The first #HeyJude mailbag of the Huskies' 2018 season is here. Beat writer Adam Jude answers your questions on UW's deep secondary, which freshmen receivers could play, the future at QB and more.
Welcome to the season’s first #HeyJude Husky mailbag, where I answer an array of reader questions from Twitter with my usual wit and charm (insert eye roll).
Thanks to those who submitted questions. To join the conversation next week, find me on Twitter (@A_Jude) with the #HeyJude hashtag. Emails are always welcome too: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to the questions …
Second-year sophomore cornerback Elijah Molden was one of the most consistent performers through the first five open practices (more on those early camp standouts in this week’s podcast), and he is pushing for an expanded role in the UW secondary. What exactly his role will be this season remains to be seen. I don’t foresee Molden, or anyone, unseating Myles Bryant at nickelback any time soon — Bryant, even at 5-feet-8 and 182 pounds, was one of the steadiest players on defense last season. Molden, 5-11 and 190, is versatile enough to play at outside corner or in the slot, and has usually been the No. 2 nickelback behind Bryant so far during camp. In the spring, Molden won the “Best Hands” trophy for having the most interceptions among the defensive backs, and he had three through the first handful of practices this week too — including two diving picks.
As of right now, one week into fall camp, it seems unlikely any of the three freshmen receivers will be on the field against Auburn. That’s not to say they won’t have a role at some point this season — the opportunity is there for someone to emerge — but playing on that stage against a top SEC defense is asking a lot of any true freshman in his first college football game. Of the three, Austin Osborne (6-2, 194, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) has stood out so far in camp, which makes sense given that he was the only freshman (other than the two quarterbacks) to graduate high school early and arrive in time for spring ball. Marquis Spiker (6-3, 191, Wildomar, Calif.), the California record-holder and most touted of the three new receivers, is long and lean, and he’s shown quality hands in individual drills but hasn’t gotten many reps yet during team periods. Trey Lowe looks bigger than the 5-8, 184 he’s listed at, and he could be a wildcard later this season. “Trey Lowe reminds me a lot of Aaron Fuller. He’s another savvy, beyond-his-years football player,” OC Bush Hamdan said the other day. “He’ll start (out) in the slot. He’s got great feel for inside the hashes. He’s a tough player and I think from a football standpoint has really done a nice job.”
That’s the (unofficial) plan — for Jacob Eason to start in 2019 and, if all goes well and he leaves early for the NFL, then Jake Haener, Jacob Sirmon, Colson Yankoff and Dylan Morris will compete for the job in 2020 (and beyond). Eason, sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules, is getting limited reps in camp (typically four throws during 7-on-7 and maybe one 11-on-11 series with the third- or fourth-string offense), but he obviously stands out given his size … and his sizable arm strength. Haener continues to solidify his role as the No. 2 QB this season and shouldn’t be completely dismissed in the 2019 competition. “Haener is another guy to root for because he comes out here every practice with his game on the line,” Hamdan said. “He’s done a great job decision-making-wise. Naturally, he’s a young guy that wants to be great, but you have to fight making mistakes sometimes. It’s part of the game. But extremely pleased with him. You know what we think of that guy.”
The depth at inside linebacker is a question mark. The good news there is junior DJ Beavers, out most of last fall and the spring, looks healthy again, and he should have a significant role on the defense behind seniors Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett. Junior Kyler Manu has been inside often with the No. 2 defense. One guy to watch for: freshman Jackson Sirmon. At 6-2 and 229 pounds, he looks the part of a lifelong middle linebacker, which — considering his genes — he almost certainly has been.
This isn’t a #HeyJude submission, but thought it was worth sharing. We hear a lot during the MLB season about how much the Mariners have to travel — almost 48,000 miles during the 2016 season, most in baseball— so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that another Seattle team will travel so much. The Huskies will cover a large chunk of those 12,000 miles for their season opener against Auburn in Atlanta (roughly 4,400 miles roundtrip in a chartered plane).