Pre-Season Top-10’s - #9

Siosifa Tufunga (Monika Samek/Dawgman.com)

It’s that time of the year again! For many Washington fans, it feels like forever, but we’re a week away from the official beginning of Washington’s 2014 football season. So with the start of fall camp, Dawgman.com is breaking out their list of pre-season lists, the stuff of speculation and debate - so let the fun begin! No. 10 is done; we move on to number 9.

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 9 - Siosifa Tufunga. Tufunga was the beneficiary of Dexter Charles being out of spring ball with an injury, and he took advantage of it. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound junior impressed new UW Offensive Line Coach Chris Strausser with his intelligence and nasty disposition. There’s no question the offensive line is stacked this fall, especially if Charles and left tackle Micah Hatchie come back from injury 100 percent, but every offensive line coach wants to have a stable of 7-8 linemen that he can count on to go in the game at a moment’s notice. I believe Tufunga, by his work this spring, has moved himself into that top group and could play at either guard spot. He was also in the depth at center with the last coaching staff, so his versatility will be a plus.
No. 10 - Joe Mathis

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 9 - Greg Gaines. With Jaimie Bryant’s surprise medical retirement just months into his Washington football career, the need for a bigger defensive tackle inside to back up Danny Shelton and Elijah Qualls just became more apparent. Could Kaleb McGary be that guy? Or could Greg Gaines? Gaines certainly fills the role currently occupied by Shelton - a two-gap, run-stopping nose tackle that just clogs up everything in sight. I’m not sure the 6-foot-1, 305-pound Gaines is up for it from the jump, and it’s always a crap shoot to keep young linemen healthy - but Gaines does look the part of an ox that just keeps coming back for more. Ideally you wouldn’t want to rely on a true freshman for snaps inside, but depending on how he’s used in fall camp I could certainly see Gaines in the mix when UW travels to Hawaii August 30th.
No. 10 - Shane Bowman

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 9 - Tight End. This one could be a real free-for-all! Joshua Perkins has the inside track in terms of the player coming back with the most production, but Darrell Daniels has arguably the biggest upside in terms of creating a downfield threat in the passing game. Michael Hartvigson can do a little bit of everything in the run game and pass game, while David Ajamu looks like the kind of redshirt freshman that wants to explode onto the scene with some positive results. I’m thinking Perkins probably ends up number-one to start, but each tight end listed offers such a unique skill set that Jonathan Smith can really mix and match what he wants to maximize their abilities, as well as their versatility.
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 9 - Will the defense have to carry the team while the offense gets settled? This question seems particularly relevant now with the news that Cyler Miles will not be available for the Hawaii opener. Even if he had been cleared by Chris Petersen and eligible immediately to play, missing all of spring is a major hurdle not easily cleared by a quarterback already behind Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams on the learning curve. The encouraging part about all this is that Hawaii was so average offensively, including a rush offense good enough for 113th last year, Washington’s defense shouldn’t have to work too hard to make the Warriors one-dimensional. Once that happens, the Huskies are definitely talented enough to create turnovers and take advantage of Hawaii when they have to force the issue. Short fields would be a bonus.
No. 10 - How will the special teams shake out?

Top-10 Games: No. 9 - 11/22 Oregon State. The only reason this isn’t considered a more important game is because it’s being played at Husky Stadium. The 69-21 shellacking at Reser Stadium was almost painful to watch at times, and it’s hard to see where Oregon State is going to be a lot better than what they were in 2013, especially losing Brandin Cooks, Scott Crichton, and Rashaad Reynolds. Sean Mannion is a very good quarterback when given time, but there’s not that much around him anymore.
No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii

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