Why Washington Will Be a Player in Football This Year

Lisa HornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterApril 22, 2013

Running back Bishop Sankey
Running back Bishop SankeyOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Who let the dogs out? Steve Sarkisian and his Washington Huskies did over spring practice. Sort of.

While defense dominated Saturday's spring game, there's a good reason for that: Sarkisian didn't want to show his cards to other teams and thus called a very vanilla offensive game. More from the Huskies' official website, GoHuskies.com:

[Sarkisian] wasn't going to show the world, including the couple thousand fans who enjoyed free admission and the Husky band and cheerleaders, the exotic formations, shifts and plays Washington had been running all spring.

Not yet.

"We've been faster than this," Sarkisian said. "You are in a spring game and I want to give the fans something to see and a chance to see what fall camp will be about and the season will be about. But I am also aware of the fact we were on national television.

Already the mind races over the potential of the offense under quarterback Keith Price. This is the same quarterback who lit up the 2011 Alamo Bowl in the Huskies' 67-56 loss to the Baylor Bears. In that game, Price passed for 438 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 39 yards and three more scores. Obviously, Price is a huge offensive weapon, but his offensive accomplishments were dwarfed by the Huskies' defense giving up 777 yards to Baylor.

Still, imagine this quarterback in a no-huddle, uptempo offense.

The difference between that 2011 team and the 2012 version is that Washington had serious attrition on its offensive line in 2012 due to injuries "which forced nine players to make at least one start last season," according to Athlon Sports.

This year the line has to replace center Drew Schaefer, but the good news is that most of the linemen have experience—if injuries mount, the unit still should be in good shape. The defense is a definite positive, although the secondary will take a hit with Desmond Trufant off to the NFL. If the Huskies can stop Oregon and Stanford—they did beat the Cardinal 17-14 last season—as well as the prolific offenses from Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State, Washington could finally be well-rounded on both sides of the ball.

So far, the team seems to have responded well to the new offensive schemes. As offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau told Seattle PI guest blogger Kevin Dowd after the Huskies' spring practice: "We had to kind of work through some things and iron out some of the details, but now, they’re in the groove of it. They’ve done a great job really picking up the speed.”

So, imagine if you will, tailback Bishop Sankey running in a faster offense. Scary.

This isn't a temporary adjustment like the pistol offense then-UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel installed a few years ago. This is the beginning of a new identity for Washington football. According to Go Huskies, the Huskies ran "130-plus plays" during 14 spring practices. More:

Sarkisian said the heavy no-huddle scheme he installed over this spring is likely here to stay as Washington's primary offense this fall. It emphasizes Price's improvisational skills, which he used more in 2011 while setting school records with 33 touchdown passes and a 66.9-percent completion rate. It also gives that defense extensive, daily practice with what it will face against Oregon, Arizona and others during Pac-12 play this fall.

With Mike Leach running his Air Raid, Mark Helfrich running his Quack Attack and now Sarkisian letting the dogs out, the Pac-12 North is going to be packed with excitement. Washington won't be sitting in the bleachers passing the popcorn and watching the arcade game-like action—the team has the speed and talent to join the fray and make a huge statement.

The Pacific Northwest is known for wet weather—it rains cats and dogs up there—but it looks like the forecast for the fall will be changing. 

It'll be raining Cougs, Ducks...and 'Dawgs.