The University of Washington football team is 26 days from its ballyhooed opener against Boise State in revamped Husky Stadium.
Camp starts Monday with an afternoon practice and the Huskies trying to figure a way past the 7-6 water-treading mark of the past three seasons. It will not be easy with road games at Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona State. There’s also Oregon, which UW has not defeated in nine years.
Here are five story lines to watch in camp:
1. PRICE GETTING RIGHT
Keith Price thinks all the questions about his play in 2012 are a bit comical.
“I guess I’m the biggest question mark now,” Price said. “That’s funny. We’re going to be fine. We weren’t a very good offensive team last year. Point blank. This year, we got a chance.”
For the offense to move back to the upper-tier of the conference, Price will have to move back toward his 2011 self. No backups were game-ready last season. This year, Cyler Miles should be taking broad steps toward what could well be his starting position in 2014.
The Huskies hope that push helps zero-in Price, who vows to be better than he was in 2011.
2. BACKING UP BISHOP
One of the funny things about Bishop Sankey is hardly anyone talks about him.
At Pacific-12 Conference media day, his name didn’t come up during UW’s formal session.
During lunchtime, relaxed and eating a Wolfgang Puck-produced meal, coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t receive any questions about his talented running back.
Sankey, a junior, ran for more than 100 yards – including 205 in the Las Vegas Bowl – in seven of the last 11 games of the season. His 1,439 yards were third all-time in UW history behind Corey Dillon’s 1,695 in 1996 and Chris Polk’s 1,488 in 2011.
Redshirt freshman Dwayne Washington might end up No. 2 on the depth chart.
The Huskies have three backs coming off anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears: Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper (his third) and Ryan McDaniel.
Erich Wilson II, who showed potential, transferred to San Jose State.
Kendyl Taylor is more of a dual back; he had 14 catches and 35 carries last season.
Incoming freshman Lavon Coleman has good size at 6 feet, 210 pounds.
“We have a known commodity in Bishop Sankey,” Sarkisian said. “I think there is a lot of intrigue in what Dwayne Washington can develop into.
“I think we have a really young, developing player in Kendyl Taylor who can do a lot of different things for us.”
3. A “TRU” REPLACEMENT
Desmond Trufant’s ability to handle his job at cornerback with little or no help last season created a large trickle-down effect for the rest of the defense. Trufant, taken by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL draft, covered everyone from Stanford behemoth tight end Levine Toilolo to USC speedster Marqise Lee.
Tre Watson, Travell Dixon, Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters should be the main competitors for the two starting corner spots.
Unlike the quiet but competitive Trufant, Peters and Watson are loud, in-your-face corners. Ducre might be the fastest of the bunch. Dixon comes with intrigue after transferring from Alabama.
4. GETTING THEIR KICKS
Travis Coons handled all three portions of the kicking game last season. It wasn’t beneficial. Coons’ 9-for-14 field goal accuracy included crucial misses against Washington State and Boise State in late-season losses. His 4-for-7 performance from beyond 40 yards included zero attempts of 50 yards or longer.
Freshman Cameron Van Winkle, of Mount Si, showed a strong leg in spring practice. The Huskies also have a wild card in graduate transfer Zach Grossnickle from Colorado. Grossnickle could be involved in kickoffs and possibly deep field goals.
5. ROOKIE RECEIVERS
The Huskies need to give Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins some help.
They expect some of it to come from freshman wideouts Darrell Daniels, John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow. Sarkisian will argue the trio is the best incoming group of receivers in the country.
Daniels is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Ross is 5-11, 180, and similar to Jaydon Mickens: small build, high speed. Stringfellow raises eyebrows because of his frame. Sarkisian said at Pac-12 media day that the 6-foot-3 Stringfellow is up to 232 pounds and looks like NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
At the very least, Washington will be able to deploy more weapons this year, which will be important for quarterback Price and the new up-tempo offensive approach.
“They’ve been doing a great job,” said Price, who has been working with them over the summer. “They’re catching on to the system. I just have to keep them feeling good about themselves. They’re going to hit a wall during camp. Like, ‘Oh, man, I’m not getting material’ and I’m just going to keep loving them up.”firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas