Sitting here watching the Washington Huskies play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and three names keeping popping up a play here and a play there: WR James Johnson, DE Talia Crichton and DB Desmond Trufant. All three are true freshmen, both defenders are starting and contributing significantly while James Johnson has just made a big catch. Johnson has 20 catches on the year for 242 yards and two scores. Johnson is the Huskies second leading scorer and the leading wide receiver on the team as a true freshman. Johnson had an offer from Colorado and visited Boulder the weekend of the Texas game a year ago, one year ago today in fact. Colorado was once a favorite for his signature.
One problem is the Buffs along with Oregon wanted him to play defensive back or be an athlete coming into college. Johnson wanted to play wide receiver and when coach Steve Sarkisian took the job at Washington, one of this first calls was to Johnson telling him he could play wide receiver for him. Against LSU in his first collegiate game, Johnson caught six balls for 63 yards and a score. In fact his first reception was a touchdown and the first score of the Steve Sarkisian era. Imagine a freshman wide receiver capable of picking up the offense especially that of Steve Sarkisian who coached one of the more prolific offenses in history at Southern Cal. Against USC, Johnson caught seven for 72 yards. Not a bad first four games for the freshman.
DE Talia Crichton, who gained interest from Colorado but never received an offer from the Buffs for some reason, has showed very well today. He has been active and it is easy to tell that he has playmaking ability. He is playing for Nick Holt, former USC defensive coordinator who came to Washington with coach Steve Sarkisian. Holt is one of the most intense coaches and known as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.
DB Desmond Trufant, brother of Seattle Seahawks defensive back Marcus Trufant, has stolen the show on the defensive side of the ball for Washington. Just a true freshman, he has held his own when he has been matched up with potential All American receiver Golden Tate. He has scored a defensive touchdown, had a few knockdowns here and there as well as made a couple of tackles. He had seven tackles coming into the Notre Dame game. The biggest play Trufant made was chasing down Tate after a 60+ yard pass play that saved a touchdown and forced Notre Dame to kick a field goal. The announcers said Trufant's speed was one of the reasons he is on the field. Trufant was talking about the Buffs during his recruitment and had an offer from Colorado.
The announcers of the game said they asked Washington coach Steve Sarkisian about the true freshmen they are playing and Sarkisian said something to the effect that they are our some of our best playmakers at their position and they need to be on the field. They expect a guy like Desmond Trufant to be all PAC 10 soon enough. Finally the announcers alluded to the fact that they are coaching these freshmen every play so they are ready because they give them the best chance to win. And guess what, they have all been in a position to make plays.
All of these players for Washington are three stars, none of them big time recruits but good playmakers. A lot has been made about the lack of playing time for our young guys because the playbook has been too hard to pick up and it changes every week or a lot of our offense and defense is making in-game reads.
Washington finished 0 - 12 last year. They have won more games than the Buffs this year and are possibly going to upset Notre Dame on the road. There offense isn't too hard for a freshman to pick up in James Johnson, a player who the Buffs were very much in the running for. This defense coached by one of the better defensive coordinators in the game isn't too "player package" or "detailed" for two true freshmen to contribute in. Right now, who wouldn't take a few growing pains with a few young playmakers playing, a win against USC (two total wins overall) and very close losses to LSU and Notre Dame?
Moral of the story, your playmakers need to play. It is working for Washington under a brand new coach. It is working with former Buff recruits and visitors.