It's three games into the 2008 season for the Washington Huskies, and an 0-3 record seems to indicate struggles for the Dawgs.
Many fans may be lamenting another lost season at this point, but that is a little premature. Three games against top-25 teams with high-speed and high-scoring offenses is a brutal way to start the season—for any team.
The team is averaging around two years of experience overall; it has been thrown into the deep end and asked to swim. Up until this point, the Huskies looked like they've drowned, but there are both good and bad points to pick out from the season.
The receivers will be a force as they gain experience
There is athletic ability in the receiving corps, with a mix of speed and size. Drops really hampered quarterback Jake Locker's throwing percentages in the Oregon game, but he has consistently gotten better as the receivers gain experience.
With the exception of Locker overthrowing on a couple passes, the receivers looked especially good against BYU at getting behind the defense.
Kavario Middleton is a name to watch out for, and looks to be the next big tight end star for the UW.
The defense is still an unresolved subject
Now that the Huskies are through a brutally tough stretch, it is generally assumed that the defense will get better. Four winnable games should show the true mettle of the new defensive schemes of Ed Donatell.
The defensive line has been awful, but showed more promise to get into the backfield against Oklahoma. It did record some hits on the quarterback, yet Sam Bradford was able to get the ball off in time.
The defense made some stops in the first half, but fumbles by the offense completely deflated the game.
The offensive line and running game need to be sorted out
Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano has stated that the running game is the priority during the bye week. Even with Locker, the team is only averaging 2.8 yards per carry, thus putting more pressure on Locker to use his arm.
The offensive line was labeled as a strength coming into the season, especially with Juan Garcia's miraculous recovery. Unfortunately, they just have not lived up to their billing. It feels like they have the size, but they aren't strong enough or are making lots of mental mistakes that are adding up.
The addition of Michael Gottlieb from injury will help on the line as they consider Gottlieb the best blocker of the tight ends.
What this all means for the Washington Huskies
A stretch of four much more winnable games—against Stanford, at Arizona, Oregon State, and Notre Dame—is going to make or break the season. If they can, God forbid, win all four of these games, then they put themselves in excellent bowl contention, with UCLA and Washington State still to come.
Unfortunately, I see two or three wins as a much more probable outcome. The second half of the season will show a much more mature and seasoned Husky team, but it won't be enough for Tyrone Willingham to keep his job.
Locker is developing nicely; his pass percentage is way up as the season has gone on. He's gone from 42.9 percent completed against Oregon to 66.7 against Oklahoma. He is the key to the Washington offense.
Getting the running game restarted is huge for keeping Locker healthy for the entire season. However, in the limited showings that Ronnie Fouch has played, he seems to be a player for the future.
Look for the Huskies to win four or five of their remaining games. The Pac-10 is weaker than expected, and the Huskies need to pounce on this if they are going to make any progress.
Suffice it to say, I will be at the remaining games for the season, and will be passing on my impressions of the games to all of you as the season goes on.
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