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Originally published Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 10:04 PM

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Position-by-position preview of 2010 Huskies looks brighter

Seattle Times reporter Bob Condotta ranks each position entering the 2010 Washington football season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Though it can seem like nothing but gloom and doom since the Huskies last went to a bowl game in 2002, there have been pockets of optimism. But hope hasn't lasted long, and UW is in the midst of the longest active bowl drought in the Pac-10.

As the 2010 season gets set to begin with the team's first practice Monday at 3 p.m. at Husky Stadium, however, the feeling that this is the year seems more prevalent than any time since the slide began — and that optimism is backed up with facts.

A Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback? Check. A returning 1,000-yard rusher? Check. A veteran offensive line? Check. A defense young but seemingly filled with potential? Check and check.

Still, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of issues: Can quarterback Jake Locker fulfill the hype? Can the offense really become dominant? Will the young players on defense improve enough to make up for the loss of Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Donald Butler?

So as the season nears, we offer a position-by-position look at the team, along with a comfort rating from one (meaning sitting on a bed of nails) to 10 (resting on a La-Z-Boy with a one-pound bag of Cheetos nearby).


No one doubts Locker's physical ability. His 8-20 record as a starter is obviously not entirely his fault, but questions remain about his ability to turn Washington into a winning team. The bigger issue is what happens if Locker gets hurt. The backups are redshirt freshman Keith Price and true freshman Nick Montana. Sarkisian has said he may not name a backup — both will travel to away games and be ready if necessary (and ideally, they might redshirt Montana). While each has potential, UW fans have to hope neither is needed this year.

Comfort rating: 8.

Running back

Sarkisian said Chris Polk, who gained 1,113 yards as a freshman last year despite battling a sore shoulder the second half of the season that required offseason surgery, is "100 percent." Camp will see an intriguing battle for the backup spots between holdovers Johri Fogerson and Demitrius Bronson, and true freshmen Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who each enrolled in time for spring. UW hasn't appeared this deep at tailback since 2000. Senior Austin Sylvester enters camp as the starting fullback.

Comfort rating: 9.



The returning trio of Jermaine Kearse (50 catches in 2009), Devin Aguilar (42) and James Johnson (39) may be as good as any in the conference. Washington needs a couple of backups. This position could look a lot better if senior D'Andre Goodwin returns to his 60-catch form of 2008.

Comfort rating: 9.

Tight end

The dismissal of Kavario Middleton greatly changes the outlook as he had all-conference potential. Junior Chris Izbicki becomes the starter and has earned raves from coaches for his work ethic. He has to show he can be the receiving threat Middleton was at times a year ago. There's no experienced backup and UW likes to use two tight ends a lot — so someone else will have to step up.

Comfort rating: 4.

Offensive line

Sarkisian used his Thursday news conference to lobby against those who say the offensive line is a question mark, pointing to its experience — he noted seven players return who started at least one game last season. Indeed, this shapes up as one of Washington's most experienced units in years, and if Senio Kelemete proves to be as good at left tackle as coaches say he has been in practice, this unit could surprise. The addition of a touted seven-man freshmen class greatly aids depth.

Comfort rating: 6.

Defensive line

This was the big question mark of the spring as potential starting ends Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson sat out with injuries. Sarkisian says each is now healthy, which makes this spot look a lot better. Sarkisian also is raving about the offseason work of junior DT Alameda Ta'amu, and steady senior Cameron Elisara also returns. This could be an improved group, though Te'o-Nesheim's leadership and consistency will be missed.

Comfort rating: 4.


Two-thirds of this unit is set in Mason Foster and middle linebacker Cort Dennison, who is stepping in for Butler. The big question is who fills the other spot. Washington will be counting on some young players to emerge.

Comfort rating: 6.


All but one player who saw significant time in this area last year returns, led by senior strong safety Nate Williams and cornerback Desmond Trufant, each potential all-conference picks in the eyes of coaches. And there are some intriguing newcomers (notably safety Sean Parker) to add depth. On paper, a deeper and more athletic group than the Huskies have had in a while.

Comfort rating: 7.

Special teams

Another spot where basically everyone of note returns, save for snapper Danny Morovick (to be replaced by Brendan Lopez) and holder Ronnie Fouch (Cody Bruns). Kicker Erik Folk (18 of 21 last year) returns, as does punter Will Mahan and every returner. Another year of experience should help both the coverage and return units.

Comfort rating: 7.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or

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