The Word from Washington



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Seattle Post-Intelligencer UW beat writer Molly Yanity previews the Huskies' home opener with BYU, and gives the Cougars a lot of positive press:

"BYU COUGARS AT WASHINGTON HUSKIES When: TBA, Saturday, Sept. 6 Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle TV: TBA

2007 RECAP: After opening the season 1-2, the BYU Cougars exploded into one of the nation's most exciting teams rattling off 10 consecutive wins, including a 17-16 over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Quarterback Max Hall, an Arizona State transfer, emerged as a legitimate stud, leading all sophomore quarterbacks in passing yards (3,848) while posting a solid efficiency rate of 137.7.

But the Cougars weren't one-trick ponies. Sophomore running back Harvey Unga emerged as a real threat with 1,227 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Cougars finished 17th in the BCS poll and were at No. 13 in the final Associated Press poll after their Las Vegas Bowl win.

2008 OUTLOOK: After consecutive 11-2 seasons, the Cougars are craving "perfection," an idea that would land the Mountain West power in a BCS bowl.

The expectations are as high as they've ever been in Provo, Utah and that is because Hall, Unga, two Outland Trophy candidates, a star tight end, veteran receivers and their best defensive player all return.

Hall is a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate. Unga, the 2007 MWC Freshman of the Year, is a good back, but depth at the position is a question after Manase Tonga, who had eight rushing touchdowns last season, was declared academically ineligible this spring. Fui Vakapuna has struggled with injuries, but returns healthy and could be a bruiser.

The offensive line is stout with tackle Dallas Reynolds and guard Ray Fienga leading. There really appear to be no holes in this offense, which also includes a gifted receiver in Austin Collie.

BYU's best player may be on the other side of the ball, though.

Defensive end Jan Jorgensen is considered one of the nation's best. At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, the junior is versatile, able to wreak havoc as a speed rusher, but strong enough to defend the run like a tackle. Last season, Jorgensen led the team with 14 sacks.

So where is this team's weakness?

The entire field behind the defensive line.

Linebacker David Nixon (10 tfl) and safety Kellen Folwer are the only returning starters among the back seven. Linebacker Terrance Hooks tore his patellar tendon in spring workouts and is likely out for the season meaning the overall look of the linebacking corps is still murky.

PEEK AT PERSONNEL: Here's what we know about BYU's secondary - it is young, inexperienced and has some serious potential.

Juniors Brandon Howard and Scott Johnson emerged from the spring as the likely starting corners, with Fowler (free) and senior David Tafuna (strong) as the safeties. They have a combined six starts.

Defensive coordinator Jaime Hill will also rotate sophomore Brandon Bradley and redshirt freshman G Pittman at corner.

WHAT THE HUSKIES CAN EXPECT: This spring, Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said this to USA Today: "What I haven't done a great job of to this point, with really two different teams even though they were both 11-2, is that we didn't start as fast as I would've hoped and especially in non-conference road games. That's something that we've looked hard at our spring model and fall model in maybe trying to get to a faster start. We finished the last two years with 10 straight wins but have stumbled a little bit early as we were defining ourselves."

In other words, Mendenhall will put a premium on its only non-conference road game and that can't be a good thing for the Huskies.

The Cougars veteran offensive will give the young Huskies defensive line all it can handle and Hall will go after a secondary that hasn't been up to par in years.

Trial by fire for the Huskies defense? More like trial by inferno, which means the Huskies offense has to take control, score often and eat up as much as the clock as possible to compete."

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Ty Willingham, interestingly, occupies the #1 spot on the "Coaches on the Hot Seat" list, complied by coacheshotseat.com. More interestingly, four of the first 7 coaches on the list play BYU this season [Willingham (1), Joe Glenn (2), Chuck Long (6) and Mike Sanford (7)]. Throw in Brent Guy at Utah State (17), and BYU meets 5 of the "top 17 coaches in jeopardy" this season.

By the way, only 4 of 120 coaches listed are considered to be "safer" than Bronco Mendenhall (Pinkel-Missouri, Carroll-USC, Richt-Georgia, and Miles-LSU).

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coacheshotseat.com is perhaps best-known for publishing and/or guessing at coaches' salaries, and providing copies of contracts, where possible.

Here, copy and paste to look at Willingham's deal w U-Dub:

www.coacheshotseat.com/WashingtonCoachesHotSeat.pdf

and here, copy and paste to look at the L.A. Times' summary of Rick Neuheisel's deal at UCLA:

www.latimes.com/sports/la-spw-uclafb24-2008may24,0,1165722.story

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