Washington season preview

We continue our day-by-day snapshots of each Pac-12 team heading into the 2013 season in reverse alphabetical order with the Washington Huskies.


Coach: Steve Sarkisian (26-25 overall, 19-17 Pac-12)

2012 record: 7-6, 5-4 (Fourth in North Division)

Key losses: CB Desmond Trufant, DB Justin Glenn, DE Talia Crichton, C Drew Schaefer,

Key returnees: QB Keith Price, RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DB Sean Parker, LB John Timu, DE Josh Shirley, LB Shaq Thompson.

Newcomer to watch: WR Damore'ea Stringfellow is the highest-rated player in a strong incoming freshman class at receiver, a position where there should be opportunities for young players to see action.

Biggest games in 2013: After three consecutive 7-6 seasons playing in the rugged Pac-12 North, the Huskies are trying to take a step forward this fall as they open renovated Husky Stadium. So the season opener against Boise State takes on huge significance. A win provides momentum and hope. A loss casts doubt on the season.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The parts are here for the Huskies to move into the top 25. But that chiefly hinges on quarterback Keith Price getting back to his 2011 form after a poor-to-middling 2012 season.

Forecast: Sarkisian rebuilt a program that went winless in 2008, but now Huskies fans want more. They want to move up in the Pac-12 pecking order and become nationally relevant again.

As noted, Price is the key. He needs to protect the football in terms of interceptions and fumbles. If he does that, and he becomes the calm and efficient leader who ranked seventh in the nation in passing efficiency in 2011, the Huskies should thrive because they have talent on both sides of the ball.

The offense will be led by Sankey, Williams and Seferian-Jenkins. That's as good a troika of weapons as any team in the conference. The offensive line, beaten up last year, should be far more stout, particularly if a couple of players who were injured come back at 100 percent.

As for the defense, it starts with Shaq Thompson leading a speedy crew of linebackers who are a match for any team in the conference not playing in Palo Alto. The defensive line needs to be more stout against the run, and the ends need to get more pressure on the quarterback, but the biggest question is replacing Trufant, an NFL first-round draft pick.

If things go according to plan, the Huskies could be 4-0 and ranked when they hit a rugged midseason stretch: at Stanford, Oregon and at Arizona State. If they can manage to win two of those three -- Huskies fans really, really want to beat the Ducks -- it could become a special season.

But lose the opener and falter against the Pac-12's best at midseason, and folks in Seattle might be grumbling about Sarkisian by season's end.