Washington is 16 days from its season opener, but 11 days from the hors d’oeuvre …
A depth chart reveal!
So, as UW approaches Kalen DeBoer’s debut against Kent State on Sept. 3, let’s take a crack at projecting the two-deep depth chart — starting with Washington’s offense.
Michael Penix Jr., jr., 6-3, 213, Tampa, Fla. (Indiana)
Dylan Morris, soph., 6-0, 197, Puyallup
Sam Huard, rs. fr., 6-2, 193, Bellevue
Analysis: “We’re getting close,” UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said Wednesday, referring to the conclusion of his quarterback competition.
At the same time, he divulged that the three competing quarterbacks — junior Michael Penix Jr., sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard — each took reps with both the first and second teams in Wednesday’s practice.
“It’s still three guys,” he said. “So it’s still going well. They’re battling, and every time you think one guy is letting up he comes back and puts the hammer down and has a really impressive day. So I think they’ve been responding well to it.”
All three have differing strengths — Penix’s veteran savvy and understanding of the offense, Morris’ work ethic and leadership traits, and Huard’s picturesque deep ball, to name a few. They also have differing weaknesses. But I feel like the elder statesman will ultimately win out.
We should know if I’m right or wrong in the next seven to 10 days.
Wayne Taulapapa, grad student, 5-11, 207, Honolulu (Virginia)
Will Nixon, rs. fr., 5-11, 192, Waco, Texas (Nebraska) OR
Sam Adams II, rs. fr., 6-2, 198, Kirkland OR
Cameron Davis, soph., 6-0, 208, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Analysis: Grubb made it clear Wednesday that Taulapapa — a sixth-year senior and former captain at Virginia — is currently positioned as the Huskies’ feature back.
“We tell our guys, ‘We want smart, tough and physical,’ and I think Wayne might be the best embodiment of that on our football team,” Grubb said.
More intrigue surrounds the rest of the two-deeps at running back. Sophomore Cameron Davis could have secured a contributing role, but he has been limited since UW’s third practice of preseason camp. Nebraska transfer Will Nixon and redshirt freshman Sam Adams II also offer an attractively versatile skill set.
“Man, I’m crazy excited about Sam,” Grubb said of Adams, the former four-star recruit who hasn’t played a down in his first two collegiate seasons. “I think he fits into everything we do. You wonder when you haven’t seen a guy and he hasn’t been cleared physically, and he’s had a long-term shoulder problem. But you get him in some live situations and he doesn’t shy away from it at all. He’s working blitz pickup every day.
“I think he is a three-phase back. He can catch, he can run and he can block. I’ve seen everything from him. I’m excited about getting him out on the field. He’s going to be a factor.”
Ja’Lynn Polk, rs. fr., 6-2, 199, Lufkin, Texas (Texas Tech)
Taj Davis, soph., 6-2, 193, Upland, Calif.
Rome Odunze, soph., 6-3, 201, Las Vegas
Lonyatta Alexander Jr., rs. fr., 6-1, 200, Auburn (Arizona State)
Jalen McMillan, soph., 6-1, 186, Fresno, Calif.
Giles Jackson, jr., 5-9, 185, Antioch, Calif. (Michigan)
Analysis: Polk, Odunze and McMillan have been the starting wide receivers in just about every scrimmage drill this spring and summer. So their positions are fairly settled, right?
Junior Giles Jackson has had perhaps the best offseason of any UW player, and the staff seems determined to reward him with regular reps.
At this point, the question is how they’ll make that happen.
“Giles has been awesome, man,” Grubb said. “The one thing about Giles, he’s won most explosive, ball dominant guy (position competition) multiple times in camp already. But he’s (also) the guy in the receiver room where I feel I could call a play and have the wrong people out there, and Giles would get it right. He’d get people lined up. That’s the most impressive thing. He’s a super dialed kid.”
Devin Culp, jr., 6-4, 239, Spokane OR
Jack Westover, jr., 6-3, 245, Bellevue
Quentin Moore, soph, 6-4, 259, Kenmore
Analysis: In Culp and Westover, UW has a pair of pseudo-starters with similar builds, experience levels and skill sets. Though the wide receivers will likely be the focal point of Washington’s offense, Culp and Westover should be capable of stretching the field vertically or serving as a safety valve in the pass game.
But can they become above average blockers as well?
“We feel like those guys can be extremely valuable, and both of them are working on becoming better, more dominant blockers,” Grubb acknowledged this week. “But in route-running and things like that, they’re both very, very capable, fast, athletic, long guys.”
Moore is another intriguing athlete, but the Kenmore product hasn’t sniffed a starting spot in the spring and summer. In one of the thinner position rooms on the team, the only other scholarship options are redshirt freshman Caden Jumper (who was recruited as a halfback, a position that no longer exists in Washington’s offense) and true freshman Ryan Otton (who has missed the vast majority of preseason camp with an undisclosed injury).
Troy Fautanu, soph., 6-4, 312, Henderson, Nev.
Julius Buelow, soph., 6-8, 311, Kapolei, Hawaii
Nate Kalepo, soph., 6-6, 316, Renton
Gaard Memmelaar, rs. fr., 6-4, 304, Caldwell, Idaho
Corey Luciano, sr., 6-4, 294, Danville, Calif.
Matteo Mele, jr., 6-6, 300, Tucson, Ariz.
Henry Bainivalu, sr., 6-7. 307, Sammamish
Geirean Hatchett, rs. fr., 6-4, 303, Ferndale
Roger Rosengarten, rs. fr., 6-6, 303, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Victor Curne, jr., 6-4, 320, Houston, Texas
Analysis: This lineup would look a heck of a lot different if sixth-year senior left tackle Jaxson Kirkland was not forced to sit out the opener as a condition of his NCAA reinstatement. If all are healthy and eligible, expect UW’s starting offensive line to consist of left tackle Kirkland, left guard Troy Fautanu, center Corey Luciano, right guard Henry Bainivalu and right tackle Roger Rosengarten.
But at 6-4 and 312 pounds, Fautanu has the flexibility and athleticism to kick out to left tackle against Kent State, while sophomore Nate Kalepo will likely make his first career start at left guard.
Bainivalu is the likely starter at right guard, but it’s worth noting that redshirt freshman Geirean Hatchett has received some starting reps there as well.
Long term, the position competition to watch resides at right tackle — where redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit Roger Rosengarten has risen to claim a starting spot, but former starter Victor Curne and junior Matteo Mele are capable options as well.