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2011 Washington Huskies Football: Dark Horse Players to Watch

Brandon StewartContributor IIApril 17, 2011

2011 Washington Huskies Football: Dark Horse Players to Watch

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    We all love those underrated players that turn out to be game-changers.

    This year, the Huskies have plenty of players that fall in to the "dark horse" category. So Kasen, Austin and Deontae, move over, because these players have a high chance to help the Huskies' success, too.

    These are my top five dark horse candidates for the upcoming 2011 season.

    Enjoy. 

Michael Hartvigson

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    Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at nearly 250 pounds, Hartvigson gives the tight end position much-needed depth this coming season.

    Coming out of Bothell High School last year, Hartvigson was the No. 20-rated tight end in the nation. He has great blocking ability and excellent hands to go along with killer size.

    Eyes might be set on freshman phenom Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but Hartvigson should not be overlooked this year.

    He gives the Huskies another option over the middle and can provide great pass blocking and the ability to create holes for the running backs.

    I can see Hartvigson going for 25-plus receptions this year, along with a couple touchdowns.

Sean Parker

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When Parker chose the Huskies over the likes of Michigan and USC, we were expecting an impact player that could come in and make a difference in the secondary right away.

    However, we only got a minor preview of Parker.

    He played nine out of 13 games and missed the final four due to a stinger in his neck. He nabbed one interception in the win against Oregon State and also provided depth as a kick returner.

    This year, has the potential to be a lot different.

    With the departure of senior safety Nate Williams, Parker has the chance to be the every-down safety. His instincts and anticipation on where the ball is going will prove to head coach Steve Sarkisian that he belongs out there.

    Expect a few interceptions and at least 70 tackles for Parker this year.

Hau'oli Jamora

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Jamora will be one of the players anchoring the defensive line this year.

    Last year, he posted pretty impressive numbers for a freshman who was on the bench the first two games of the season. That changed quickly after he saw time against Nebraska in Week 3 and had a season-high eight solo tackles.

    The rest of the year had its ups and downs, and then people saw what this kid could become in the win against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. He posted four tackles, including a sack on the speedy Taylor Martinez.

    Jamora’s freshman season consisted of 49 total tackles (33 solo, 16 assisted), three sacks and a forced fumble.

    I expect a stellar return from Jamora this season with 60-plus tackles, notching at least seven sacks.

Josh Shirley

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    After UCLA dismissed Shirley from the team on suspicion of theft, he found home in Seattle.

    Shirley is a very versatile athlete who can play outside linebacker and can bring pressure to the quarterback at defensive end. This year he will be playing a bit of both but most of the time he will be lining up at defensive end.

    Shirley redshirted his freshman year to get a better feel for the defensive scheme. With his speed and aggressiveness to get after the football, I expect Shirley to come off the edge quickly and get to the quarterback.

    I expect Shirley to register at least 40 tackles and get to the quarterback 8-10 times this season.

Zach Fogerson

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    This guy wants to become the next Stanley Havili.

    He was not fully incorporated into the Huskies offense his freshman season and saw most of his playing time on special teams.

    This offseason, Fogerson dedicated himself to the weight room by bulking up 13 pounds.

    The Huskies just might have a Havili clone brewing. At 6'0'' and 238 pounds, Fogerson should be able to gain that extra yard every time. 

    Fogerson will be able to take the load off the running backs by getting carries in 2nd-and-short situations.

    I can see Fogerson attaining 200 total yards and a couple trips to the end zone.

James Johnson

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    After a stellar freshman year, the Huskies had high hopes for Johnson coming in to his sophomore year.

    Let’s just say he didn’t produce the season we thought he would.

    After a mysterious ankle injury that supposedly never healed correctly cost him what should have been a strong season, he attained only one reception for three yards in 2010.

    We call it the typical sophomore slump; I call it a chance to come back better than ever.

    James was the No. 3 option at receiver his entire freshman season and was added to the Pac-10’s All-Freshman team. This year, Johnson should be able to withstand any more weird injuries and produce a solid season.

    I expect Johnson to grab at least 45 passes and add at least five touchdowns.

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