Washington Football: 5 Spring Practice Positional Battles to Watch
5 Spring Practice Positional Battles to Watch for UW
The Washington Huskies are coming off one of their most successful seasons of the past decade in 2013 and will be looking to kick off the Chris Petersen era in style in 2014. To get to that elusive next level, however, UW is going to have to find some playmakers this spring to emerge from some key positional battles. On both sides of the ball, the Huskies fell victim to the attrition of college football and will open up the competition this spring to find the next starter for the position.
Some positions, of course, were harder hit than others. Both starting safeties from 2013, Sean Parker and Will Shamburger, were seniors and so there is a vacancy at the back end of the defense. Offensively, three of the team’s biggest stars have moved on. Quarterback Keith Price capped an excellent collegiate career with a strong senior season while tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey left early for the NFL. All three positions will be hotly contested this spring while a mix of graduation, injuries, and suspensions have the wide receiver picture wide open for young stars looking to make an impact.
As Petersen puts his stamp on his new team, he’ll be looking to put the right guys into the lineup that can help him make the transition to the Pac-12 as seamless as possible. That means pinpointing some standouts and leaders for the team in 2014 through a highly competitive spring practice session. Over the course of 15 practices, the team will start to take shape and these key positions will get filled.
With that being said, here are five spring practice positional battles to watch for Washington and what to expect out of them.
With Parker and Shamburger out, the opportunity is right there for new blood to grab a starting job in the secondary. While highly regarded incoming freshman Budda Baker will get his looks this fall, the time is now for others already on the roster to lay their claim to the spots. Sophomore-to-be Kevin King is at a severe disadvantage with a shoulder injury that is likely to keep him out of spring practices. That leaves Brandon Beaver and Trevor Walker as the front-runners to secure starting gigs.
4. Tight End
Filling the shoes of Seferian-Jenkins will no easy task as the talented tight end left UW with just about every receiving record for tight ends in his pocket along with the 2013 Mackey Award. But Joshua Perkins will certainly try. The converted wide receiver was the No. 2 tight end in 2013 and figures to have the inside track to the starting job but he has struggled a bit with blocking. That could open the door for 6-foot-6 senior Michael Hartvigson to find new life under a new coaching staff or another wide receiver convert, Darrell Daniels, to make a splash in the spring.
3. Wide Receiver
Leading receiver Kevin Smith has graduated, Kasen Williams is still recovering from injury, and Damore’ea Stringfellow is still indefinitely suspended for his role in an assault after the Super Bowl. That frees up a lot of reps this spring for young receivers to make a push into the rotation for next fall. Jaydon Mickens will undoubtedly lead the group and can further solidify his standing as the most consistent pass-catcher of the bunch. John Ross could take a major step forward as emerge as a burner on the edge and Marvin Hall should see plenty of opportunities as well. How they handle the additional looks this spring will have a major impact on the receiver rotation next fall.
2. Running Back
It will likely take a stable of backs to replace the workhorse that was Bishop Sankey but UW has the guys who can get it done. New running backs coach Keith Bhonapa said “There is no depth chart” when it comes to the backs this spring, putting everyone on a level playing field as they compete to be the No. 1 running back. Jesse Callier is the most experienced of the group, serving as Sankey’s primary No. 2 in 2013 but he hasn’t had quite the same explosiveness to his game as before he injured his ACL in 2012. However, sophomore Dwayne Washington is widely considered the most talented of the group of running backs and could emerge as the front-runner before long.
This didn’t look like it would be that interesting of a race back in January, but 2013 backup Cyler Miles got arrested for assault following the Super Bowl and has been suspended indefinitely. There’s no word on what that will mean for the sophomore’s availability for the 2014 season or this spring which opens the door for other quarterbacks like Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams to make a push with a strong showing in spring practice. With a new coaching staff and new offense, Lindquist and Williams figured to have an outside shot to surpass Miles anyways but his suspension from the team kicks the QB competition wide open heading into spring practice.