PLAYERS TO WATCH: Washington
October 7, 2013
While the Huskies have been slowly working their way towards the upper echelon of the Pac-12 conference under head coach Steve Sarkisian, they have also upgraded their talent on both sides of the football.
This once proud program has fared better over the last few seasons on the heel of some very good skill players.
Today, Duck Sports Authority takes a look at a player from each side of the ball to keep an eye on this Saturday.
WR Kevin Smith
Most recruiting fans know all about Jaydon Mickens and even Kasen Williams. Keith Price and Bishop Sankey? Their successes have also been well documented.
There is another player, though, who has stepped up to be an integral part of the new and improved Husky offense; Kevin Smith.
Smith was not entirely unknown in the recruiting world. He was a four-star rated player in the class of 2010 out of Compton.
He escaped attention of many, though, because he entered as a player whose position was not yet known.
Smith was set as a wide receiver for Sarkisian and had begun to make an impact in 2011 as the teams primary kick returner as well as at the receiver position. After catching 15 passes for 208 yards as a sophomore, bigger expectations were supposed to accompany him for the 2012 season.
Unfortunately for Smith, he was injured in bowl practices leading up to the Alamo Bowl against Baylor. Though he had rehabilitated himself in time for Spring practices, he had very little impact last season catching just 6 passes for 68 yards.
This year, as a senior, he has stepped his game up, though. Smith leads the team in receiving yards (367) and yards per catch (17.5). He is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions (2) and tied for second in total receptions with 21 through five games.
Smith has enough speed to get by defensive backs and has very good size. If the Duck defensive backs think that they can focus on just one or two receivers, they will have a difficult day Saturday.
So while the commentators and recruitniks talk about guys like John Ross, Jaydon Mickens and Kasen Williams, keep an eye out for Kevin Smith.
DE Hau'oli Kikaha
Kikaha, formerly known as Hau'oli Jamora, legally changed his name in the off season to honor his mother.
Kikaha's story this season is one of resilience. After playing extensively as a true freshman in 2010 including starts in the last seven games of the season, Kikaha missed the last eight games of 2011 and all of 2012 to separate knee injuries.
While many find it difficult to come back from such a long absence and be effective, Kikaha is playing the exception to the rule.
Kikaha, in a position where speed, leverage and strength all come into play, has played with the type of abandon that makes a good pass rushing defensive end.
The former three star recruit from Hawaii, who has added over 20 pounds to his frame since arriving in Seattle, has notched 20 total tackles through the first five games for Washington.
More importantly for an improving defensive unit, Kikaha is the teams leading pass rusher with 3.5 sacks as part of his 4.5 tackles for loss on the season.
He is considered an emotional leader and one of the teams most under rated defenders.
While everyone marvels at the athleticism of Shaq Thompson or Danny Shelton's massive frame, look out for number 8 on defense sa he could be their difference maker pressuring Mariota and the potent Duck offense.