College Football Top 25 Previews: Washington Huskies

Photo: Nov 18, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field before the start of a game against the Utah Utes at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Huskies

2017 Record: 10-3 (7-2) – Lost 2017 Fiesta Bowl

2018 Coaches Poll Top 25 Rank: No. 6

Season Outlook

This is a big season for the Washington Huskies. This is the season for the Washington Huskies.

On the back of a ferocious defense, the Huskies made their first -- and last -- playoff appearance in 2016. It was only Chris Peterson's third season as the head coach in Washington, but it was the Huskies' first Pac-12 championship since 2000.

Licking their wounds after 'Bama boat-raced them in the semifinals, Washington had to retool after significant turnover in the secondary -- not to mention, respond to the loss of one John Ross III. They continued to build on the foundational offensive pieces -- OT Trey Adams, OT Kaleb McGary, RB Myles Gaskin, QB Jake Browning -- responsible for much of their 2016 success.

Despite the 2017 restocking, they remained competitive. They rose as high as fourth in the coaches' poll -- fifth in AP -- before the offense choked in a fateful Week 7 match-up against Arizona State. And with conference championship implications on the line, the defense couldn't keep a cap on Stanford's Bryce Love. Washington was still a tough beat, week in and week out -- but they clearly had lost an edge from the 2016 season.

But 2018 got an added boost from the 2017 struggles. RB Myles Gaskin, with three straight 1000 yard season under his belt, decided to return for his senior year -- as did QB Jake Browning, a seasoned starter. OT Trey Adams, considered a top-flight prospect for the NFL Draft, elected to return to school following his ACL injury. Few schools can boast of such powerful returning offensive firepower. The biggest question: who will replace WR Dante Pettis as a YAC threat/special teams maven?

On the defensive side of the ball, again, only one key starter was lost: DT Vita Vea, a bonafide wrecking ball on the defensive interior. Levi Onwuzurike and Jaylen Johnson will look to step into bigger roles to replace Vea's missing snaps -- but on the back-end, all five starters from a stellar secondary return to the field. That's huge.

Top 5 Draft-Eligible Prospects

1. Offensive Tackle Trey Adams

Adams has a tall personal task: prove to NFL teams he has fully recovered from a tough injury. A mammoth of a man, his calling card as a bookend was his silky smoothness in pass protection. If that knee is unstable, it'll show. If not, expect him to bury the inexperienced pass-rushers of the Pac-12 without sweating. The Week 1 game against Auburn is a big one for him.

2. Cornerback Myles Bryant

Taylor Rapp -- and even Byron Murphy III -- are bigger names in the national media, but Myles Bryant deserves his day in the sun. A suffocating nickel back, injuries to outside corners forced Bryant into some outside reps last year. He acquitted himself well, but a healthful season should leave him in the slot, where his downhill play and impossible quickness shine.

3. Safety Taylor Rapp

A freshman All-American in the aforementioned 2016 season, Rapp offers Swiss Army versatility to a Washington secondary that likes to move its safeties around. He needs better ball production -- tough to get when you play so many spots -- to be considered an elite prospect, but I think he's one of the top safeties in the class already.

4. Cornerback Byron Murphy III

Giving us only six games of Murphy was an unforgivable crime committed by the college football gods. A broken foot robbed the middle of the season from Murphy, who had stellar production and tape for a redshirt freshman cornerback. He'll be shadowing some big-time WRs in the Pac-12 -- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Dillon Mitchell, N'Keal Harry. I think his zone overlapping could be special.

5. Running Back Myles Gaskin

I prefer Gaskin to Love as far as Draft-eligible running backs. Not a take shared by many, but I believe Gaskin translates a bit better moving forward. He has downfield receiving experience -- and success -- to go with great space play as a runner. His production will entice teams, but he'll need to test well to prove he has the elusiveness to fill a 'scatback' role moving forward.

Others to Watch: OT Kaleb McGary, S JoJo McIntosh, DT Greg Gaines, DT Jaylen Johnson, DT Levi Onwuzurike, EDGE Tevis Bartlett, LB Ben Burr-Kirven, iOL Nick Harris, QB Jake Browning, TE Drew Sample

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Deputy Editor of Bleeding Green Nation. Undergrad at UChicago.