Washington football outlook for the 2016 season. In an okay year for the Pac-12, the window is open for the Huskies to be this year’s sleeper superstar.
Washington is rampant with sleeper qualities as a new season approaches.
It’s been 16 years since the Huskies last won at least 10 games in a season … or a league title … or a Rose Bowl. Since that celebrated 2000 campaign, which was fueled by Rick Neuheisel and Marques Tuiasosopo, it’s largely been a dark era marked by mediocrity and the nausea that comes with watching rival Oregon rise to national prominence.
But 2016 has a different feel to it, a palpable sense of possibilities.
There’s a quiet, yet distinctive, confidence on Montlake about the upcoming season. The staff, led by Chris Petersen, is entering its third season with the Huskies. The squad won its final three games of 2015, including a demolition of rival Washington State. And the roster, which peeled off just 14 of last year’s letterwinners, will feature very few first-time starters. U-Dub finally has the talent and the tailwind to become a legit contender in the conference.
Meeting rising expectations this fall is likely to hinge on the maturation of QB Jake Browning, who started all but a single game of his true freshman season. Does he have to channel Tuiasosopo for the Huskies to rise higher? No. But he must continue to evolve in such a fashion that it complements superstar RB Myles Gaskin and maximizes the jets of WR John Ross III. If Browning helps light the offensive fuse, look out because …
… the defense is poised to be among the best in the country. The Huskies boasted the Pac-12’s premier D a year ago, when the unit was gutted by graduations. Now that so many key players, such as DE Elijah Qualls, LB Azeem Victor, S Budda Baker and CB Sidney Jones, are ready to hit their strides, it could be shades of Purple Reign in Seattle this season.
Washington may not be ready to enter Stanford and Oregon’s zip code quite yet, but the breakout vibe around campus is palpable … and valid. After starting a rookie quarterback in an opener for the first time in school history, as well as a swath of gifted sophomores, Petersen now has an exciting and disparate mix of personnel. And if he properly manages expectations and distractions, his kids are liable to deliver the program’s best season since the start of the century.