It’s not unusual for the Washington Huskies to sustain injuries during a football game.
But that rarely applies to the coaching staff.
Second-year UW tight-ends coach Derham Cato is an unfortunate exception. Cato was injured when a player collided with him on the sideline during the 27-24 defeat Saturday against Oregon State, UW coach Jimmy Lake announced Monday. Cato was transported to a hospital during the game and released in time to fly home with the Huskies.
“I was about seven, eight yards away,” Lake said of the hit. “It happens a lot. On punt teams, the gunners usually get jammed and get pushed out toward the sideline. The jammer, the corner who’s covering him on punt return, they’re usually right there (running on the sideline as well). So it’s a typical play that happens. I know coach Cato will tell you he needs to keep his head on a swivel. We all do on the sideline. It can be a crazy place. I think he was looking down at this play sheet or something and he got hit.”
The collision was so legitimate, Lake said, that Cato “got hurt pretty bad.” Though he declined to divulge specifics of the injury, Lake added that “we’re thankful we got him back, and he’s with us. He’s healing. But he definitely has some injuries. But he’s in the building, and he’s going to be OK.”
Without their tight-ends coach, the Huskies elevated quality control analyst Thomas Ford — who works with that position group — to take on Cato’s responsibilities throughout the remainder of the game. Cato will not travel to recruit with the rest of Washington’s staff this week, but Lake said a different staff member will be assigned to fill that role.
When asked if the injury might prevent Cato from manning the sideline against UCLA on Oct. 16, Lake said: “Possibly. Possibly. It’s something that’s going to keep him off the recruiting trail this week, and we’ll see. I guess he’s week to week as well.”
Optimistic injury updates
Speaking of Huskies who were week to week, Lake confirmed that standout tight end Cade Otton (who missed UW’s past two games after being placed in the program’s COVID-19 protocol) and nickelback Brendan Radley-Hiles (who sat out against Oregon State after sustaining an injury in the second half of the California victory) will both be available against UCLA. Those are obviously significant developments, as Otton is perhaps UW’s most proven offensive player and Radley-Hiles registered 19 tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks in his first four games.
Even more notable, Lake announced that All-American outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui — who tore his left Achilles tendon during a practice April 16 — has been upgraded to week to week.
The recovery timeline for Tupuola-Fetui — who amassed seven sacks and three forced fumbles in four games last season, leading the country in sacks per game (1.75) — was initially listed as six to 10 months.
The Huskies are home against UCLA on the six-month anniversary of the injury.
Of course, a Tupuola-Fetui return would be most appreciated, considering UW’s defense has managed just nine sacks (86th nationally and sixth in the Pac-12) and 25 tackles for loss (91st and seventh) in its first five games. Its outside linebackers have mustered just three combined sacks.
When Tupuola-Fetui returns — whether that’s against UCLA or a different Pac-12 opponent — there’s no telling whether the 6-foot-4, 260-pounder from Pearl City, Hawaii, will be able to regain his form.
But at this point, any help will count as an improvement.
Without an opponent to prepare for Saturday, Lake said UW’s coaches will use the week to analyze every aspect of his team and what needs to be improved, while also looking ahead to UCLA.
“Then later in the week our whole staff will hit the road and we’ll go out recruiting, which we’re extremely excited about,” Lake said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to go out and be in high schools and see these high-school coaches who we’ve known for a lot of years. It’ll be great for the prospects to see the University of Washington roaming their hallways and going to their high-school football games again.”
In that aspect — same as most others — Lake and Co., have work to do, with the 2022 recruiting class ranked just 53rd nationally and eighth in the Pac-12 by 247Sports. That class comprises just 10 verbal commits, and four others — defensive linemen Ben Roberts and Sir Mells, outside linebacker Anthony Jones and offensive lineman Mark Nabou — have de-committed from UW.
So, though the Husky players have several days off this week, the coaching staff will be working.
“We have a lot of work to do as coaches,” Lake said. “We usually don’t go home for dinner with our families at all, but we’ll have a couple of nights this week where we get to go home for dinner. But that’s about it. We’re still working seven days a week. We’ve got a lot of recruiting to do, got a lot of film to watch, got a lot of game-planning to do for our next opponent. Our nonstop, seven-day-a-week work style will stop when the season is over. But when the season is going we’re rolling every single day.”
- After he appeared in the first four games, the decision has been made, Lake said, to redshirt sophomore kicker Tim Horn — who had primarily handled kickoffs in the past two-plus seasons. Horn will have three remaining seasons of eligibility, with starting kicker Peyton Henry’s eligibility expiring after the 2022 season. Henry has converted four of six field-goal attempts this season and all 13 extra-point attempts. After assuming Horn’s duties, he converted all four kickoffs into touchbacks against Oregon State.
- Ulumoo Ale — who served as UW’s starting left guard in 2020, then lost that job to Julius Buelow this offseason — got a long look at his old spot Saturday, playing 43 of 61 offensive snaps (though Buelow still started). Lake said Ale “played well. You know, Julius has played well also throughout this year, so I think we have two quality players that continue to battle it out.”
- Lake said sophomore defensive lineman Sam “Taki” Taimani “played one of his best football games.” The 6-2, 330-pound run-plugger registered nine tackles with two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hit against Oregon State.
- Lake reiterated that running back Richard Newton, who dressed but did not play in UW’s past two games after being “banged up,” is available to be used if/when needed. “He’s available. He was available the last two games. He’ll be available again (against UCLA),” Lake said. “And he should be a lot better with this much rest the last two weeks and how (we have) two weeks before our next game. He should be close to 100%.”