When the Washington Huskies start the 2014 season Saturday at Hawaii, they won’t have much experience in the backfield.
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Lindquist will be making his first career start, as will sophomore tailback Dwayne Washington, and they won’t be the only players with limited experience to touch the ball against the Rainbow Warriors, either.
Senior running backs Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier, who spent a lot of time stuck behind second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey in recent seasons, are expected to share carries with Washington and freshman Lavon Coleman, and redshirt freshman quarterback Troy Williams could also see action Saturday.
Where the Huskies do have experience, though, is on the offensive line.
Four of the linemen listed first on the depth chart are seniors, and three are returning honorable mention All-Pac-12 nominees – junior left guard Dexter Charles, senior left tackle Micah Hatchie, and senior center Mike Criste, who is actually second on the depth chart behind former guard Colin Tanigawa.
With that much depth up front, Chris Petersen is expecting a lot out of the line in his first game as the Huskies’ head coach.
“We need those guys to step up,” Petersen said Monday. “We need to be able to run the ball. I think most teams want to be able to do that, and they’ve been around a lot, so I think that will take a lot of pressure off our quarterback if we can do some of those things.”
The line’s strength has been building for some time at Washington – seven players have starting experience, and each started at least one game two seasons ago – but Petersen’s completely new staff and system does throw a wrench into things.
“We’ll see what kind of leaders these guys are,” Petersen said.
They’ll also have to concern themselves with blocking not just for one featured back but a full quartet of runners. Even though Washington is listed as the starter, the expectation is that each tailback will get his fair share of opportunities.
“That running back position, I think (the depth chart is) a little bit of a seating chart, because we’re gonna play them all,” Petersen said. “It may be all of them in the first quarter. … We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Hawaii at a glance
The Huskies won’t be the only team in Aloha Stadium adjusting to changes on Saturday. Hawaii has a new defensive coordinator in former Utah State linebackers coach Kevin Clune, and the Warriors will also be trying out a new spread-based offense under head coach Norm Chow.
“It’s a little bit hard to know (what Hawaii will look like) because they have a brand-new defensive coordinator. It’s gonna be a completely different scheme, and then they’ve changed their offense as well,” Petersen said. “So you’re looking at some players, and it’s hard not to get caught up in their scheme when you’re looking at their tape, which we don’t feel is going to be the same.”
Playing at Hawaii presents challenges besides what the Warriors do on the field, too.
“It’s hard. It’s such a long plane ride. … It just feels like vacation, so it’s very easy to lose that mental edge if you’re not really in tune with how it’s gonna be and how it’s gonna feel,” Petersen said. “There’s nothing easy about this trip at all. … Hard place to play.”
Depth chart released
The release of the Huskies’ depth chart Monday had a few surprising elements to it.
Senior Kasen Williams, whose 2013 season ended with a broken left fibula and a lisfranc fracture in his foot, is listed second behind junior Marvin Hall at one wide receiver position. Williams missed all of spring camp but has been active for the entirety of fall camp, and Petersen said he will see the field Saturday.
“I know he’s gonna play, there’s no question he’ll be in there. I don’t think he’s 100 percent, but I think he can go, and I think part of it is just him getting in the game, and he’s gonna have to go full-speed.”
The secondary, likely the youngest spot on the field for Washington, will start two freshmen – safety Budda Baker and cornerback Jermaine Kelly – alongside sophomore safety Brandon Beaver and junior cornerback Marcus Peters. As a second-team All-Pac-12 nominee in 2013, there are high expectations for Peters.
“You’d hope a guy that plays as much as he plays (will) be the anchor back there,” Petersen said. “He’s had a lot of hype, I mean a lot of hype. We’ll see if he can live up to it. He’s done a nice job in fall camp, but he will be tested now, and if he can live up to that hype that’s gonna help our secondary tremendously.”