The Huskies do have a ton of playmakers on both sides of the ball, but let’s focus on five who hope to make a huge impact on Saturday in Tucson.
Jake Browning, QB (#3)
Browning has shown incredible growth from last year to this year. Last year he had true freshman nerves that were personified by errant throws, looking uncomfortable in the pocket, panicking under pressure at times, and holding onto the ball too long. However, as the year progressed, so did Browning. This year, most of those mistakes are non-existent and the growth and experience from last year has come to fruition.
He looks a lot more comfortable and composed than last year and can now escape pressure a little more easily due to improved footwork inside the pocket. His timing and throws are better and more accurate as well. He has also improved with not holding onto the ball too long (sometimes he still does but not as often). Through three games, Browning has gone 53-for-74 for 744 yards, 12 touchdowns and an interception.
Myles Gaskin, RB (#9)
Gaskin is, quite honestly, a beast. As a true freshman last year, he had 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns on 227 carries, becoming the first freshman in Washington history to rush for over 1,000 yards. That is impressive, but what is most impressive was how he ran the ball. He was extremely patient, allowing his blockers to create a lane for him and then would violently explode through the hole. His performance gained him All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors for 2015.
This year he hasn’t quite put up those same numbers, but he continues to show that patience. That shows a maturity beyond his years and it’s only going to get better. So far this year he has 40 carries for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He also has five catches for 27 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. Of course, Washington has been blowing people out.
Chico McClatcher, WR (#6)
McClatcher is a fast, shifty slot receiver for the Huskies. Last year he didn’t make much noise, racking up only 231 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. And that’s not that surprising. As a true freshman, McClatcher spent the year learning the offensive system that the Huskies run. 2016 has been different.
McClatcher has exploded onto the scene this year. He has more confidence and his play-making ability is evident on the field. He is Washington’s leading receiver, snagging 10 catches for 197 yards and four scores. He is not bad at running the ball as well having 59 yards on five carries.
Vita Vea, DL (#50)
Vea is a monster along the defensive line. Checking in at 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, he is quite the load to handle for offensive linemen. The former running back (yep, that’s right, running back) is quick to shed blocks and is incredibly strong. Last week against Portland State he pushed an offensive lineman 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage attempting to sack the quarterback.
He could be a problem for Arizona’s offensive line if their communication isn’t perfect. So far this year he has 12 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks.
Budda Baker, DB (#32)
Baker is Washington’s big-time playmaker in their defensive backfield, possibly in the whole defense. He makes really great reads on the ball when thrown and flies up to stop run plays effectively. Last year he had 49 tackles, 1.5 TFL, nine PBU, and two interceptions, earning him First-Team All-Pac-12 honors.
In 2016, he has still shown those great instincts, and teams are noticing. One example: Washington occasionally puts Baker in on offense and you can see the entire defense take notice. The Huskies will send Baker in motion, shifting the entire defense as they make sure he is accounted for. This opens up wider throwing lanes for Browning, which in turn leads to first downs and/or touchdowns. Baker has tallied 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, and a forced fumble through three games this year.