Last week, Zion Tupuola-Fetui posted a meme on Instagram and Twitter. It depicted an elderly woman who smiles while delivering a seven-word warning:
“Honey, you’ve got a big storm comin’.”
The only question may be when.
In his weekly news conference Monday, UW football coach Jimmy Lake said Tupuola-Fetui — who tore his left Achilles tendon April 16 — participated in his first fully padded practice of the fall and is currently listed as week to week. The All-American outside linebacker could conceivably make his season debut against UCLA on Saturday, on the six-month anniversary of his injury.
Lake confirmed Monday that “ZTF” has been cleared to participate in practices and games, and that “now it’s going to be more evaluating how much he can take rep-wise and stamina-wise. That’s the balance right now of what he’s going to be able to take here without just throwing him in there and saying, ‘Hey, here you go. Let’s go play 100 plays, and you haven’t played football in (six) months.’ ”
Of course, the UW defense could certainly use Tupuola-Fetui, considering it has received only three sacks in five games from its outside linebackers. As a whole, the Huskies rank seventh in the Pac-12 in sacks per game (1.8) and eighth in tackles for loss per game (5).
(UCLA, by the way, has surrendered 15 sacks in six games — tied for 10th in the conference.)
But should he return Saturday, there’s no guarantee Tupuola-Fetui would regain his 2020 form — which featured seven sacks and three forced fumbles in just four games. Lake acknowledged that “there’s going to be a little bit of, ‘OK, I have to catch up to game speed here. And I have to trust that the surgery and all the rehab worked, and be able to trust that (repaired Achilles tendon) as well.’ ”
Even so, the practice reports are encouraging.
“He looked great,” Lake said of Tupuola-Fetui. “We’re all excited for him. We know how much hard work he’s put in. For him to move around out there in full dress and be able to make some plays, it definitely gave a boost of energy to our team as well. It was fun to watch him move around.”
And, injury aside, “ZTF” is moving a little differently in his fourth season in Seattle. The redshirt sophomore from Pearl City, Hawaii, grew an inch and trimmed 20 pounds — from 6 feet 3 and 280 pounds to 6-4, 260 — to add explosiveness off the edge.
Now his frame may resemble a UW pass-rushing predecessor.
“I think it was more something that, between our strength and conditioning staff — Tim Socha and his crew, and also Zion — they were kind of putting their heads together about what a better weight for him would be to maximize his capabilities,” Lake said. “So I know he feels a lot better at this weight. He feels faster. He feels quicker, more explosive. So this will be no drop-off whatsoever in his play, with him being at this weight.
“I think he saw a lot of how Joe Tryon (6-5, 262) also dropped some weight and kind of leaned up a little bit and how explosive he is and how he changed his body. I think that had an effect on him as well.”
Horn headed to transfer portal
Third-year sophomore kicker Tim Horn has entered the transfer portal, Lake announced. Horn initially requested he be redshirted this season, which is why he didn’t travel with the Huskies to Oregon State.
“We were not planning on redshirting him this year, but after the four games he wanted to preserve his year,” Lake said of Horn, who handled all kickoffs and converted three extra-point attempts in UW’s first four games. “So we definitely want to always make sure our players’ best interests are at heart. So we did grant that. Then after further discussion … he wants to be the starting kicker, and at this point right now he’s our backup. So we wish him the best.”
In two-plus seasons and 21 career games, Horn — a 6-3, 220-pounder from Honolulu — produced 58 touchbacks in 122 kickoffs (61.5%) while failing to unseat Peyton Henry for the starting role. Meanwhile, Henry — who has eligibility through the end of the 2022 season — booted touchbacks on all four kickoffs against Oregon State. He has also converted four of six field-goal attempts and all 13 extra-point attempts through five games.
On Monday, Horn took to Twitter to say his goodbye to Seattle.
“I am extremely grateful for my time at UW and for all the relationships I’ve built in Seattle,” Horn wrote. “Thank you to all my coaches, the fans, and especially my brothers in the locker room. That being said I am transferring from the University of Washington with 3 years of eligibility left. I’m excited for my next chapter and opportunity.”
- Lake said tight-ends coach Derham Cato (who suffered an injury when he was run into on the sideline against Oregon State) and defensive coordinator Bob Gregory (who has been battling a non-COVID illness) will be available against UCLA.
- When asked what needs to improve most coming out of a bye, Lake spotlighted the team’s -0.4 turnover ratio (which ranks tied for 10th in the Pac-12). Through the Huskies’ first five games, they’ve lost 10 turnovers and gained only eight. UW has not finished with a negative turnover ratio since it produced an abysmal -2.7 ratio in the winless 2008 campaign. “We know turnover ratio is a huge indicator on wins and losses,” Lake said. “We need to protect the football better, and we need to get more turnovers. We’re working back to a better ratio right now. We started off with one of the worst in the country after the first two games, turning the ball over and not getting any turnovers. We’re making headway on getting back on the plus side, but that’s going to be a big — and has always been a big — push around here.”
- UW will wear its 1991 national championship throwback uniforms against UCLA in the homecoming game Saturday. “I’m really excited that this has come together,” Lake said, wearing an Adidas throwback sweatshirt. “We thought this would be a great time (to wear them) for our homecoming game. This is usually when we get the most former players back in town. To be able to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of our 1991 national championship, we felt this game was perfect for it. I know our players are excited to wear the throwback uniforms and wear the throwback logos, and the nostalgia of the logo and the old uniform dating back to our best year in the history of Husky football will be special for all our former players, and of course Husky Nation.”