Pre-Season Top-10’s - #5

Kevin King (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!

Top 10 Fall Breakout Returners: No. 5 - Kevin King. Kevin King went from a beanpole of a talented Bay Area-based athlete to a true freshman performer last year for the Huskies, but had to sit out nearly all of spring football while he rehabbed a shoulder - a typical injury for a player thrown too early into the Pac-12 mixer. At 6-foot-3 and 183 pounds, the sophomore needs to continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger, but his football instincts are unquestioned. He’s a ballhawk, and he knows it. While Brandon Beaver and Trevor Walker got their time in during spring ball, King wasn’t far away; he did a lot of non-contact work, and even participated a bit in the Spring Event. The quicker King gets back into the starting safety conversation, the better off the Huskies will be because they need to stop the cycle of playing kids before their physical maturity kicks in. It’s a hard trend to break, and obviously with a player of Budda Baker’s talent waiting in the wings there’s just some players that can’t be denied - but King is a key fixture to any hopes the Washington secondary has to try and grow up in a hurry. And after losing six defensive backs to graduation, those in the back are going to have to do just that.
No. 6 - Marcus Farria
No. 7 - Jermaine Kelly
No. 8 - Kendyl Taylor
No. 9 - Siosifa Tufunga
No. 10 - Joe Mathis

Top-10 Newcomers to Watch: No. 5 - Dante Pettis. Chris Petersen is already on record saying that Dante’s cousin Austin is perhaps the best college receiver he’s ever been around. That’s incredible praise for the former Boise State star, but in the same breath Petersen believes Dante is better coming out of high school than Austin. Whoa. If what Petersen said pans out, Washington has arguably the next Jermaine Kearse on their hands. At 6-foot and 177 pounds he’s got some size, and if you take a look at his senior Hudl highlights, you’ll see a player with instinct to burn and ability to match. With Kasen Williams still on the comeback trail from his devastating foot/ankle injury mid-season, and Damore’ea Stringfellow’s decision to transfer to Mississippi, classic receiver options have become a bit limited. Outside of DiAndre Campbell and Kendyl Taylor, who is probably more on the side of a slot receiver, the rest of Washington’s receiving corps is built on smaller, quicker scat-backs. Pettis and fellow true frosh Brayden Lenius are the only other receivers six feet and taller outside of Williams and Campbell. So that could mean playing time for Pettis as an X or Z that stretches the field for the slot guys underneath. And if his talent matches the Petersen hyperbole when it comes to the Pettis name, Dante could find himself on the end of a 15-20 catch season before the year is complete.
No. 6 - Sidney Jones
No. 7 - Kaleb McGary
No. 8 - Jaylen Johnson
No. 9 - Greg Gaines
No. 10 - Shane Bowman

Top-10 Position Battles to Watch: No. 5 - Kicking Specialists. It’s not sexy, but a great - hell, just rock-solid - kicking game will win you games. Don James knew it 40 years ago, and Chris Petersen knows it today. That’s why he coaches the return specialists, but that group is already well-established and loaded with talent. The kicking game? Not so much, at least not until Tristan Vizcaino shows up. The true frosh has apparently been asked to pull a Travis Coons - compete for all three kicking jobs (kickoff, punting, and placekicking). Some of this has come about because of the inconsistency of players like punter Korey Durkee, but some of it is also based on health concerns (Cameron Van Winkle’s back). Van Winkle did some placekicking this past spring and didn’t appear to be any worse for the wear, but he was never asked to kick any field goals longer than 38 yards. Mitch Johnson emerged as an intriguing walk-on option, and anyone that knows UW’s history with walk-on kickers should not discount Johnson in this fight. But Vizcaino is being touted as the three-kick cure-all, and he just might be. But the kickoffs, punts, and placekicking chores have to be sorted out in a hurry. Petersen and Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Choate are only going to have a couple weeks to put the specialists through their paces, so here’s to hoping one or two of them emerge to produce. We all know how disastrous special teams miscues can be.
No. 6 - Right Guard
No. 7 - Left Guard
No. 8 - Defensive End
No. 9 - Tight End
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 5 - How effective will Kasen Williams be for Hawaii? This question is going to be one I suspect will continue to be asked all the way up to kickoff, but it’s only because the Skyline senior is that important to a relatively thin receiving corps. But when the 6-foot-3 Williams went down awkwardly against Cal’s Kameron Jackson, you knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. The damage was so severe that Williams could barely jog routes when asked this spring. Williams has always been a stout performer, one that simply doesn’t get hurt - so the injury shouldn’t cast doubt on any lingering long-term effects. But in the short term, Washington needs Williams to be a stabilizing force in the absence of Damore’ea Stringfellow, the only other true ‘big’ receiver the Huskies had coming into this season. DiAndre Campbell will help mitigate some of that, and there’s always a chance a true frosh like Brayden Lenius takes an opportunity and runs with it to the point where he’d play in the season opener regardless, but that’s a bit of stretch. Ideally the Huskies need Kasen to be as close to 100 percent to give them that capable, reliable presence for third downs. But will he make it fully back in time? Again, probably a bit of stretch, but we’ll certainly know more starting Monday.
No. 6 - Can a young secondary grow up in a hurry?
No. 7 - Will the OL experience show up?
No. 8 - Can the LB’s be the best group in the Pac-12?
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. 5 - 10/25 Arizona State. Think the Huskies will be motivated against Arizona State when they come to Montlake at the end of October? Not only did they get pinked by the Sun Devils 53-24 in Tempe last season, but UW hasn’t beaten ASU since 2001. Yup, you read that right - 2001, and half of those losses have come by 20 points or more. That’s eight-straight losses to Sparky and crew, so if you thought the only major losing streak the Dawgs had to avenge was against Oregon, think again. Husky fans better hope Mother Nature provides a pre-Halloween home field advantage. It may give Washington a chance to balance out a conference rivalry that has been seriously out of whack for years. A win over ASU would also show that Petersen’s grip over the culture at UW has taken hold and that his way is producing the results expected out of a coach that came to Montlake with a pedigree for dominance.
No. 6 - 11/15 at Arizona
No. 7 - 9/6 Eastern Washington
No. 8 - 10/11 at California
No. 9 - 11/22 Oregon State
No. 10 - 8/30 at Hawaii

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