Kalen DeBoer’s post-practice news conference on Friday was delayed.
Thanks, in part, to Randy Hart.
Hart — who coached UW’s defensive linemen for two decades, from 1988 to 2008 — addressed the Huskies after their fifth practice of the spring, continuing a trend of Husky homecomings.
“He had a great message. I wasn’t cutting him off,” DeBoer joked afterward. “He was dropping a lot of knowledge.”
That’s been an ongoing theme this offseason, as Hart, Dante Pettis, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Jermaine Kearse, Drew Sample, Stanley Daniels II, Alameda Ta’amu, Jordan Reffett and more have made Montlake cameos since DeBoer arrived in late November. Former UW defensive tackle and Super Bowl champion Danny Shelton also stopped by Friday, while departing corner Trent McDuffie attended his second consecutive practice.
But while DeBoer appreciates the ongoing parade of Husky history, a few visits have been particularly impressive.
“The one that sticks out in my mind is (Cincinnati Bengals tight end) Drew Sample, and the reason is because he played on a Sunday in the Super Bowl, and he was back out here and in our office by Thursday morning,” DeBoer said. “There’s been other guys that have gone over the top to make sure they see us. Dante Pettis has been around while taking some classes in the winter. It was really cool to have him around at all the winter workouts in particular.”
The overarching goal, of course, is to immerse UW’s players and coaches with people who know what it takes to win at Washington.
On that subject, Hart’s expertise is virtually unmatched.
“There’s so many experiences and so many lessons that the coaches, former players, you name it, have gone through that our program can share,” DeBoer said. “Obviously he was here over 20 years. What I really love is when that message aligns with what we preach every single day. So he nailed it for us and hit a lot of those things right on the head. It was perfect.”
Assessing the quarterbacks
Believe it or not, DeBoer has yet to name a starting quarterback.
Junior Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr., sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard continue to take equal reps with the starters, and DeBoer said that’ll continue to be the case through the team’s scrimmage next Friday. He added that “we want to be able to work to where those guys have a fair shake and have a good chance of running each concept a certain number of times.”
Of course, Penix is plenty familiar with the concepts already — having completed a program-record 68.8% of his passes with 1,394 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions in DeBoer’s lone season as IU’s offensive coordinator in 2019.
Still, Morris and Huard don’t seem far behind.
“I think they’re all kind of where we expected,” he said. “It’s more familiar to Mike, so I think he doesn’t second-guess what the call is. But I think Dylan and Sam have done an awesome job. I think the preparation they had going into spring ball is really showing and I think they’re doing a really nice job as well.”
- Though he could not comment officially on the pending transfer additions of Virginia running back Wayne Taulapapa and Nebraska hybrid running back/wide receiver Will Nixon, DeBoer did address the need to add more bodies in the backfield (and at a few other spots). “We’re just short-handed there, so you need some running backs,” he said. “But those running backs, tight ends, linebackers, some of those positions are the ones where we maybe are a little short numbers-wise. I don’t mean it where we’re bringing in just depth guys. We need guys that can take a lot of snaps with those body types, because they’re important to the team success. Everybody just thinks offense and defense, but we need all the running backs, all the tight ends, all the linebackers and d-ends, we need all those guys playing on special teams as well. We’ve got to keep building every position group and make our roster stronger.”
- Speaking of the running back position, DeBoer announced that redshirt freshman Emeka Megwa will miss the spring, summer and possibly some of the fall with an existing injury. The 6-0, 213-pound running back and former four-star recruit reclassified to arrive at UW last fall and has yet to appear in a collegiate game. Fellow tailbacks Richard Newton and Cameron Davis are also out for the spring with injuries, though both are expected to return in time for fall camp.
- DeBoer has been impressed with his team’s demeanor through a third of the spring. “They come out there and they are ready to go. They’re excited. There’s good energy. There’s a want-to,” he said. “Now, wanting to doesn’t always win you football games. But I do think there’s a football IQ that’s stronger on our football team than maybe when I’ve first come into other places over the years. So that’s been very encouraging. There’s good balance, offense and defense, right now. I feel like there’s strengths that each side of the ball has and there’s things that we’ve got to continue to build depth and continue to work on.”
- After previously working with the starters at left tackle, sophomore offensive lineman Troy Fautanu shifted inside to left guard on Friday, swapping spots with fellow sophomore Nate Kalepo. DeBoer praised the 6-4, 307-pound Fautanu’s athleticism and versatility as they continue to tinker with various lineups.
- UW is still awaiting the result of the NCAA petition requesting sixth-year left tackle Jaxson Kirkland’s eligibility be reinstated, after he dropped out of the NFL draft to have right ankle surgery. A two-time All-Pac-12 performer, Kirkland is enrolled in classes and has attended each of UW’s five spring practices with a boot on his foot.
- UW announced Friday that, along with the spring game April 30, the Huskies practice at 11 a.m. on April 23 will also be open to the public.