1090 The Fan — Although it represents a unique change for Chris Petersen, Saturday’s season opener against Hawaii will be the same as any according to the head coach.
After nearly nine months since accepting the head coaching job at the University of Washington, Petersen will make his debut coaching a team other than Boise State for the first time in 13 years. Despite it all, Petersen looks at it like he does any other season opener.
“They’re all big,” Petersen said. “It doesn’t matter what stage you’re on (or) where you’re at.”
Jeff Lindquist earned the nod over redshirt freshman Troy Williams after an enduring battle that lasted the better part of six months. Lindquist has a strong arm, a good feel for coach Petersen and coordinator Jonathan Smith’s offensive scheme and improving accuracy. That said, Petersen left open the possibility that Williams also sees time versus the Rainbow Warriors.
“I don’t know,” Petersen said. “We’ll let Jeff go and adjust accordingly. We’ve got good confidence in him. I think he’s going to play at a high level, but we’ll just kinda see. We’re going to keep all options open.”
Hawaii, coming off a 1-11 season, is 4-20 since head coach Norm Chow took the helm in 2012. The Rainbow Warriors simply aren’t the powerhouse offensive team of years past despite Chow’s takeover. Not much improvement is expected in 2014, and in fact there have been rumblings that Hawaii could kill their football program.
While the Huskies will be breaking in a new quarterback, it’s likely this opening game loses its competitive feel before the first half is completed. Washington will run the football behind a veteran offensive line ranked among the nation’s best, and they will run it often.
“We need to be able to run the ball,” Petersen said. “I think that will take a lot of pressure off our quarterback if we can do those things.”
The back that carries that load is one of several unknowns for Washington as it enters week 1. Sophomore Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman appear to have a slight edge over seniors Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, but all four should see action. As he explained multiple times during fall camp, Petersen reiterated Monday that it will be running back by committee until one separates himself.
“We’re going to play them all . . . and it may be all of them in the first quarter, (or) it may be not all of them play in this game,” said Petersen. “I think you’ve got to see it in live situations. Who’s going to breaks tackles the best, who catches the ball most consistently, who finds holes the best . . . I think it’s a good mix and we’re excited to see them go.”
In the passing game, senior Kasen Williams returns after a foot injury that forced him to have surgery and miss the end of 2013. He won’t be a starter Saturday, however, as DiAndre Campbell and Marvin Hall have leapt forward. Those three, as well as junior Jaydon Mickens, the team’s leading receiver with 65 receptions in ’13, and John Ross, Kendyl Taylor, Josh Perkins and Darrell Daniels will lead a speedy receiving corps.
Defensively, the Huskies return 8 of 11 starters on a unit that could boast four first-round picks in the 2015 NFL draft. There have also been some changes under new coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Fifth-year senior Andrew Hudson steps in as the starter at defensive end, while Hau’oli Kikaha will start opposite him in a new “buck end” position. All three starting linebackers — Shaq Thompson, John Timu and Travis Feeney — return to form the backbone of the defense while a group of talented youngsters led by Keishawn Bierria, Cory Littleton and Azeem Victor push them for playing time.
So despite a young secondary which features a lone returning starter in Marcus Peters, the defense should be the engine that drives Washington in coach Petersen’s first year at Montlake.
A debut long awaited by the program’s fans and Petersen alike.
“(I’m) probably as excited as you guys are to see what we’ve got,” Petersen said. “It’s been a long, and short, six, seven months.”
Now just two days.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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