Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Washington

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, David Helman asked the questions in a Q&A with Mason Kelley of ESPN.com's HuskyNation, which covers Washington:

Q: Quarterback Keith Price is the name the majority of LSU fans will know going into this matchup. After losing running back Chris Polk, who steps up to help Price move the ball?

A: Replacing Polk is one of the key questions Washington is looking to address early in fall camp. The Huskies have options at the running back position in junior Jesse Callier, sophomore Bishop Sankey and Deontae Cooper, who is coming off knee injuries in back-to-back seasons.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian likes the talent he has in the backfield, and will gauge their performances in camp to see if someone emerges as a feature back. If not, Sarkisian has said he has no problem going with a running-back-by-committee system.

Even without Polk and the uncertainty surrounding the running back position, Price has weapons, most notably sophomores Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a tight end, and Kasen Williams, a receiver, who look to improve on productive freshmen campaigns.

Q: The Huskies finished with the nation's No. 106 defense in 2011, resulting in an overhaul of the defensive coaching staff. What is defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's plan for the defense, and does he have the talent to implement it in 2012?

A: After a strong spring under Wilcox, there are elevated expectations for Washington’s defense in 2012.

The Huskies plan to attack the quarterback and play physical in the secondary, while also doing a better job defending the ground game. Sarkisian said the players in the program have responded well to the changes Wilcox has made, but they are still learning the nuances of the system.

Washington’s defense has been young as a unit each of the last two seasons with true freshmen like linebacker John Timu being pressed into service early. The experience and maturity of players like Timu, safety Sean Parker and linebacker Josh Shirley, among others, will go a long way toward helping the Huskies’ defense turn the corner.

Q: Washington has made back-to-back bowl trips after going winless in 2008, and the Huskies are starting to make noise on a national level. Are the expectations beginning to rise under Sarkisian? Does it feel like the buzz of 1990's Washington football is starting to come back?

A: There is a cautious optimism among Husky fans that there is something special brewing in Seattle, and it has nothing to do with coffee or craft beer.

The buzz is back, but those who follow the program closely say Washington is a year away from really becoming a player, both in the Pac-12 and nationally.

As Sarkisian begins his fourth season as the Huskies’ coach, he said he is confident his program is “knocking on the door of doing something special.”

He thinks the Huskies are a top 25 program right now, but his expectation for the program is to take the next step and compete for championships.

The Huskies signed a top 25 recruiting class this year and are putting together another nationally ranked class in 2013, fueling the belief that they are on the verge of reeling off a run of success the program hasn’t enjoyed since the days of Don James.