This natural break in the season offers a time for assessment.
My bottom line on these first five weeks of this Huskies season is that the 2-3 record is just about where most folks figured they'd be at this point, given the freshman quarterback and the tough schedules.
However, while the bottom line isn't much of a surprise, some of the ways these gotten there have been.
Here's my unit by unit grades, and as always, it would be interesting to hear your own take on either these grades of the season so far:
QUARTERBACK: Locker is an extraordinarily talented freshman, and in his first five games as a starter he has looked like both of those things: extraordinarily talented and a freshman. He has thrown into some areas he shouldn't have, and when he correctly identifies an open receiver he misses his target too often – usually high. However, Locker is so productive with his legs and remains such a threat with his strong arm that he changes every defense UW faces. That fulfills one of the highest compliments available to any athlete: He makes those around him better. Grade: B.
RUNNERS: That should almost be "runner" – singular – because despite repeatedly voiced plans to the contrary, UW coaches can't seem to bring themselves to hand the ball to anyone but Rankin. Despite four straight sub-50-yard performances, Rankin has carried 74 times and all other tailbacks a combined 12 times. Meanwhile, Rankin has shown flashes – as he always has – but still not enough consistency for the breakout season some had predicted. Grade: C-.
RECEIVERS: Washington has the lowest-rated passing offense in the Pacific-10 Conference. Some of that is due to poor passing, but the veteran receiver corps must share the blame. Among the most experienced units on the team, these receivers haven't gotten open often enough and have dropped far too many passes. With the top four pass-catchers all being seniors, they simply need to do more to support their inexperienced quarterback. Grade: D.
OFFENSIVE LINE: At times during fall camp, this rebuilding offense line projected as a potential disaster. Instead, this mix of experience and inexperience has meshed into something better than that. They have generally given Locker acceptable time to throw. However, they have not consistently opened holes for the running game. As the single most crucial unit to any offense, they must take their share of responsibility for UW having the league's lowest-rated total offense. But they should also share credit for the Huskies averaging about five points per game more than last season. Grade: C-.
DEFENSIVE LINE: With all four starters returning – including three seniors – this unit was counted on to make things easier on the reconfigured units behind them. So far – like the receivers – they haven't been quite that good. They have been acceptable pass rushers – tied for sixth in the conference in sacks. But they are the literal first line of defense against the rush, and Washington is allowing 186 rushing yards per game, next-to-last in the league. Grade: C-.
LINEBACKERS: This group is a mixture of experience and youth, and they've given indications that they could be solid with appropriate help in front and behind them. E.J. Savannah is the team's leading tackler by a wide margin. Donald Butler is fourth and has been coming on. Dan Howell is a leader and playmaker. There is fair depth, and the reserves have contributed when asked. Grade: C+.
SECONDARY: For a while, it seemed this unit was having success because they were facing inexperienced quarterbacks, or maybe because opponents were running on the Huskies so effectively that they didn't have to pass. But this deep into the season it might be time to concede that this group might be significantly more productive than some had feared. UW is third in the league in pass defense and fourth in pass efficiency defense and tied for fourth in interceptions. The secondary might have projected an even rosier future with the return of Byron Davenport at corner. However, the loss of safety Jason Wells (knee) is a significant blow. GRADE: B-.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Another preseason potential disaster area that has topped expectations with middle-of-the-road performance. Washington is sixth in the Pac-10 with a 38.7-yard net punting average. Ryan Perkins overcame a devastating knee injury to hit three of five field goal attempts. He is 3-of-3 from between 30-39 yards, however two blocks are a concern. Jared Ballman's kickoffs have been good enough to mitigate this season's deeper kickoff location. UW is second in the league in punt returns, but last in kickoff returns. Grade: C.
COACHING: The team has been outscored 35-21 in the third quarter, raising some question about halftime adjustments. And the unwillingness to give one of young backs a shot at carrying the ball indicates either coaching timidity or that the depth isn't as talented as had been billed. However, as mentioned at the top, the team's 2-3 record isn't significantly better or worse than what might have been expected. And that's the ultimate test of a coaching staff. Grade: C.