Washington Football: 3 Pac-12 Players Who Will Give the Huskies Fits in 2012
The Washington Huskies finished 7-6 in 2011 and 5-4 in the Pac-12. Their four divisional losses came against Stanford, USC, Oregon and Oregon State by a combined score of 177-76.
Simply put, the Huskies defense did not stack up against the strongest offensive talent in the Pac-12 conference.
This year, Washington hopes to right the ship on the defensive side of the football.
Newly hired defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox (former defensive coordinator of Boise State when the Broncos beat Oregon and shut out TCU in 2009) will lead a young group of players against some of the most formidable offenses in college football.
2012 offers a renewed chance for the Huskies to reach the next level. To do so, they will have to take on BCS candidates Oregon, USC and some of the other top talents of the Pac-12.
Offensive Threat No. 1: USC QB Matt Barkley
USC QB Matt Barkley will most likely torch the Huskies this year despite Washington holding home-field advantage. Barkley will most likely torch everyone in 2012.
As a junior in 2011, USC's captain passed for 3,528 yards, completing 69.1 percent of his passes. He threw 39 touchdown passes but was only intercepted seven times.
Barkley had two conference games in which he threw for over 400 yards. He also had three games of at least five touchdowns, including two games with six TDs.
USC's star spurned the 2012 NFL draft to return for his senior season. Accompanying him will be familiar receiving targets: junior WR Robert Woods and sophomore WR Marqise Lee. They are two of the most explosive receivers in the Pac-12.
Now lets re-examine the Huskies defense.
Washington lost to the Trojans in the L.A. Coliseum last season 40-17. Surprisingly, Barkley only threw one touchdown in that affair. This year, the Huskies have to learn a new system and have minimal senior leadership; USC's offense is still intact and another year more experienced.
Oct. 13th's showdown should reflect the separation between the elite and middle class of the Pac-12.
Offensive Threat No. 2: Washington State WR Marquess Wilson
Against teams less-balanced than USC, the Huskies will stand a better chance.
Matchups like their final game against Washington State (Nov. 23rd) will be a better platform for Husky stars to shine.
But opposing stars could, in turn, rise up against the Huskies. This season, Washington State's Marquess Wilson could seize the moment.
The wide receiver had his second straight 1,000-yard season in 2011, improving by over 300 yards from his previous season. He hauled in 12 touchdowns for the Cougars' offensive attack.
Why could Wilson go off this year against Washington?
The Cougars wideout stands tall and lean at 6'4" and 183 lbs. He has above-average speed, and his size makes him one of the better deep threats in the Pac-12.
Plus, new head coach Mike Leach loves to sling it. The Cougars offense will be gunning for the end zone at every opportunity. Such a mentality can burn you, but it can also make you competitive with divisional rivals like USC and Oregon.
The Huskies have some experience in their secondary, but it remains to be seen if Desmond Trufant can stick with Marquess Wilson, who caught seven passes for 108 yards and two TDs against Washington last season.
This year he'll look to top that performance, and more aggressive offensive schemes from Coach Leach will help him to some big games.
The season finale against the Huskies just might be one of them.
Offensive Threat No. 3: Oregon RB/WR De'Anthony Thomas
Oregon hybrid runner and receiver De'Anthony Thomas is the new man in Eugene.
His accomplishments as a freshman were outstanding. Thomas was second among all Ducks receivers with 46 receptions, totaling 605 yards and nine touchdowns. He also was elusive on the ground, with 595 yards rushing and an additional seven touchdowns.
Arguably college football's most exciting player, Thomas is sure to shine brighter with the departures of RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas.
Oregon's spread system is built for quarterbacks to take advantage of explosive offensive talent outside the hash marks. In attempting to replace Thomas, the coaching staff will have to focus its attention on utilizing the team's most explosive asset.
Did I mention Thomas can return kicks?
All told, he was the only player in all of college football to have over 400 yards rushing, receiving and returning in 2011.
With a personal best 40-yard dash time of 4.29 seconds, Thomas is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Against the Washington Huskies in Eugene on Oct. 6th, Thomas will steal the show. And if you're not watching closely, you might miss him.