Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A between Josh Yuen, senior staff writer at The Daily Californian, and Josh Kirshenbaum, managing editor at the Daily at University of Washington. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Josh Yuen: How does (quarterback) Jacob Eason look?
Josh Kirshenbaum: Well, there’s two questions — how did Jacob Eason look, and how did the fans think he looked? In all honesty, he looked really good. It’s interesting because his arm strength is really a thing, and it’s really something you notice. I think the play in which he got the most attention was an incompletion. In the first quarter, second drive, he had that 50-yard touchdown to Andre Baccellia, which was an absolute dime. But then he had another one in the second quarter when it was a bad snap, and Aaron Fuller was running a go-route and saw that the snap went bad. He held up for a little bit and then realized the play was still going, and Eason launched (the ball) about 65 yards in the air. My thing on Eason is that he had about one or two throws that he missed, but when he missed, it was impressive because he missed by overthrowing. But really, he didn’t miss all that much.
JY: Obviously, filling in Myles Gaskin’s (former running back) shoes is no easy task. Is the choice Richard Newton, Salvon Ahmed, a committee? What direction are the Huskies leaning toward in the running game?
JK: From the outset, I would have said it’s a committee led by Salvon Ahmed. The main knock on him going into the season was that they didn’t need him to be the feature back, so they never gave him feature back carries. He had 15 carries against Eastern Washington, and that was a career high for him. I think they want him to be that lead back, but there’s lead back and then there’s Myles Gaskin and what they had him doing. So (the Huskies) definitely need a No. 2 guy. After last game, it looks like that No. 2 guy is Richard Newton. That’s probably one of the biggest surprises on offense. (Newton) came in last year behind Gaskin, Ahmed, Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew, and he hurt himself and had a shoulder injury that kept him out for most of the year. He didn’t really come close to playing at all, even with the four-game redshirt rule. I’d say it’s Ahmed No. 1 and Newton as the change-of-pace with the others sprinkled in a little bit.
JY: What’s (center) Nick Harris’ status? And how’s the offensive line holding up after a solid week one performance?
JK: Harris’ status is week-to-week, which means (head coach) Chris Petersen is telling us that he’s not out for the season, and that’s all Chris Petersen is going to tell us. That’s just how he rolls. In his place they brought in redshirt freshman Matteo Mele, which is a bit of an interesting story because the team’s backup center last year is hurt, and Corey Luciano, who was a junior college transfer at center, got moved to tight end. Mele actually played pretty well; he had that one rough snap, but overall the offensive line looked good, albeit against Eastern Washington, so you can take that with a grain of salt. Everybody else (on the line) is super experienced. I expect this line to gel pretty quickly.
JY: It’s a different offense with a new quarterback and Myles Gaskin being gone as well. The receivers targets looked pretty spread out with a lot of returning faces. That must be a huge plus even with Jake Browning not being there, correct?
JK: It’s really interesting, yeah. They’ve got Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia who are No. 1 and 2, respectively. The big news last week was that Ty Jones is going to miss, from the sounds of it, significant time to injury. So (Fuller and Baccellia) are really the two that returned. They also got Chico McClatcher back after he had injury issues; he had personal (off-the-field) issues that he was dealing with last year. He had a really good game last week, and the only other returning guy would have been Quinten Pounds, but he didn’t play last week, so we’re not entirely sure what’s up with that. It’s a really deep, experienced room, but also one with two guys who got a lot of playing time last year. They also have three really talented redshirt freshmen who combined for two plays last week and one other really talented true freshman. (Tight end) Hunter Bryant is basically a receiver as well.
JY: Defensively, Washington no longer has the services of (former student-athletes) Taylor Rapp, Ben Burr-Kirven, Byron Murphy and Greg Gaines. It’s hard to tell after one game, but do you think Washington will be as effective on the defensive side of the ball as it has been in recent memory, near or at the top of the Pac-12?
JK: I think the jury is still out on that. It totally could be, and there’s no reason to doubt (defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach) Jimmy Lake anymore. On the other hand, it may not be because the defense has one returning starter. That rings true, especially in the secondary because Myles Bryant is back, but other than that they’ve got four new starters with two freshmen in the two-deep look. They’re very talented; they started and (cornerback) Cameron Williams looked very good. But there’s definitely an asterisk as to (whether) it could go wrong, and it could go really right. (Safety) Keith Taylor might be one of the most underrated defenders in the Pac-12 coming into the season. Opposite him is Kyler Gordon, who might be the most athletic of anybody in the secondary. Overall, the range the defense could fall in is very wide.
JY: It’s been great catching up with you. Score prediction for Saturday?
JK: I’m going to be interested to see a lot, but this is going to be the game where we get to see whether Washington’s defense, especially up front, can be as good as it was last year. Cal won the game (last year), but Cal beat UW’s offense. I don’t remember the full stats, but UW’s defense played one of its best games of the season and then still lost. It seems to be a pattern, once a year, that sort of thing happens. This game, we will see if the Washington front seven is as good at stopping the run. I don’t think the answer is yes, but I do think that playing at Husky Stadium and having the crowd behind it is going to make a really big difference. I would guess that the UW offense is going to struggle, but Jacob Eason will make one or two plays to open the run game up. I’ll take UW winning, 31-13.