This year has been dramatically unpredictable. Blowouts to LSU, Oregon, and Arizona. Season saving, black-clad home stands against top-10 Stanford and Oregon State. Ongoing struggles for former-star Keith Price, injury after injury to the offensive line, calls for Sark’s firing. Even though things seem to be looking up now, with a 4-4 record heading into a fairly soft final four games, but it’s impossible to deny that this season has been a struggle. Even through all the doom and gloom, here a few unseen benefits of the season so far:
Ordination of a Bishop
I apologize for the religious pun. I’ve been holding off all year, but I just had to. Anyway, at the beginning of the season it looked like Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey would split carries in an attempt to make up for the lost production of the NFL-bound Chris Polk. To start the year, Callier was injured for the season and Sankey managed a paltry 16 yards on 8 carries in an embarrassing loss to LSU. Combined with the injuries to the offensive line, there was little optimism for the run game going forward. After that loss in Baton Rouge, Sankey managed to put together three straight 100 yard games, and now, through eight games, he has amassed totals of 666 yards and 9 touchdowns. His average of 4.5 yards per carry is also very solid. The fact that Sankey has gone from the less experience half of a two-back approach to a stud feature back that has absolutely carried the offense all year long has to be seen as a pleasant surprise.
An Offensive Line Forged in Flame
The flame of trial by fire, that is. After four of the five spring starters were lost by the second game of the season, a ton of sophomores and freshmen without any real game experience have started the last several games in a row. The results of this ragtag group have been mixed, but it is clear that they have begun to gel and make progress as a unit. Against Oregon State, Price had solid protection and Sankey got enough push to manage 92 yards and 2 touchdowns, even if a lot of that yardage was the result of his own tough running. The real benefit of all these injuries is that in 2013 and 2014, when all of these guards and tackles are juniors and seniors, Washington will have an incredibly experienced line. If they are performing at a somewhat average level now, it can be expected that with a few years, and a few complete off seasons, under their belts, the line could be dominant in later years.
Young, Seasoned Defenders
Once again, we see a number of injures and competitiveness at every position result in a large pool of young defenders getting on field experience that will benefit the defense in 2013 and 2014. There are only three players set to start against California this week at are set to graduate after the season: Talia Crichton, Justin Glenn, and Desmond Trufant. Only Trufant is a player that has been a clearcut starter all year. Chrichton would probably not be playing if Haoli Jamora was healthy, and Glenn is listed as an “or” starter alongside Will Shamburger, a junior. So, though Trufant is a terrific corner that will be missed sorely, the fact that Marcus Peters and Tre Watson have both gotten time at the other corner spot means that whoever steps up to take over for Trufant will have starting experience. A 2013 defense that returns at least 10 or 11 players that have, at some point, started this season will be an asset going forward.