Traded some questions and answers with Bob Condotta, the Washington Huskies beat writer for the Seattle Times. Want to know why Keith Price's numbers are down this year? If pressure is building on Steve Sarkisian to win? How to stop Washington's big tight end? Condotta has all the answers for you, read up below.
Washington has had an up and down year, any sense as to why? Is it a matter of playing at home vs. away?
That's been a big part of it, no doubt. UW has played much better at home than on the road, especially on defense, not having allowed more than 24 points in any of its five home games (that coming against USC when a blocked punt led to one TD). UW also has not played well against spread teams --- Oregon and Arizona --- and those games also came on the road. And UW also had to go to LSU early in the year. Those are the three UW blowout losses. The other games have all been relatively close or UW wins. So much of the erraticness can no doubt be placed on the schedule and the way it broke down home and road.
Tell us about the season Keith Price has had, seems he has struggled this year. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Price has struggled to attain the same success as last season, when he set a school-record with 33 touchdown passes. But while it's easy to just look at his numbers and ask what's wrong with him, it's really more about the offense. He is playing without three of his top four receivers from last year, as well as behind a line that has undergone a pretty massive reconstruction, losing three guys who could have been starters this year due to injury. So the lack of consistent protection and getting used to a new corps of receivers has changed the dynamic greatly for Price. He also has been more turnover prone this season, particularly in terms of fumbles --- he has lost five in the last five games. His strength remains his ability to throw accurately on the run, as he did for a couple of key completions last week to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as well as his ability to manage the offense. He often is given either-or plays to call at the line and he gets high marks for his ability to get UW into the right play more often than not.
With Husky Stadium being renovated, the Huskies are playing at CenturyLink. What kind of atmosphere is there for the games there?
It's definitely different, with people not holding tailgates on campus and coming to the games via boat and all the things that make Husky Stadium unique. But it's still been an intimidating environment this season as the CLink has a rep for being one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and it has appeared to be unnerving at times to UW opponents this year, specifically Stanford and Oregon State. Other than the disurption in pre-game routine, I think the move has been a non-factor. But no doubt, the team will be glad to move back home next season.
If you were a defensive coordinator, how would you stop your tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins?
Good question and I'm not sure there's an easy answer. The best way may be to stop the run and get a lot of pressure on Price and compel UW to need to keep its tight ends in to block more --- that's sort of what happened against teams like USC and Stanford was kept in relative check. UW has been splitting him out more of late, bringing in another TE to block, and getting mismatches on undersized defensive backs. One way to maybe stop him is to put a bigger body on him and jam him at the line and disrupt his timing. Teams like Stanford, USC and LSU all had good linebackers they could use in coverage to both put a little bit of a body on him and then run with him, as well. But I'm not sure there's a real foolproof way to stop a guy who is 6-6, 258 and has all the athletic ability that ASJ has.
Are Washington's fans disappointed in Washington's record this year, is pressure building on Sark to deliver?
While there was some disappointment in the margin of defeats of a few games, I don't think the record is a real surprise to anyone given the schedule and the youth of the team ---- just 11 scholarship seniors at the moment. UW, however, will not be a young team next season, and the schedule will also be a lot more favorable, and that is when the pressure will legitimately build for UW to show it can compete for a Pac-12 North Division title. Sarkisian has gotten a lot of credit for building UW out of the hole it was in when he took over. But next season will be his fifth and all the recruits by then will be his, and that is when the program will be expected to truly show it is ready to get back to elite status.
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