The Washington Huskies have had an interesting 2015 season to this point.
Following their eight-win campaign in head coach Chris Petersen's first year at the helm, the Huskies have taken a noticeable step back in the win column having managed just four wins through nine games and only three remaining.
After presumed-starting quarterback Cyler Miles was forced to retire due to a chronic hip injury, Petersen subsequently had to choose a new signal-caller. The battle was headlined by junior Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, and true freshman Jake Browning. Browning would go on to win the job, and thus far has had an up-and-down first season.
Not only has there been a youth movement at the quarterback spot, but after seeing three of Washington's best defensive players move on to the NFL, there's been an injection of inexperience on that side of the ball, as well.
Offensively, the Huskies currently feature seven underclassmen in starting positions. Defensively, the Huskies currently feature five underclassmen in starting roles. That's a combined 12 underclassmen in all. Only the Oregon State Beavers have as many in their starting units—and the Beavers are entering this week 2-7.
Still, despite its youth, the 2015 Huskies unit has shown it's capable of playing at a high level, and are a competitive bunch. Not only does the defense lead the Pac-12 in points per game allowed (18.8) and rank second in total defense, but they've lost three games by six points or less, testifying to their talent as well as their overall inexperience.
Saturday's contest should be a fun one. Below, we take a look at the players on this young, scrappy squad to keep an eye out for on Saturday.
Travis Feeney, LB—No. 41 (Senior)
Feeney has earned recognition for very productive play throughout the season. The senior enters the week with the second most amount of sacks in the Pac-12 with 6.5, and is second in the conference in tackles for loss (13).
Lining up in the Huskies' "Buck" linebacker position, Feeney will not only line up off the ball as an outside linebacker, but will also be positioned along the defensive line with his hand in the dirt as a pass rusher.
ASU will need to limit Feeney's impact as he's also forced three fumbles through nine games played.
Sidney Jones, CB—No. 26 (Sophomore)
Jones has proven his strong true freshman campaign wasn't a fluke by any means. In 2015, the sophomore has intercepted three passes, defended nine passes and broken up six. He also has three forced fumbles and has a fumble recovery that he returned for a 70-yard score.
If he were to be assigned D.J. Foster, that particular matchup would be one of, if not the most intriguing head-to-head matchup during the contest Saturday.
Azeem Victor, LB—No. 36 (Sophomore)
Victor has been one of the key defensive contributors for the Huskies this season. His 72 total tackles not only leads the team, but is tied for sixth-most in the Pac-12 entering Week 11. Victor has also recorded 6.5 tackles for loss in nine appearances.
Jake Browning, QB—No. 3 (Freshman)
Browning has been thrust into the lineup this year, and he's very much looked the part of a true freshman. He's had eight starts to this point (he missed Washington's 31-14 loss vs. Stanford). Here's how he's fared in wins comparison to how he's fared in losses:
|Completion %||Yards Per Game||Pass TD Per Game||INT Per Game|
The case can be made that the Huskies will go as far as Browning can propel them, and if he's able to find any success against the Sun Devils defense, Washington's chances of winning will grow exponentially.
However, it's fair to be wary of Browning succeeding against an ASU defense that, for the most part, held fellow true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen in check when he was up against the aggressive Sun Devils defense for the first time.
*Budda Baker, FS—No. 32 (Sophomore)
The asterisk is there only because it's unclear whether or not Baker will even be able to play after suffering a concussion during Washington's bout with Utah that forced him to exit during the game. If he's available, he's one to definitely keep an eye out for though, as Baker is regarded as one of the best young defensive backs in the country.
Entering the clash with the Sun Devils, Baker has notched 36 total tackles and two interceptions.