The Washington Huskies entered the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Friday at a crossroads after head coach Steve Sarkisian left the program on Dec. 2 to take over at the University of Southern California. Speculation ran wild in the Pacific Northwest as to who would be the man to take the program that Sarkisian rebuilt to the next level, and a few days later the Huskies introduced Chris Petersen from Boise State to be the 29th coach in school history.
Petersen’s job officially starts on January 2, but in the meantime former quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo led the Huskies into this bowl game with a bare bones staff. With only five full-time staff members, Tuiasosopo was able to come up with a successful game plan to lead Washington to the 31-16 win over Brigham Young and their ninth win of the season. That win total had not been reached since Tuiasosopo himself quarterbacked them to the 2001 Rose Bowl title with a win over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers to finish that season at 11-1.
One of the burning questions on the minds of Husky fans was answered after the game as 2013 Mackey Award winner Austin Seferian-Jenkins announced that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. Seferian-Jenkins leaves Washington as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (143), receiving yards (1,803) and touchdowns (20) by a tight end. He is very athletic at 6-foot-6 and 270-pounds with great hands and will surely be a second to third round pick.
Now the wait begins for the decisions of junior running back Bishop Sankey and junior wide receiver Kasan Williams. Sankey is likely to go pro after finishing his junior season with 1,870 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns; he is not the fastest runner, but Sankey is very explosive and has the ability to find his blocks. Jessie Callier and Dwayne Washington are the favorites to take over Sankey’s position if he indeed leaves.
With Williams recovering from a broken leg which will likely keep him out of any pre-draft activities he is more likely to return for his senior year to boost an already deep receiving corps. The Huskies will lose Kevin Smith but will return key contributors Jaydon Mickens, John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow who filled in for Kasen Williams after his injury.
Senior quarterback Keith Price will also graduate, but Husky fans have already seen a glimpse of Cyler Miles and the excitement that he will bring in his sophomore season.
The Huskies will return nearly all of their front seven on defense but will lose three starters from the defensive backfield with safeties Sean Parker and Will Shamburger along with corner Gregory Ducre all graduating. The status of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is still up in the air with a final decision expected soon. It is interesting to note that Wilcox got his first coordinator job from Chris Petersen at Boise State.
Washington fans will now have to wait until the season opener on Aug 31 at the University of Hawaii, but the expectations will be high for this once great football program.