USC Game Preview: Washington Offense



Yesterday, we talked about the Washington Huskies lack of production at quarterback, as Keith Price is statistically the worst signal caller in the Pac-12. But it’s not just Price struggling, as Washington’s offense as a whole has underachieved.

The Huskies are averaging just 4.61 yards per play, good for 11th in the conference and 114th in the nation. For a team with as much talent as the Huskies have on offense and with a highly touted offensive mind calling plays, it’s startling just how inept Washington has been.

While it shows more at quarterback with Keith Price, the issues within Washington’s offense lies on the offensive line. The Huskies have started just two players in all five games on the line, including center Drew Schaeferand left tackle Michah Hatchie. Injuries have been the main culprit, as two returning starters at guard, Colin Tanigawa and Eric Kohler, have been lost to knee injuries, with the former done for the season.

While Hatchie has provided some consistency in protecting Price’s blind side, the right tackle spot has been a revolving door for Washington, as four different players have earned starts there. The lack of experience and continuity on the line has limited the Huskies’ running game to just 137 yards per game and against LSU, Price was sacked four times by the vaunted Tiger defense.

With Chris Polk’s departure after last season, Steve Sarkisian had to find a replacement for the school’s second 4,000-yard runner and the record holder for the most carries in UW history. Sophomore Bishop Sankey has been the answer, rushing for 86 yards per game while being third in the conference in rushing touchdowns behind Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner. The 5-foot-10 product of Spokane has really come into his own as the season has progressed, with three straight 100-yard games including 144 against the stonewall Stanford defense.

With Sankey producing despite the struggles of the offensive line, pressure should be taken off of Price, but it still hasn’t been the case as he just hasn’t been able to hit his talented receivers as much as he’d like. Much like Lane Kiffin, Coach Sarkisian has created a top-heavy receiving corps, with wideout Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins catching a vast majority of the team’s receptions.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the Pac-12, which is high praise considering the conference includes NFL talent such as Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, Joe Fauria and Randall Telfer. Seferian-Jenkins is second in the conference in receptions by tight ends with 24, but the sophomore has just one touchdown to date, a key explanation for the Huskies being 78th in the nation in red zone passing efficiency. During the Oregon game, Seferian-Jenkins left with an undisclosed injury, but he’s listed as questionable and it would be a surprise if he didn’t play.

For the Huskies to establish a rhythm on offense against the Trojans, they’ll need Keith Price to have his best game of the season, while spreading the ball around, getting former USC-commit Jaydon Mickens some touches and making the Trojans stop Sankey, Seferian-Jenkins and Williams. If they can play to their offensive potential, they can be the toughest test for the USC defense to date. If they play to their current form, the Trojans should be able to penetrate the line and force Price’s hand.

Projected StartersWR Kasen Williams #2LT Micah Hatchie #72LG Dexter Charles #76C Drew Shcaefer #73RG James Atoe #70 or Shane Brostek #60RT Mike Criste #78 or Ben Riva #59TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88QB Keith Price #17RB Bishop Sankey #25FB Jonathan Amosa #48WR Jaydon Mickens #4 or Kevin Smith #8WR DiAndre Campbell #19