Inside Husky Stadium on Wednesday, Rome Odunze emerged.
The redshirt freshman wide receiver made a steady stream of plays in UW’s fifth football practice of the spring, the highlight being a pair of deep connections from freshman quarterback Sam Huard where he was forced out of bounds just outside the end zone. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris also repeatedly found the 6-foot-3, 200-pound wideout on deep crosses during scrimmage drills with the starting offense.
The only blemish in an otherwise dominant display came on a fluttering deep pass from Huard that should have gone for a relatively routine 40-yard touchdown. Instead, Odunze dropped the pass all alone in the end zone.
In some ways, that has been the story for Washington’s wide receivers — who have turned in highlight catches as well as a smattering of untimely drops. Senior Terrell Bynum and redshirt freshman Jalen McMillan both dropped multiple passes Wednesday but also piled up their most production of any practice this spring. Sophomore Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk notably hauled in severable tight-window passes, earning praise after practice from UW coach Jimmy Lake.
On the whole, this was the most explosive and efficient UW’s offense has looked in April — and Morris led the way. The redshirt sophomore was accurate and decisive Wednesday, notably taking UW down the field for a touchdown on the final drive of the day. That drive included an impressive leaping catch by senior tight end Cade Otton, who persevered through tight coverage by inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio.
Redshirt freshman tight end Mark Redman — who has turned heads with soft hands and an enormous 6-6, 250-pound frame — also contributed a sliding catch to extend the drive, before Richard Newton capped it with a physical, 2-yard touchdown run up the gut.
Huard also turned in his most accurate practice, particularly on deep strikes. The outlier was an interception to junior safety Cameron Williams, who jumped a deep crossing route intended for McMillan.
In fact, each Husky quarterback served up an interception Wednesday. In a scrimmage drill, Morris threw an accurate pass on a slant to Bynum that was tipped into the air in tight coverage — allowing redshirt freshman safety Jacobe Covington to swoop in for the easy pick. And in a 7-on-7 drill, redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala leapt at the line of scrimmage to pick a Patrick O’Brien pass out of the air with an extremely athletic play.
Here are some other observations from Wednesday’s practice.
Oklahoma defensive back transfer Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles turned in another impressive performance, splitting time with Kamren Fabiculanan as the starting nickelback while occasionally sliding back to safety — alongside junior Dominique Hampton. Radley-Hiles sacked Huard on a blitz, then batted a pass intended for Odunze to the turf on the next play.
Though Radley-Hiles was stationed at nickel, the starting safeties were Hampton and junior Cameron Williams.
Senior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman, junior safety Julius Irvin and sophomore linebacker Daniel Heimuli all contributed sacks. Plus, in a blitz-pickup drill where running backs are tasked with blocking a blitzing linebacker, Ulofoshio essentially trucked Newton en route to the QB — losing his helmet in the process.
And, as has been the case in the past few practices, redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Bralen Trice was added to the starting lineup as an extra rusher on passing downs.
Offensive line substitutions
Junior Victor Curne — who appeared to tweak something Monday but continued to play — attended Wednesday’s practice but did not participate in scrimmage drills, which allowed junior Matteo Mele and redshirt freshman Roger Rosengarten to play with the starters at right tackle. It’s worth noting that the 6-6, 275-pound Rosengarten has otherwise played with the third team this spring and received starting reps only when Mele was simultaneously playing with the second team on the opposite end of the field.
More intriguing, Ulumoo “M.J.” Ale — the returning starter at left guard — scrimmaged with the second team Wednesday, and sophomore Nate Kalepo played with the starting unit. That’s worth watching moving forward.
- Seniors Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew were the primary starters at running back, though Newton received reps with the first team during scrimmage drills late in practice.
- Senior kicker Peyton Henry converted his only short field-goal attempt of the day, capping a drive by Huard and the No. 3 offense.
- Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Gaard Memmelaar did not practice, but he did watch from the sideline.