Pre-Season Top-10’s - #8

Kendyl Taylor (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! It's Wednesday, so let's get to No. 8...

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 8 - Kendyl Taylor. Taylor, who redshirted this past season after playing as a true freshman, had a monster combine workout after spring camp, including a 40.5-inch vertical jump. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Taylor has always been one of those explosive hybrid backs that could either be a running back or wide receiver, and Chris Petersen has always done a nice job in the past of utilizing those types of players - whether in the screen game or otherwise - to the best of their abilities. It may seem like a bit of a logjam with the smaller ‘scat back’ type receivers at UW with Jaydon Mickens, John Ross, and Marvin Hall all competing for playing time, but Taylor offers up a more rugged dimension to go along with his pass catching skill. He could also be a vital part of the downfield blocking game for those guys.
No. 9 - Siosifa Tufunga
No. 10 - Joe Mathis

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 8 - Jaylen Johnson. It’s clear that Johnson was a coveted player for Petersen and the former Boise State staff, as they got him to commit first to the Broncos before changing it up when Pete headed to Seattle. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Johnson sure looks the part of a jumbo athlete, and he offers up a true pass rush dimension for the 2014 staff. Johnson also comes from a top SoCal prep program in Corona Centennial, so he just might be battle-tested enough to make an impact from the get-go. Either way, Johnson had the type of makeup that made him a Petersen ‘OKG’, so they must feel like he has what it takes to be able to come in and shake things up at the defensive end spot right away.
No. 9 - Greg Gaines
No. 10 - Shane Bowman

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 8 - Defensive End. Speaking of Johnson’s position, there’s going to be some heated battles for the defensive end positions - as well as some interesting combinations used by new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski given the talent available. Hauoli Kikaha has proven rush end experience, Andrew Hudson and Jarett Finau are getting chances to show they’ve still got what it takes to compete for playing time, and Joe Mathis, Marcus Farria, and Psalm Wooching are the young risers of the position. And we’re not even talking about Jaylen Johnson, Shane Bowman, or Will Dissly - the future of Washington’s defensive ends. There’s a ton of talent on display here, and the competition for spots on the depth chart should be intriguing this fall to say the least.
No. 9 - Tight End
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 8 - Can the LB’s be the best group in the Pac-12? This defensive group for Washington put up some prodigious numbers in 2013: Between the top-5 at the position (if you include Hauoli Kikaha as an OLB), they combined for 367 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, and 22 sacks! That’s incredible. And if you take out the one graduating senior - Princeton Fuimaono - the other four of Kikaha, Shaq Thompson, John Timu, and Cory Littleton came up with 287 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, and 20.5 sacks. And we’re not even taking into account the expected production of Travis Feeney, who had 55 tackles, including five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season. There are some very good defensive position groups coming back in conference, but I seriously doubt any group was as productive as Washington’s linebackers - and with nearly all of them returning they should be even better than ever.
No. 9 - Will the defense have to carry the offense while they get settled?
No. 10 - How will the special teams shake out?

Top-10 Games: No. 8 - 10/11 at California. At first glance I thought this one might just get the edge in importance over the Oregon State game simply because it was an away game - and we all know how important it is to win on the road in a BCS conference. But the more I studied it, a win over California is important for a couple more reasons. First, the game is early in Washington’s conference schedule, so maintaining momentum coming off what should be an undefeated non-conference slate will be very important - especially considering how big that Stanford tilt will be in Seattle September 27th. If they can beat the Cardinal, the Huskies will have a BYE week to think about the Golden Bears and Petersen has historically been good when given an extra week to prepare. But arguably the biggest reason why the Cal game is so crucial is because it’s the week before UW travels to Eugene - so it’s the final tune-up, the final chance the Huskies have of taking whatever positive play they’ve been able to muster to that point and put it to the ultimate test for a Pac-12 North Division team.
No. 9 - 11/22 Oregon State
No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii

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