And we’re off with the first set of Q-and-A’s for this month. …
Q: What is your opinion, based on what you saw at the spring game: Was the offense doing poor and the defense capitalized, or did the defense really improve enough to out-compete the offense?
A: That’s the million dollar question of the spring and one to which I wish I knew the exact answer. But the reality is, when a team is going against itself, it’s impossible to ever really know. The other reality is that it’s always some of each — the hope at UW is that the percentage is trending more greatly toward defensive improvement than offensive struggle.
Certainly, there are reasons — which were well-documented throughout the spring — for optimism about the defense. Namely, the continued maturation of the secondary and defensive line and the tweaks in the scheme by the new defensive coaches and the apparent embracing of those schemes — and a new style of coaching — by the players.
But there are also well-documented reasons that the offense in the spring wasn’t where it’s hoped it will be in the fall — the injury-related issues of the offensive line and the need for some of the younger skill position guys to continue to adapt to new roles as lead playmakers and not just supporting parts.
What I would also say is that Spring Games themselves are historically bad indicators of anything — teams basically run about four basic plays offensively, which the defense has worked against all spring, etc. It seems defenses usually get the better of it in the spring just about everywhere.
Ultimately, I think the UW defense has improved — and yes, it could hardly get worse. But we’ll have to wait until the fall to really know how much.
Q: Which incoming freshmen do you see getting a chance to have meaningful playing time?
A: The three most obvious are punter Korey Durkee — who could also see a role in placekicking, maybe handling kickoffs — safety Shaquille Thompson and defensive end Pio Vatuvei. Each has been cited by coaches as likely to play this season, especially Durkee (there is no other scholarship punter on the roster) and Thompson (regarded as the No. 1 prospect at his position in the country). Vatuvei, meanwhile, is also a highly-touted recruit (he was thought a commit to USC until almost the minute his signing at UW was announced) and as a defensive linemen, at a spot where UW needs all the depth it can get.
The hope this year, though, is that UW’s overall depth is beginning to grow enough that it doesn’t have to forcefeed true freshmen into action for spot duty here or there (namely, special teams). So it’s possible (and probably ideal, if the program is really progressing well) that there could be just 5-6 total of the true frosh that will play this year.
Aside from the three mentioned above, others who could factor in include one or two of the receivers (Kendyl Taylor and Jaydon Mickens probably the most obvious); one or two of the cornerbacks (Brandon Beaver or Cleveland Wallace); given the depth issues up front, maybe one of the offensive linemen (Shane Brostek is generally regarded as maybe the closest to playing); and again given the depth issues at that spot, maybe fullback Psalm Wooching. Tailback Erich Wilson might also factor in depending on the health and progress of players at that spot.
Q: What will happen to the Idaho Vandals, with the implosion of their conference (the WAC)?
A: Another good question for which there is no clear answer right now.
The most likely option right now might be dropping back down to the Big Sky, which means a drop to FCS competition for football, while staying at D-I for everything else. Reports are that is something Idaho is considering. Idaho made the initial move up to full D-I status in the mid-90s, in part to follow longtime rival Boise State (it’s easy to forget now that Idaho long dominated the football series between the two, winning 15 of 17 games from 1982-98). But times and circumstances have changed and Idaho’s most logical move now may be back to its longtime Big Sky home.
Q: Who starts at LB with John Timu?
A: Judging by what we saw in the Spring Game, Nate Fellner on the strongside and Princeton Fuimaono on the weakside — those two were the other starters at LB in the Spring Game itself, and generally throughout the 15 spring drills (in Fellner’s case, obviously from the time he made the move to LB from safety about midway through).
Timu was one of the most-praised players throughout spring, so while the coaches will say that all jobs are open, etc., Timu seems in a pretty good spot to be the starting MLB. Fellner also seemed to adapt well to his move and was the primary starter there the last two weeks of spring. Fuimaono’s spot seemed more competitive as spring progressed ( Garret Gilliland, Matthew Lyons and Scott Lawyer were among those to play there in the spring) and that could be one of the more competitive spots in fall camp, as well.