UW football 2018: By the numbers and letters

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Here's who's done well, not so well

It’s a digital world out there. Everybody is furiously crunching numbers these days to determine why something happened or what is sure to take place in the future. The Washington football team is hardly exempt from this analytics-saturated way of finding new meaning to life—or at least explain away a season that hasn’t gone as expected. As they prepare for lowly Oregon State on Saturday, the following is a position-by-position breakdown of the 2018 Huskies (7-3 overall, 5-2 Pac-12) using available data and assigning an arbitrary grade to the findings:

OFFENSE

QB—Jake Browning. A 49-game starter, the senior is on a pace to finish with the worst passing numbers of his four seasons. Fewest completions, attempts, yardage and touchdowns. His season accuracy (64 percent) actually matches his career number, meaning he’s plateaued rather than saved his best for last. He’s at the helm of a three-loss team that could drop one or two more. Yet he could wind up in the Rose Bowl. Grade: B-.

RB—Myles Gaskin. The 36-game starter hasn’t lost a step. His throbbing right shoulder is another story. This nagging injury has left the Huskies’ all-time leading rusher on a pace to have the least productive season of his career. He piled up 1,300-plus yards in each of his first three seasons; he’ll be hard-pressed to get more than 1,100. His most telling stat is this—he’s averaging just 4.6 yards per carry, more than a full yard behind his previous low as a freshman. Think he misses running behind Trey Adams? Grade: B.

LT—Jared Hilbers. He’s currently a 9-game starter trying to replace Adams, a 36-game starter and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2016. That’s not to say that he has a quarter of the ability of Adams. More like 60 percent. Hilbers will be at right tackle next season when Adams returns from his injury to reclaim his old job. Grade: C.

LG—Luke Wattenburg. Last year, he replaced an injured Adams at tackle and started five times. This season as a sophomore guard, he expected to play next to him but has had to go it 10 games alone without the elite lineman. Maybe next year. Luke has given up more sacks than anyone else on the line and could benefit greatly from Adams’ presence. Grade: C+.

C—Nick Harris. He’s played three different positions in his first three years, and seems well-suited for center with his compact physique. He’s been solid in the middle. Look for him to be named the second-team All-Pac-12 center. Grade: B+.

RG—Jaxson Kirkland. The redshirt freshman has started 10 games and made few mistakes in his debut season. Contrast this output with his fellow UW linemen and their number of starts during their initial year in the trenches, though some were true freshmen: Adams (9), McGary (6), Wattenburg (5) and Harris (4). A future honors candidate. Grade: B.

RT—Kaleb McGary. A 43-game starter, the big man from Fife hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was as a junior, when was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick. He’s been tagged for way too many holding penalties, including two in a game. He’ll still be an NFL player. Grade: B.

TE—Drew Sample. The senior from Bellevue, with 36 starts, has evolved his game similar to former teammate Will Dissly—known as a blocker, he’s shown he can catch, too. Sample already has doubled his reception (20) and yardage (223) output from his previous best season. The pros will want him. Grade: A.

TE—Cade Otton. A redshirt freshman, he’s enjoyed a veteran season. He’s a blocker first, but demonstrated he has ample receiving skills with a pair of touchdown catches. A future honors candidate for sure. Grade: B+.

WR—Aaron Fuller. In his first full season as a starter, the junior has made the tough catches and stands to more than double his reception and yardage totals (48 and 737 and counting). Yet he’s still just a No. 2 receiver. A second option. It’s a matter of speed and separation. Grade: B.

WR—Ty Jones. The sophomore has been brilliant at times but inconsistent. He has the ability to go deep and take over a game. With a different thrower, he should double his current numbers (26 catches, 437 yards, 6 TDs) next season. Another future honors candidate. Grade: B+.

Kicker—Peyton Henry. The redshirt freshman forever has to live down a fateful moment. He missed a 37-yarder to beat Oregon on the last play of the game. He pulled it to the right against a bitter rival on the road. Thirty-seven yards. Opportunity missed. Eventual defeat. Humbling moment. Grade: D.

DEFENSE

DL—Levi Onzuwurike. The Texan moved into the starting lineup six games ago for the injured Shane Bowman and has been productive, collecting a team-best tackles for loss (5), which includes a pair of sacks. A sophomore, he won’t give up this job. Grade: B.

DL—Greg Gaines. His role is to take on two blockers, much like Vita Vea did last year, and Gaines has been good at it. A 43-game starter, the senior has been hard to handle, collecting 43 tackles, including four in the backfield, and he’s even intercepted a pass. He’s a first-team All-Pac-12 selection. Grade: A.

DL—Jaylen Johnson. More has been expected from the previously oft-injured player, who’s started 9 games. The senior has been steady but has the talent and mobility to be more disruptive. It seems like Johnson should have double his tackles for loss (2.5) by now. Grade: C+.

LB—Benning Potoa’e. The veteran player and former No. 1 recruit has been more steady than flashy, almost disappointing. Coming off the edge, he has no sacks. Zero. Nada. The Huskies need more from him. Grade: C.

LB—Ben Burr-Kirven. BBK has taken his game to another level, which is what the national analysts thought his team might do this season. Linebacker looked like the Huskies’ defensive weakness entering the season but it has been the strength. The senior will more than double his tackles (134 and counting) from 2017, when he was second-team All-Pac-12. If the UW had won one or two more games, he’d be a first-team All-American. Grade: A+.

LB—Tevis Bartlett. Playing out of position, the senior has seen his tackles (62) go up but his tackles for loss dwindle (from 12 to 3). He’s a better defensive end. He’s been a trooper for filling a gap. Grade: B.

FS—Taylor Rapp. The junior has been sensational and will likely turn pro because of it. The big-play artist has career-high totals already in tackles for loss (5), sacks (4) and fumble recoveries (3). He’s an all-conference player without a doubt. Grade: A.

SS—JoJo McIntosh. The senior has had a relatively quiet season for him. His tackles are way down (42), and he hasn’t got a sack or an interception. Grade: B-.

CB—Byron Murphy. Healthy this season, he’s gotten beat a few times but better resembles the lockdown cornerback as advertised. He has 12 break-ups to prove it. He’s likely a second-team All-Pac-12 pick. Grade: B+.

CB—Jordan Miller. He’s missed nearly three full games with an injury, getting scorched bad on a long TD pass by Colorado in his gimpy state. He’s got a lone interception. His tackles are down (23 to 17) while playing one more game so far in a year’s time. He’s probably lost some of his draft regard. Grade: B-.

CB—Myles Bryant. The nickel back also has experienced a fall-off, missing the last game with an injury, intercepting no passes and coming up with just 4 break-ups. Grade: C.

Punter—Joel Whitford. The Australia, splitting the duties with Race Porter because of injury, has a similar average (42-plus) from the year before but he’s dropped only half as many inside the 20 for a fair catch (going from 15 to 7), leaving more work for his teammates. Grade: B-.

UW TEAM SYNOPSIS: With a veteran team, the Huskies figured to have no more than one loss, if that, at this point of the season. Seven and three wasn’t expected at all. But that aforementioned missed field goal at Oregon and a quarterback benching at California cost this team a pair of wins. A bunch of injuries made the the UW vulnerable. Win three more games, and this team could end up in the Rose Bowl. It could finish with five losses, too. It’s been a disappointment. Grade: B-.

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