem. He admitted it. Why is this happening? Well for a number of reasons. The first is that the line hasn’t done a great job of protecting him. That’s nothing new. Price should be used to it after last season. Left tackle Micah Hatchie gave up a couple of sacks against LSU – not unexpected. But a couple of plays where he was slow to get out of his stance and failure to recognize a basic protection adjustment should be concerning to the staff.
Another factor is that the Huskies don’t have a ground game (see above) to keep team’s honest. Chris Polk’s mere presence is a key to that. Another reason is that Price is dealing with freshman receivers, who are struggling to get open against press coverage. Say what you want about Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar and their untimely drops, but they knew how to get open against upper level defense.
And then there is the preaching about getting rid of the ball and avoiding big hits. Price knows that he’s the key to not only the entire offense, but the entire season. He knows a serious injury would be catastrophic. So he’s trying to be smart and get rid of the ball in bad situations. That’s a good thing. But he’s struggling with finding the balance of being smart and being aggressive.
3. Thomas Tutogi needs to play more
He’s not as fast or athletic as John Timu or Travis Feeney and he struggles in pass coverage. But Tutogi tackles people. And Timu, while athletic and usually in the right place, still misses tackles or can’t finish them off. Tutogi had a team-high 12 tackles against LSU. Of course, there were times when he looked painfully slow to the football against LSU. But those running backs are slightly faster than what the Huskies will see on a consistent basis – other than Oregon.
Tutogi is 242 pounds and the biggest of all the linebackers. That size could be beneficial when playing Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and USC’s Silas Redd or any of the other bigger backs in the league. Obviously, he’s not a great fit against teams like Oregon. But teams are going to try and run the football on UW. Why? Because teams have done so with success this season. Having someone that makes tackles is necessary.
Part of the idea of Justin Wilcox’s defense with Danny Shelton up front in the middle is to make it easier for linebackers to make plays in the run game. UW’s linebackers haven’t done that enough on a consistent basis.