Cade Otton is out to “win everything.”
Granted, in 2020, there may be considerably less to win. UW’s fall football season has shrunk from 12 to seven games, and it’s unclear whether a 7-0 Pac-12 champion would even earn College Football Playoff consideration. The Huskies could conceivably go undefeated, while winning each game convincingly, and be effectively ignored anyway.
But don’t tell any of that to UW’s 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior tight end.
(And if you do, don’t bank on Otton concurring.)
“Personally, I want to take a step in every facet of my game,” Otton said in a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday. “It’s run blocking. It’s pass blocking. It’s making plays down the field and being a leader for my team. I think this can be a really big year for us. Even with the limited amount of games, we have a shot to win everything. I’m so excited to get a chance with my brothers.”
That chance was officially granted last week, when the Pac-12 reversed course and announced a seven-game conference-only season set to start on the weekend of Nov. 6. The Huskies returned to practice on Tuesday.
As for his “brothers,” Otton isn’t referring to his actual brother — four-star 2022 Tumwater High School tight end and Washington target Ryan Otton. But even without Hunter Bryant — who piled up 52 catches, 825 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season, before declaring as a true junior for the NFL draft — UW has plenty left at the position.
Otton started all 13 games last season and contributed 32 catches, 344 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while proving a reliable run-blocker as well. He’ll be joined by senior Jacob Kizer, redshirt sophomore Devin Culp and true freshmen Mark Redman, Jack Yary and Mason West in the Husky tight ends room this fall.
Of that group, Otton is the proven commodity. From a frame and skill-set standpoint, he resembles recent UW draftees Drew Sample (2019) and Will Dissly (2018). And without Bryant to attract targets, Otton — with dependable hands and a destructive running style — is due for a breakout (though abbreviated) offensive season.
But in first-year offensive coordinator John Donovan’s pro-style scheme, he also won’t be able to do it all alone.
“I think (the tight ends’ role and usage) will be pretty similar to what we’ve done in years past,” Otton said. “And obviously there’s going to be some different things. (Donovan’s) got kind of a new style, but tight ends are heavily involved. And so we have a really good room, some really good players in the tight end room who are going to make a big impact on the team.”
And Redman, Yary and West aren’t the only newcomers at that particular position. First-year UW tight ends coach Derham Cato — who served as a UW offensive analyst for the last four seasons — will also have an opportunity to prove himself this fall.
So far, he has made a positive impression.
“With coach Cato, it’s been an awesome time having him as our coach so far,” Otton said. “Obviously he was with the program so far, and I was able to interact with him quite a bit before he was our tight-ends coach. Now that he’s our coach obviously I spend a lot more time with him. He’s incredibly smart, works really hard and knows how to motivate us to work hard ourselves. So it’s been an awesome start.”
But the challenge, of course, will be to finish — to “win everything.” Even without fans in attendance or non-conference games. Even with a first-time starting quarterback, a first-year head coach, a first-year tight ends coach and a first-year offensive coordinator. Even in 2020.
Don’t tell Otton about the odds. And if you do, fair warning: you’ll receive the same answer.
“We practice every day without a crowd, and we bring a lot of energy. We get each other going,” the Tumwater product said, when asked about the challenge of playing games without fans. “I don’t see that being any different on game day. Even more so, I think we’ll bring more energy. We’re all super excited to get going, play some games and make a run at winning everything.”