Pre-Season Top-10’s - #1

Cyler Miles (USA TODAY Sports)

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. 1 - Cyler Miles. We will obviously know a lot more about Cyler when he rejoins the full team practices Wednesday, but undoubtedly he will be one of the big narratives heading into fall camp regardless of his Hawaii suspension. The opener is just one game, and Miles will still have all sorts of time to leave a major imprint on the 2014 season. When it became known after the fact that Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith had been meeting with Miles during his UW estrangement to jump-start his learning curve, they already knew how important he would be to the team’s immediate future. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Miles was the only returning quarterback with starting experience, leading the Huskies to an all-time dismantling at Oregon State. So not only does he have a win under his belt, but it’s a coveted conference away win. There’s no doubt Cyler has talent to burn and if he does everything he’s supposed to on and off the field, he should put himself in a great position. No doubt Smith would love to have to make a tough choice because Miles, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams have all kicked some butt this fall, but Miles is the one with proven experience - albeit a small sample size.
No. 2 - Dwayne Washington
No. 3 - John Ross
No. 4 - Darrell Daniels
No. 5 - Kevin King
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. 1 - Budda Baker. Hopefully this pick didn’t come as a shock, especially to those local UW fans that also keep one eye posted on the prep happenings around the Puget Sound. Baker has been a football prodigy ever since his youth days in Newport, and he was destined for big things under the tutelage of Bellevue Head Coach Butch Goncharoff. Goncharoff, who throws out praise like I throw away desert (that would be never), has called Baker arguably the best practice player he’s ever coached. Considering Bellevue has a few guys now in the NFL, that’s saying something. The crazy thing about Budda is, he just looks like another guy. On the hoof, the 5-foot-10, 173-pound safety isn’t going to pass many look test. But put him in the secondary and tell him to go to work - he doesn’t need to be told twice. Simply put, Budda Baker is a playmaker of the highest order. Expect Chris Petersen to use Budda on offense, defense, and special teams - following in John Ross’s footsteps. He may be a better pure football player than Ross, and that’s REALLY saying something. At least it is in my opinion.
No. 2 - Tristan Vizcaino
No. 3 - Brian Clay
No. 4 - Naijiel Hale
No. 5 - Dante Pettis
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. 1 - Quarterback. Another big shocker pick, I know. I really went out on a limb with this one. The interesting twist in this battle is that they are being split up into two groups for the first two days before the team collectively comes together for the first time on Wednesday. Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams are in the first group, while Cyler Miles and K.J. Carta-Samuels are in the afternoon group with the freshmen. The way they made the groups makes sense, but as Jonathan Smith pointed out Tuesday, by splitting up the group, they (ideally) double the reps, so if there was ever a chance for Miles to get on solid footing from the jump and make a good first impression, his work Monday and Tuesday could do just that. Even though the first two days of camp will be a lot like spring - a lot of teaching going on and a shade below full speed - come Wednesday we’ll start to get a look at who might emerge from this all-important position. And then when the pads come on Saturday for their first scrimmage, we will get a great snapshot of who has stepped up and taken control of the battle. Obviously Lindquist and Williams are going to be front and center because of Miles’s suspension, but how Miles does in pushing them to succeed could go a long way toward determining his own fate down the line, starting with week two against Eastern Washington.
No. 2 - Running Back
No. 3 - Cornerback
No. 4 - Safety
No. 5 - Kicking Specialists
No. 6 - Right Guard
No. 7 - Left Guard
No. 8 - Defensive End
No. 9 - Tight End
No. 10 - Outside Linebacker

Top-10 Storylines: No. 1 - QB's...who starts/who possibly leaves? An all-too important corollary to the position battle question, and a storyline that won’t be resolved until after the 2014 season is over. Presumably. Would it be beyond odd for a player to transfer out of fall camp if they saw the writing on the wall? I would think so, but I’m sure it’s happened before. But expect this question to be in the back of the minds of all UW fans, depending on who wins the starting quarterback job August 30th at Hawaii. If Jeff Lindquist wins the job, how does Troy Williams react? And vise-versa? Again, I don’t believe in any way, shape or form this narrative is decided until after this year is complete, but it’s a question that unfortunately will be asked. Jake Browning is in the wings for 2015, so is it possible for Washington to keep five quarterbacks happy? All I know is that, more than any other position in the game of football, an injury to a quarterback can turn a promising outlook into 0-12. Washington fans saw it unfold right in front of their eyes six years ago. But at the same time, it’s awfully difficult to keep so many top-caliber signal-callers engaged and hungry when they may have their own lingering thoughts about the grass being greener at some other campus in another state.
No. 2 - Has the team completely bought in to Petersen’s way of doing things? No. 3 - Is Petersen prepared for a huge step up in competition?
No. 4 - Are Lavon Coleman and Dwayne Washington ready for the spotlight?
No. 5 - How effective will Kasen Williams be for Hawaii?
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. 1 - 10/18 at Oregon. 31-6. 45-21. 34-14. 55-34. 44-10. 43-19. 53-16. 34-17. 52-21. 45-24. Every time Oregon whoops up on Washington, God kills a puppy. At least I’m sure that’s what UW fans think, because every time the Ducks have hung a miserable scoreline around the Huskies’ necks like an albatross, the heavens weep openly. Will this year be any different? Probably not. The game is at Autzen Stadium, a place that has gone from snooze city to a house of horrors the last 15 years or so - or maybe that all started in 1994? Either way, even if Chris Petersen doesn’t make this Washington’s red-letter game, the fans will remind him. The Huskies simply have to win one of these years against UO, if for no other reason people can then bring back the word rivalry into this matchup’s lexicon. You can’t right now, because it’s just a beatdown every season. Peterson beat Oregon twice when he was at Boise State, including once in Autzen. Does he have the mojo? The secret formula to break Duck hearts and send Husky Nation into raptures? When Don James won at Oregon in 1975, no one cared. The Huskies won 15 of 20 games versus Oregon in the 70’s and 80’s, including six-straight at Autzen. If UW can go down to Eugene and beat Oregon in Petersen’s first try in 2014, there just might be a monument erected in his name at Montlake. It’s that important.
No. 2 - 9/27 Stanford
No. 3 - 11/8 UCLA
No. 4 - 11/29 at Washington State
No. 5 - 10/25 Arizona State
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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