Washington’s Vita Vea (50) looks down after sacking Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano in the first half of a game Sept. 3, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington’s Vita Vea (50) looks down after sacking Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano in the first half of a game Sept. 3, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Huskies look at revamped Rutgers offense as big ‘unknown’

By Todd Milles

The News Tribune

Last season, the University of Washington was on a football field for nearly five consecutive months, with the final 18 weeks preparing for 14 games.

Total, the Huskies were part of 1,900 plays from scrimmage.

So when asked this week what he remembered about the Huskies’ first opponent nearly a year ago — out-manned Rutgers — UW linebacker Keishawn Bierria’s recollection came in bits and pieces.

“It was a long season last year,” Bierria said.

That might be a blessing in disguise come Friday as the two teams meet again in this season’s opener, this time at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Last season, the Rutgers offense was a plodding mess, finishing last out of 128 FBS schools in total offense (283.5 yards per game). It scored 19 touchdowns in 12 games, a big factor in why they finished 2-10.

During the offseason, the Scarlet Knights hired a new offensive coordinator (Jerry Kill), running backs coach (Lester Erb) and saw a couple of key offensive players transfer in.

The one that has created the biggest buzz is quarterback Kyle Bolin, who was replaced last season at Louisville by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

“Louisville always has quarterbacks — (coach) Bobby Petrino and those guys know what they are doing there,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “We’ve seen the tape. This guy can play … and (Rutgers coaches) wouldn’t be playing him if they didn’t think he made them better.”

Bierria, too, has been impressed by what he has seen of Bolin on tape.

“He has a good arm, and is very athletic,” Bierria said. “I expect them to hit on some stuff. I expect a lot of adversity going into the game. But we account for that.”

As far as how much Bolin will throw, or what type of offense exactly will the Scarlet Knights will run — nobody around Montlake seems entirely certain.

“It’s an unknown. You have an idea, but at the end of the day, guys have to have their eyes right, do their job and follow their rules,” Huskies co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “We’ve got to adjust as coaches as the game evolves.”

If Kill’s history is any indicator, expect a heavy emphasis on the run game.

In his last coaching stint — nearly five seasons as the head coach at Minnesota before stepping down midway through 2015 because of health issues — Kill called nearly twice as many run plays as pass plays.

In Kill’s first season in 2011, his Golden Gophers averaged 39.2 rushing attempts per game. By his fourth year, it had increased to 46.1.

And Rutgers has three running backs who have averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry in their career — returning starter Robert Martin, Miami transfer Gus Edwards and Josh Hicks.

“They had a whole year to improve,” UW defensive tackle Vita Vea said. “They are definitely way better.”

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