This has been a different type of spring practice for the Washington Huskies, beginning in early March and ending in late April, with a 17-day break in between sessions.
I tried to assess how each of the positions appeared to line up during the break with our “spring practice halftime report series” — hopefully those gave a good sense of who is where at the moment.
But with practices due to resume again tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, I thought I’d review five key questions as the Huskies get back on the field.
1. Will Keith Price’s resurgence continue? One of the biggest intrigues heading into spring practice was whether a true quarterback competition would develop. After the first six practices, the answer was a pretty resounding no as Price (pictured above) appeared healthier and adapting well to UW’s addition of more no-huddle, up-tempo offense. Price has always thrived in no-huddle situations, which also are ideal for an experienced quarterback. Couple that with the fact that he simply seemed to be playing better — running stronger, throwing more accurately — than at times last season, and Price did everything he could to extinguish the possibility of a true quarterback competition. That’s not to say one of the younger players won’t still emerge to become more of a viable option next fall, if the need arises. But through the first six practices, there was nothing to indicate Price won’t again be the starter in 2013.
2, Will the no-huddle continue to earn raves? One of the other main themes of the first six practices was how well the offense as a whole seemed to be adapting to the no-huddle. Price, obviously, is a big part of that — as noted, he’s always been good in those situations and going to it more seems to be a perfect fit for his skills. UW coach Steve Sarkisian had said one advantage of splitting up spring ball into two sessions was that the Huskies could install the no-huddle, then take the break to re-assess what was, and was not, working and act accordingly. Based on a few interviews Sarkisian has given since the spring hiatus, sounds as if he couldn’t be happier with the way the offense adapted to the no-huddle, hurry-up stuff so far, so expect it to continue to become a bigger part of things going forward.
3, Will a free safety emerge? What may be the most unsettled spot on the team is free safety, where a handful of players are looking to replace the graduated Justin Glenn. Fifth-year senior Will Shamburger has usually run with the starting unit. But a number of players are also getting looks there such as true freshman Trevor Walker, senior Taz Stevenson (who has moved back to safety after playing both running back and linebacker last season) and Tre Watson (a cornerback last season). Redshirt freshman Brandon Beaver will likely get into the mix now during the second session of spring after being limited in the first session with a sports hernia issue. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has said the competition could go deep into fall camp. But they’ll also be looking for someone to state an early case for that spot, as well.
4, Will Cameron Van Winkle make a mark at kicker? The one scholarship newcomer expected for the second half of spring is kicker Cameron Van Winkle, who will become one of three Class of 2013 signees available for the rest of the spring workouts — Walker and quarterback Troy Williams enrolled in January and took part in the first six, as well. Van Winkle will be thrown right into the mix for the kickoff and field goal/PAT jobs held last year by Travis Coons. Coons is back for his senior year, but UW coaches do not want him handling all three kicking duties (he was also the punter last year).
5, Can Erik Kohler help further stabilize the offensive line? Getting improved play out of the offensive line is obviously a must for the Huskies to take that proverbial “next step” in 2013. Sarkisian seemed pleased with the progress of the line in the first six practices, and it figures to only get deeper now with Kohler expected to return to full practice duty. Kohler, a junior who ended up redshirting the 2012 season with a kneecap injury, participated in some drills in the first session and is expected to be able to participate in everything now. Sarkisian said he will first get a long look at center, a spot where Mike Criste has played so far. Criste played primarily guard last season. Assuming Kohler is ready to go, UW will now be working with six players with significant starting experience, a contrast from a year ago this spring when the Huskies were just finding out they would be without Colin Porter and also playing most of the time without Kohler and Colin Tanigawa, as well as needing to break in a new left tackle. It is that experience that UW coaches are counting on to help the OL improve this season.