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February 26, 2014 at 9:55 AM

UW spring football preview: Four key position battles

Quarterback Jeff Lindquist. (Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Quarterback Jeff Lindquist. (Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Washington spring practices begin Tuesday under the direction of new coach Chris Petersen and his staff. Today, a primer on the Huskies’ key position battles for 2014:

QUARTERBACKS: A quarterback battle will, of course, always grab the most attention. And that would have been the case for UW this spring even before sophomore Cyler Miles, the likely starter for 2014, was suspended indefinitely (along with receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow) earlier this month after an alleged post-Super Bowl assault. At this point, it’s unclear if they will be allowed to practice this spring (the case is in the hands of the city prosecutor office, which will decide whether to file charges). So for now, as the Huskies try to replace three-year starter Keith Price, the spring snaps will be shared by sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams, who have combined to throw exactly zero meaningful passes in college and whose right arms figure to get plenty of work in March and April. Freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, one of the jewels in this year’s recruiting class, is scheduled to arrive on campus this summer.

RUNNING BACKS: This ought to be a fun race. In the end, two seniors and two up-and-comers have the best shot to succeed Bishop Sankey as UW’s featured back. As with all these positions, we won’t have a definitive answer by the final spring workout on April 19, but we should have a better sense of where guys stack up entering the summer. Each running back has some question marks: Seniors Jesse Callier (5-10, 207) and Deontae Cooper (6-0, 201) have a combined four ACL surgeries between them, but both showed flashes of their former selves during their 2013 comebacks. Callier was the team’s opening-game starter in 2012, and Cooper is a fan favorite after working his way back from three knee surgeries in three years. Dwayne Washington (6-1, 220) might be the most talented of the bunch, but the converted wide receiver tends to run upright and — outside of his breakout game against Oregon State in November — he had just 11 carries in the other eight Pac-12 games. Lavon Coleman (6-0, 209), coming off his redshirt season, is a wild card with a big upside. Sophomore Ryan McDaniel (6-0, 204) figures to have an opportunity to prove himself this spring, and 2014 signee Jomon Dotson (5-11, 175) is scheduled to join the mix in the summer.

Joshua Perkins celebrates a TD catch against Colorado last season. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Joshua Perkins celebrates a TD catch against Colorado last season. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

TIGHT ENDS: Boise State’s top three tight ends combined for 15 receptions — and no touchdowns — in 2013, so it’ll be interesting to see how Petersen and offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith use the position at UW. There’s talent to be utilized, certainly. Both junior Joshua Perkins (6-3, 224) and senior Michel Hartvigson (6-6, 257) have some starting experience, usually as the second tight end alongside Austin Seferian-Jenkins the past two seasons. It’s a safe bet to pencil in Perkins for the starting job now, but Hartvigson has proved a valuable run blocker. Add in converted receiver Darrell Daniels (6-4, 232) — a breakout candidate this spring — plus redshirt freshman David Ajamu (6-5, 245), and there should be a healthy competition at the position all year. Newport High School’s Drew Sample (6-5, 235) joins the team in the summer.

DEFENSIVE SECONDARY: If there’s one theme for UW’s defensive secondary this year, it’ll be this: youth. Junior Marcus Peters (5-11, 193) will lock down one corner of the field, but after that the Huskies have three positions open in the secondary — and no more than five other healthy scholarship defensive backs entering the spring. Safeties Brandon Beaver (6-0, 192) and Trevor Walker (5-11, 187) both played sparingly as true freshmen last fall, as did fellow safety Kevin King (6-2, 178), who is likely out for spring ball after having December shoulder surgery. Redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly (6-2, 183) was a touted recruit out of high school and figures to be a leading candidate for the other cornerback spot, with senior Travell Dixon (6-1, 196) and redshirt freshman Patrick Enewally (6-1, 184) also in the mix. (Note: sophomore Kendyl Taylor has said on Twitter that he will go into spring as a receiver.) The real competition in the secondary won’t heat up until the summer, when seven — yes, seven — 2014 signees are scheduled to arrive on campus: safeties Budda Baker, Jojo McIntosh and Lavon Washington, and cornerbacks Darren Gardenhire, Naijiel Hale, Sidney Jones and Brandon Lewis. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said he expects “anywhere from three to all of them” needing to contribute next season.

And here are overviews of the other positions entering 2014:

Wide receivers
Offensive line
Defensive line
Linebackers
Specialists

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