Washington Football: 3 Reasons for Optimism about the Huskies in 2019

Chris Petersen has another Pac-12 championship-caliber squad in his future

A second Pac-12 championship in three years, a third consecutive New Year's Six appearance, the program's first Rose Bowl Game since the 2000 season, and a College Football Playoff berth are all impressive. It may just be the beginning for Washington football under Chris Petersen.

 

The program's most prosperous stretch since Don James' tenure as head coach has the Huskies well-positioned for the long haul -- and the 2019 season will be an important litmus test. Washington replaces a number of key contributors, including record-setting running back Myles Gaskin; quarterback Jake Browning; offensive lineman Kaleb McGary; and the MVPs of each Washington Pac-12 Championship Game, safety Taylor Rapp and cornerback Byron Murphy.

 

The turnover's significant, but the foundation Petersen and Co. have laid is solid. Washington will again be in the hunt for a Pac-12 Conference championship in 2019.

 

1. The Lake on Montlake

One of the hot names on the coaching carousel this holiday season was Washington co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jimmy Lake -- so much so, Huskies defenders openly discussed their hope to keep him in Seattle before the Rose Bowl.

 

Washington got its way. Lake is back for another season overseeing a secondary that loses some star players but reloads with promising youngsters. The decision to split defensive coordinator duties with Pete Kwiatkowski, who had been the play-caller the first four years of the Petersen era, had no ill effects. In fact, Washington led the nation in pass defense in 2018.

 

Another season of the defensive staff with Lake in the fold will again have Washington among the nation's best in 2019.

 

2. On the line

Preseason All-American Trey Adams underwent back surgery less than a month before Washington's 2018 season opener, and his absence was glaring throughout the campaign. Washington took advantage of the new four-game redshirt rule, however, and Adams will be back to be the anchor at left tackle in 2019.

 

With the promising NFL prospect sidelined, center Nick Harris stepped up as a leader for the Huskies' front five. Along with experienced youngsters Jaxson Kirkland and Luke Wattenberg, Washington will have one of the most proven interiors in the Pac-12.

 

Tight end Hunter Bryant sustained an offseason injury, and like Adams, his absence was noticeable throughout the season. His return down the stretch added a needed punch in the passing game, but Bryant also adds another layer to Washington's blocking.

 

3. Takin' it Eason

Prodigal son Jacob Eason returned to his home state last season as Washington's scout team quarterback. After sitting out as a redshirt in 2018, the former Georgia Bulldogs starter presumably readies to replace four-year starter Jake Browning.

 

Eason passed for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns at Georgia in 2016. His addition to the Washington offense offers a promising shake-up for an offense that suffered from stretches of stagnation the past two campaigns.

 

Surrounding Eason is a variety of playmakers with Bryant at tight end, and Ty Jones, Aaron Fuller, and Andre Baccellia at wide receiver. And despite losing Gaskin, the backfield has a variety of options with Salvon Ahmed, Sean McGrew, and Kamari Pleasant.

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of TheOpenMan.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

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