2016 SI college football preseason Top 25 team preview: No. 7 Washington
- Sophomores Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin anchor one of the most hyped teams of 2016. Washington checks in at No. 7 in SI's preseason Top 25 for 2016.
Key returning starters: QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, WR Dante Pettis
The Huskies have to find some go-to receivers, but are salivating at the potential improvement of sophomore running back Myles Gaskin, who last season became the first UW true freshman to go over 1,000 rushing yards (1,302 yards, 14 TDs).
Key returning starters: S Budda Baker, LB Azeem Victor, CB Sidney Jones
The best defense in the conference brings back plenty of playmakers, led by Baker, who’s totaled 111 tackles and three interceptions in two seasons. He flat-out scares opposing offenses, and they throw away from him as much as possible. That gives his teammates lots of interception opportunities (UW forced 27 turnovers last year).
Leader in rushing: Gaskin. An improved passing game will open up running lanes.
Leader in receiving: John Ross. Finally healthy after two knee injuries that kept him sidelined in 2015, he’s the big-time pass-catcher UW needs—and he’ll turn a lot of those catches into touchdowns
Leader in tackles: Victor. Big, fast and experienced, he’ll improve on his 95 tackles in 2015.
Leader in interceptions: Jones. Teams continue to throw at him because they’re worried about Baker.
Opposing coach's take
They are incredible on defense. They’ve got good players, like [junior safety] Budda Baker, but more than that Chris Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski, his defensive coordinator, are really good teachers. It’s not surprising, because it was the same at Boise State. Their players are technically sound, and they play hard. You never really see them have a down game. They’re multiple with their fronts, and they’re so good on the back end that they can get away with bringing a lot of pressure. Oh, yeah, and the guys you’re trying to block are often first-rounders.
They’re going to win games because of their defense, but I think their quarterback [Jake Browning] has matured a lot, and it was obvious at the end of last season that he was comfortable in the scheme. They did a nice job running the ball last year with Myles Gaskin too. They’re not flashy, but they do all the stuff in football that wins—block, tackle and catch the ball. They’re creative with their sub packages and formations too.
They’re replacing one of the best special teams coaches in the country [Jeff Choate, who went to Montana State], but they’ve got explosive returners in Dante Pettis and John Ross. And that stadium—it’s an advantage. When it’s rolling, it’s one of the hardest places to play. All that 12th man stuff with the Seahawks was going on at UW way before Seattle claimed it.”
The 5' 11", 173-pound junior John Ross is the definition of versatility. As a sophomore, in 2014, he started seven
games—four at corner, three at receiver—and scored seven touchdowns, including two on kick returns, that averaged 74.7 yards. He appears to have recovered from the right knee injury that forced him to miss last season.
Numbers to know
38: Combined tackles last season for new starting linebackers Joe Mathis and Psalm Wooching, now seniors.
2.54: Sacks per game Washington gave up last season, 96th in the nation
1,348: Yards for tailback Myles Gaskin, best among freshmen last season; his 14 rushing TDs were also tops in his class.
67.9: Completion percentage for Jake Browning as a freshman over the final six games of 2015. The Huskies went 4–2.
129: Tackles by 5' 10", 184-pound Budda Baker over the last two seasons. He also has three interceptions.
|Sept. 17||Portland State|
|Sept. 24||at Arizona|
|Oct. 8||at Oregon|
|Oct. 22||Oregon State|
|Oct. 29||at Utah|
|Nov. 5||at Cal|
|Nov. 19||Arizona State|
|Nov. 25||at Washington State|
Top 25 rankings
|24||San Diego State|