UW spring practices begin Monday morning at Husky Stadium.
The Huskies arrived among the college football elite last fall, winning the Pac-12 championship and making their first national playoff appearance. They insist that success didn’t affect their approach to winter workouts.
“We definitely don’t think we’ve arrived,” senior center Coleman Shelton said earlier this month. “We’re just focusing on having the best workout we’ve ever had, so that’s just our biggest thing. Last year happened, but we’ve got to get over that and focus on the next year. It just goes day by day and getting better, as good as we can.”
Such is the mindset as the Huskies approach the start of spring practices Monday morning at Husky Stadium, the first of 15 workouts leading up to the April 22 spring preview.
Here are five questions for the Huskies this spring:
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1. Who emerges in the new-look secondary?
With the likes of junior Jordan Miller and sophomore Austin Joyner, the Huskies have some experienced options in the defensive secondary in line to fill the enormous void left by Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King. Following in those stars’ footsteps will be an unenviable task, but it doesn’t feel like an entirely impossible one with the way the Huskies have recruited at cornerback. Redshirt freshmen Byron Murphy (5-11, 177), Isaiah Gilchrist (5-10, 201) and Kentrell Love (6-1, 182) will have their opportunities to impress this spring, before touted freshmen corners Elijah Molden (5-10, 181) and Keith Taylor (6-3, 189) arrive this summer.
2. Can Daniel Bridge-Gadd push for the No. 2 QB job?
During fall camp last August, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Tony Rodriguez were locked in a close competition for the No. 2 quarterback job behind Jake Browning. After redshirting last fall, Daniel Bridge-Gadd will get the chance to push Carta-Samuels and Rodriguez over the next few weeks. (All three will get extra snaps while coaches limit throws for Browning, who had shoulder surgery in January.) This could be Bridge-Gadd’s best opportunity to prove himself. Incoming freshman Jake Haener is scheduled to arrive this summer, and the Huskies already have two heralded 2018 QBs — Bothell’s Jacob Sirmon and Coeur d’Alene’s Colson Yankoff — who plan to arrive on campus in January.
3. Are there other redshirt freshmen ready to contribute?
The curious case of Sean McGrew will be among the main storylines of the spring. McGrew was the California state player of the year in 2015 and is among the fastest players on the UW roster, but at 5-feet-7, 177 pounds it’s fair to wonder how — and where — he fits into the Huskies’ plans this year. The Huskies already have a strong tandem of running backs with Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, and Chico McClatcher established himself as the versatile slot receiver last fall. McGrew could push for carries as the No. 3 back, along with fellow redshirt freshman Kamari Pleasant (6-0, 191).
Other intriguing redshirt freshmen: Outside linebackers Amandre Williams and Camilo Eifler; defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike; and offensive tackle Luke Wattenberg.
Ty Jones, a 6-foot-4 receiver from Provo, Utah, is the one confirmed freshman who graduate high school early and will join the team for spring practices. He immediately jumps into the mix to replace All-American John Ross III.
4. Who are the new guards?
The Huskies return three starting offensive linemen with Shelton at center, Trey Adams at left tackle and Kaleb McGary at right tackle. The big questions are at the two guard spots. At left guard, the Huskies must replace Jake Eldrenkamp, who was a first-team all-Pac-12 pick as a senior left guard last season. Right guard was a revolving door last fall, and senior Andrew Kirkland (five starts in ’16) and sophomore Nick Harris (four starts) have the most experience coming back. Juniors Jesse Sosebee, Matt James and John Turner should all be in the mix, too.
5. Who is the new kicker?
Cameron Van Winkle was as steady as they come. As a senior last fall, he handled every field-goal attempt and point-after try, and finished his career with 327 points scored, the third-highest total in program history. Senior Tristan Vizcaino, the punter and kickoff specialist last year, is first in line to replace Van Winkle. Redshirt freshman Van Soderberg will challenge, with Australian Joel Whitford a candidate to take over as the primary punter.