WASHINGTON HUSKIES Head coach: Tyrone Willingham Last season: 4-9 overall, 2-7 in the Pac-10. Spring practice: April 3-April 26. Spring game is April 26.
Washington is coming off a 4-9 season in which the defense was atrocious. There's hope for this season as long as quarterback Jake Locker is on campus. Locker will be available in the spring before he spends the summer playing baseball with the nearby Bellingham Bells. Most of the focus this spring will be on improving the defense.
Washington head coach Ty Willingham returns 14 starters from last year's team.
Locker and departed senior tailback Louis Rankin ran for a combined 2,280 yards and 19 touchdowns behind an offensive line that returns four starters. Garcia and Ossai will be third-year starters. Quarterback will be a strength as long as Locker is at Washington.
HELP IS NEEDED
Start with the entire defense. The Huskies' defense was one of the worst in the country last season, finishing last in the Pac-10 in rush defense, total defense and pass efficiency. NFL assistant Ed Donatell was hired to revamp the unit. Six of the top seven tacklers return, which may not necessarily be good news. Three-fourths of the line will be new starters.
KEEP AN EYE ON
LB Mason Foster: After starting four games last season as a true freshman, Foster could regain his starting spot as Donatell tries to find answers on the defense.
RB Brandon Johnson: Johnson will compete for the starting tailback job, and the sophomore may have a leg up after rushing for 121 yards and three touchdowns against Cal. It was the only time last year he had more than five carries.
WR Chris Polk: The true freshman enrolled early, and though he has yet to see the practice field, he is listed as a starter on the pre-spring depth chart. No pressure here.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Te'o-Nesheim was the team's defensive MVP last season for a unit that struggled mightily. As the only returning starter on the line, more will be put on the shoulders of Te'o-Nesheim, who had 15 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks last season. He needs to provide those types of numbers again, as well as take on a big leadership role.
The Huskies have some potential on offense, and it would help if Locker becomes a more accurate passer. The defense figures to be revamped under Donatell, who needs to – first and foremost – rebuild the line.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.