Washington Football: Pleasant Surprises Emerge while Awaiting Tougher Competition

Two games into 2013, what exactly have we learned about our Washington Huskies? After victories over Boise State and Illinois, the Dawgs are 2-0 and ranked 17th in the nation. They feature an aggressive offense that gains yards in big chunks. They boast a defense that's fundamentally sound but not exceptional (at least not yet). With a preposterous game coming up this Saturday against lowly Idaho State, the only certainty is that Washington's record will improve to 3-0. But beyond that, we will need to wait until Pac-12 play.

But in using the first two games as a sample set, I turned to my buddy and former Husky Kyle Benn to discuss. Back in August, Benn believed the offensive line would be stronger this season but prone to depth issues as the weeks wore on. After the Illinois game, I asked him for his current thoughts.

"Just like we talked about before, the o-line is good and they're capable," he said. "It's all about the depth going forward. And it's all about the system too. We talked about up tempo system tiring out defenses in the second half. As we've seen, it took over both games on the ground in the second half.

"But the other thing I realized, because I don't watch Oregon very much on purpose, is that I forgot from a coaching perspective, how the no-huddle doesn't give the defense time to shuttle in and out personal. So instead of rolling in fresh d-linemen every play, and rolling in nickel guys, and rolling in an extra linebacker, they've got to wait for a break in the action. That kind of screws up formations and substitutions for (opponents).

"It's not a huge deal, but still, you've got defenses that have got to plan for that. With Boise State and Illinois, you've got teams from conferences that aren't used to that offense. But it will change when the Huskies get into the Pac-12, where everyone has been coaching against Oregon for 5+ years and that (hurry-up) offense."

I asked Benn what has surprised him the most to this point.  

"Bishop Sankey for one," he said. "You know, after last season with 1,400 yards rushing you knew he was good, especially with a patchwork offensive line. But to come out and quietly do what he has done this year, I didn't see it coming. I thought he would be a 100 yard back, but not a 161-205 yard back.

"And then Keith Price, truthfully, I didn't see him coming back with two great games like he's had," he said. "I mean, 28 of 35 passing last week? He has surprised me, especially how he ended last year.

"And finally, the defense," he said. "The one thing I have noticed in the last two games is that it looks like an old Husky defense, where there's at least five guys in on a tackle. And Shaq Thomspson is doing what he's supposed to do. He's coming in and destroying people left and right. And that's been a lot of fun to watch."

Benn then pointed out something he noticed in Saturday's Illinois game.

"On defense you've all got assignments and rules," he said. "Especially if an o-lineman is coming to block out on an end, the end is supposed to take the inside shoulder and put the guy down so that the running back has to bounce it and the linebackers can come in and clean it up.

"On Saturday I saw a couple different plays where the Husky d-lineman could have somehow tried to make the tackle. But he stopped and went in and attacked the inside shoulder of the o-lineman. It screwed eveything up. The running back stutter stepped, and the Husky linebackers came in and gang tackled.

"And I thought, `wow, they're actually playing specific assignments like they're supposed to.' That's instead of what we've seen in the last several years, where we've gotten used to seeing guys trying to make plays because a play needed to be made. A lot of times, when guys are doing other people's jobs instead of doing their own jobs, that's when you see those breakdowns, and those 70-yard bubble screens and counters that go for 80 yard touchdowns.

"You're starting to see guys playing their assignments like they're supposed to," he said. "And you can see the system works. When you take your gap, take your assignment, it's really nice to see. They're obviously buying into Wilcox's scheme."