For Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies, a bye week couldn’t have arrived at a better time. After honoring the late Don James by beating Cal 41-17, snapping the three game losing streak, the Huskies are in much need of rest.
Although there were many positive takeaways from the blowout win against Cal, the Huskies suffered a major loss when Kasen Williams left the game in 2nd quarter after landing awkwardly while jumping for a catch. Williams was eventually carted off the field and it was later announced he suffered a fracture in his lower left leg and an injury to his left foot. Although Williams’ numbers have dropped from last season, he still continued to be the UW’s biggest receiving threat, a player that every defense game planned for, and emerged as one of the nation’s top blockers at the receiver position.
Besides Williams, multiple Huskies suffered nicks and bruises against Cal. “We’re just banged up. It’s nothing serious injury wise. We’re just a banged up team right now,” Sarkisian told reporters on Monday. If the Huskies were to have a game on Saturday, the players who are suffering from these injuries would play, but the bye week gives everyone a chance to get healthy as the final stretch of the season approaches.
During the bye week, many players will have a chance to prove their worth during practice. With Kasen Williams most likely out for the rest of the season, new receivers will have to emerge as reliable targets. Redshirt Junior DiAndre Campbell seems the most likely candidate to replace Williams. Campbell has seen limited action during his three season as a Husky but impressed many coaches during fall camp. He obviously isn’t the physical specimen that Williams is, but has good size (6’1) and speed (4.5 40), hint at greater potential.
Besides Campbell, likely candidates to replace Williams include Marvin Hall and Damore’ea Stringfellow. During Saturday’s win against Cal, Hall showed he has the speed to get himself open both as a possession receiver and big play threat, but had troubles catching the ball. Hall is clearly of a different mold than Williams (5’10 182 pounds), but has the speed to be considered a big play threat every time he touches the ball.
One of UW’s most highly rated freshmen, Stringfellow has seen limited action this season, making just three catches, but most closely resembles Williams’ body type. At 6’3 225 pounds, Stringfellow is a physical specimen but isn’t as strong as a blocker as Williams or other Husky receivers. Stringfellow could potentially be an All-American at receiver but UW needs him to step up now. The search to replace Williams remains a mystery but the UW will look to multiple players to help soften the blow of the injury.
Besides wide receiver, players at plenty of other positions will have a chance to prove their worth during the bye week. One of the most interesting battles to watch during the bye week will be at quarterback. With Keith Price still dealing with a thumb injury, the other quarterbacks will take most if not all the snaps this week. Cyler Miles has remained the backup quarterback on the depth chart, but fellow redshirt freshman Jeff Lindquist and true freshman Troy Williams will definitely have something to say about it. Miles looks to be the quarterback of the future with his dual threat capability and NFL size. Lindquist is more of the traditional pocket passer but doesn’t lack athleticism, and even though he is just a true freshman, Troy Williams could end up being the best of the group. All three quarterbacks will get plenty of opportunities to show their strength and get a head start on next year’s quarterback battle.
On the defensive side of the ball, the emergence of young defensive linemen continues to impress coaches. Pass rush has been a big problem for the UW in the past, and although it’s improved in 2013, there is still room for further improvement. Freshmen Marcus Farria and Joe Mathis have continued to see more game action, and during the bye week can prove they need to be on the field more. Farria and Mathis could be the defensive ends of the future and are already showing great potential as true freshmen.
Freshmen that will most likely redshirt will be the greatest beneficiaries of the bye week. Many of these players could be one play away from seeing the field, and need to be ready if the time comes. Since they don’t get many opportunities during games or game week practices, these young players can flash their potential and show the coaches why they will be in the depth chart for years to come.
The bye week will provide the Huskies with needed rest, along with experience for the younger players in need of reps. Kasen Williams’ injury is a huge loss for the UW, but other players will need to step up in his place. Coach Sarkisian will have his team ready to finish out the season on a high note and knows that a strong finish will keep his job secure.