Here’s one thing we know for sure:
The Washington Huskies like to throw to tight ends.
They did a whole lot of that in Saturday’s seventh practice of the spring, which took place in front of roughly 600 fans. Much of the work focused on red-zone scrimmage drills. Sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris threw a pair of short touchdowns to 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior Devin Culp, who had by far his most productive April practice. Morris also hit senior standout Cade Otton on back-to-back chunk plays, a 15-yard completion across the middle on third-and-long followed by a 13-yard gain on a tight-end screen.
Early enrollee quarterback Sam Huard got in on the action as well, throwing two touchdown passes to 245-pound sophomore Quentin Moore. The first came on a precise pass off a bootleg for a 10-yard score.
If we’re honest, the second touchdown should have been an interception instead.
After taking the snap, the 6-2, 190-pound Huard turned to his right and forced a pass into a crowd toward walk-on wide receiver Camden Verstrate. It was tipped high in the air, before falling into the waiting hands of Moore — who was not the intended target.
But karma came back around. On the practice’s final play, Morris attempted to squeeze a pass into Otton up the middle — but linebacker Jackson Sirmon intercepted it instead. The 6-3, 240-pounder sprinted giddily 80 yards in the other direction — before somersaulting triumphantly into the end zone (despite the fact that the play had already been blown dead). The rest of the UW defense followed as well.
Besides the tight ends’ busy day, here are some other observations from UW’s seventh practice of the spring.
After injuring his left ankle during Friday’s practice, UW junior outside linebacker and second-team All-American Zion Tupuola-Fetui did not attend Saturday’s proceedings. The severity of his injury is unclear.
UW’s other starting outside linebacker, senior Ryan Bowman, was also not seen at Saturday’s practice — though he was a full participant all week, which makes an injury unlikely. Without “ZTF” and Bowman, sophomore Bralen Trice and redshirt freshman Cooper McDonald got the first reps with the starters at outside linebacker, while senior transfer Jeremiah Martin and redshirt freshman Sav’ell Smalls worked in with the first team as well.
For the second consecutive practice, junior cornerback Trent McDuffie participated in individual drills but sat out the scrimmage sessions — allowing sophomore Mishael Powell to operate as a starting corner opposite Kyler Gordon. Redshirt freshman Elijah Jackson occasionally worked with the first team as well.
Like McDuffie, starting right tackle Victor Curne continues to sit out scrimmage drills after appearing to tweak something in Monday’s practice. In his place, junior Matteo Mele worked with the starters at right tackle.
Elsewhere on the injury front, tight end Mason West, offensive lineman Gaard Memmelaar and safety Alex Cook all sat out Saturday’s practice but were seen on the sideline.
Pass rush prowess
UW’s pass rush has looked lethal through seven practices, and that trend continued Saturday — even without Tupuola-Fetui and Bowman.
Tuli Letuligasenoa — a 6-2, 310-pound junior — has appeared unblockable at times, caving in the Husky offensive line en route to the quarterback. The 6-3, 255-pound Smalls also had his most impactful day, repeatedly winning with a speed rush and providing a physical punch at the point of attack. Though tackling the quarterback is certainly discouraged, Letuligasenoa and Smalls combined to swallow up Morris on one particular play for a sack.
At one point, a shaken Husky offense was called for three consecutive false starts, before Letuligasenoa busted up the middle to force a Morris throwaway and end the drive. Letuligasenoa then walked up and down the sideline, drinking water while talking trash.
Besides Letuligasenoa and Smalls, outside linebacker Cooper McDonald, inside linebacker M.J. Tafisi and nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles all picked up sacks. Junior Sam “Taki” Taimani lifted his massive arm to bat a Morris pass to the turf as well.
Running back rotations
UW running backs coach Keith Bhonapha appears content to cycle his tailbacks up and down the lineup throughout the Huskies’ 15 spring practices.
On Saturday, Cameron Davis, Kamari Pleasant and Richard Newton all took turns with the starters. Pleasant, McGrew, redshirt freshman Jay’Veon Sunday and true freshman Caleb Berry all scored short touchdowns during scrimmage drills.
- In a wide-receiver room that has sometimes struggled with drops in recent seasons, redshirt freshman Sawyer Racanelli continues to pile up impressive catches (albeit with the second team). Graduate student quarterback Patrick O’Brien found Racanelli across the middle for a 25-yard gain on third-and-15.
- There should be little concern about junior Kyler Gordon’s readiness to contribute at cornerback. The uber-athletic 190-pounder had another impressive practice, leaping to break up a deep shot from Morris to wide receiver Rome Odunze and later fighting through a block to corral Odunze on a jet sweep for a tackle for loss.
- UW continues to try out different combinations for its open secondary spots. Dominique Hampton, Cameron Williams, Julius Irvin and Asa Turner all got starting looks at safety, while Kamren Fabiculanan and Brendan Radley-Hiles alternated with the first team at nickel.
- To begin scrimmage drills, UW rolled out an offense with three tight ends that featured Otton, Culp and Moore simultaneously.
- UW’s punt returner was Odunze, while running backs Cameron Davis, Sean McGrew and Richard Newton all practiced kick returns.
- In the kicking game, senior Peyton Henry converted a 47-yard field-goal try, while Tim Horn missed a 42-yarder. Horn sent two consecutive kickoffs out of bounds for penalties as well.