Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan were Washington’s starting wide receivers throughout much of the offseason.
None played against Montana in the Huskies’ season opener Saturday.
McMillan’s absence was expected, after the second-year freshman suffered a hand injury midway through fall camp. But Bynum and Odunze — two of the team’s most consistent fall-camp performers — were listed as starters on UW’s depth chart on Monday. In their place, Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk, Michigan transfer Giles Jackson and redshirt freshman Taj Davis (who opted out of the 2020 season) were announced as Washington’s starting wide receivers before Saturday’s game. However, Polk also left the game in the first quarter with an apparent injury.
It’s UW head coach Jimmy Lake’s policy not to comment on player injuries. However, when asked about the absence of his quartet of wide receivers, Lake said after the 13-7 loss that “I’ll talk about any possible injuries on Monday.
Of the unexpected wide receiver starters, none had caught a pass at Washington entering Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Polk registered 28 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games as a true freshman at Texas Tech last fall.
“He’s just a great kid to be around with a lot of positive energy and he makes a lot of plays, and I love him,” UW offensive coordinator John Donovan said of Polk this week. “He’s awesome.”
Jackson — a 5-9, 185-pound speedster — caught 24 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in two seasons at Michigan, while adding a rushing score and two return touchdowns.
Davis redshirted in 2019 and opted out in 2020, but impressed this offseason — posting 13 catches and nearly 300 receiving yards in UW’s Fan Fest scrimmage last month.
UW’s only other scholarship wide receivers are second-year freshman Sawyer Racanelli and true freshman Jabez Tinae. Needless to say, extended absences for Bynum and Odunze are potentially concerning as the Huskies have a nonconference clash at Michigan next Saturday.
“They’re still learning and they’re still growing, and their ceiling’s very high,” Donovan said of UW’s wide receivers last month. “They’re still at the early stages. Hopefully sooner than later, eventually I think they’re going to make a hell of a lot of plays around here. We look forward to seeing them.”
UW fans didn’t see Bynum, Odunze or McMillan on Saturday.
New Husky starters
If you’ve heard Lake speak for 60 seconds at any point in his seven-plus seasons in Seattle, chances are he called himself an “equal opportunity employer.”
While that’s technically untrue — the NCAA’s entire existence hinges on the arguable assertion that athletes are, by definition, not employees — his point is that Washington’s best players will play.
Regardless of age, or experience, or size, or scholarship status.
Don’t believe him? Consider the case of redshirt freshman offensive lineman Julius Buelow, who surpassed incumbent left guard Ulumoo Ale in fall camp to make his first career start against Montana on Saturday.
“He brings that physicality factor,” All-Pac-12 left tackle Jaxson Kirkland said of the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Buelow. “It’s hard to teach for a lot of people. He’s not afraid to get in between the center and tackle and really mix it up with some guys and get after some dudes. As an offensive line, we love that and we pride ourselves on being really physical. So he brings that physicality factor and that kind of moxie that you want for the O-line.”
Added second-year offensive coordinator John Donovan: “He improved a lot since the spring until fall camp, so I’m excited for him. And now it’s time to see if he can do it for real, and go from there. Because you earn the right to get that position and you’ve got to earn the right to keep it, too. So that’s just the deal each and every week.”
But Buelow is far from the only first-time starter for Washington this weekend. Besides the wide receivers, that list also includes second-year freshman outside linebacker Cooper McDonald and defensive backs Julius Irvin, Kamren Fabiculanan and Brendan Radley-Hiles (though the latter was a three-year starter at Oklahoma).
While Radley-Hiles apparently bested Fabiculanan in camp for the starting nickelback spot, the 6-1, 190-pound redshirt freshman slid back to safety instead.
Which, considering his knowledge of the defense, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“He’s definitely someone who knows this defense inside and out,” sophomore cornerback Trent McDuffie said of Fabiculanan. “I feel like he’s one of those guys that I almost compete with, like, ‘OK, do I know this coverage better than Kam Fab?’ Because he’s a hard worker. He’s up watching film hour after hour after hour, and he’s someone that we can just trust on the defense that when he’s out there, I know for a fact that he knows what he’s doing.
“Since spring and fall camp, he’s been making plays every single day, and coaches like to reward that. So I think he’s going to be really good for us.”
Former Montana commit Sirmon makes UW debut
This was always going to be Camden Sirmon’s first college football game.
Last year, Sirmon — the cousin of current UW linebacker Jackson Sirmon and former Husky quarterback Jacob Sirmon — moved from Wenatchee to Missoula, Montana, to salvage his senior football season after high-school football in Washington was postponed. He settled at Sentinel High School, and led the Spartans to an undefeated 10-0 record and a Class AA state title — earning Montana State AA Offensive MVP honors along the way.
Sirmon played so well, in fact, that he earned a scholarship offer and committed to the University of Montana. But when the NCAA extended scholarship limits to seniors for an extra season in 2021, the Griz no longer had the money to offer a scholarship to Camden — making him, essentially, a preferred walk-on.
So when Washington showed interest, Sirmon jumped at the opportunity to accept a preferred walk-on offer for his home state school.
While he’s technically UW’s No. 4 quarterback, Sirmon has found ways to contribute this spring and summer.
“He’s a player that’s very athletic, for one. Very athletic,” Lake said. “He can probably play multiple positions, does have a live arm. He’s another guy I just love because he’s such a hard worker.
“We call them bricklayers. He’s a bricklayer, a guy who works his tail off and when he gets his opportunity he goes in there and makes plays. This guy is a freshman that’s out there throwing it to who he’s supposed to. He pulls the ball and runs the ball. Our defense can’t catch him. He’s definitely an added addition to our program and we want to keep adding tough, physical, hardworking players on campus.”