Maybe they’ll call him “The Maserati on Montlake.”
After all, Giles Jackson can really move.
In two seasons at Michigan, the 5-foot-9, 188-pound wide receiver registered 24 receptions for 309 yards and a touchdown, adding 26.4 yards per kick return and two special-teams scores. Before that, the former four-star recruit from Freedom High School in Oakley, California, recorded a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 38.5-inch vertical jump at The Opening Finals in July 2018.
Jackson — who was expected to contend for a starting role at Michigan before announcing an April transfer to Montlake — will have to earn a role in the UW offense.
But already, his attributes are exceedingly clear.
“You can’t teach his speed, his twitchiness. He is fast as all get-out,” UW coach Jimmy Lake said at Pac-12 media day Tuesday. “It’s so funny, when he finally came in the building I saw him, and he’s one of those guys that just looks fast. When you guys see him in person you’ll be like, ‘That guy looks fast. He looks like a Maserati.’”
And yet, there’s a difference between looking good and playing good.
After losing five wide receivers to transfers (Puka Nacua, Ty Jones, Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne and Jordan Chin) before adding three more this offseason (Jackson, Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk and four-star freshman Jabez Tinae), Lake is betting this new-look group will check both boxes.
“I’m excited about that position group,” he said. “(Wide receivers coach) Junior Adams has done a phenomenal job of getting these guys in the portal, but also grooming these young guys in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan and Taj Davis, who had a really good spring, and (Sawyer) Racanelli.
“This is a group that has always needed to take that next step, and I know they’re going to take that next step this year. They’re just playing with a different swagger, a different attitude and a different confidence.”
Updates on ‘ZTF’ and Smalls
UW junior outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui — who exploded for 13 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in four games last season, leading the nation with 1.75 sacks per game — tore his left Achilles tendon during a practice April 16. The recovery timetable was listed as six to 10 months.
But according to Lake, “ZTF” — who has not been declared out for the 2021 season — might just exceed expectations.
“He’s kicking butt,” Lake said. “It’s so cool to see the smile on his face every single day. You’re going to see, there’s no boot on his leg anymore. You probably won’t even be able to tell which leg was injured.
“He is beyond where he should be, and I knew that (would happen) the day he got injured. The day he got injured, I go and see him in the locker room. With a smile on his face he goes, ‘Coach, I’m going to come back quicker than they say I’m going to come back.’ I have no doubt he’ll be back sooner than our doctors think he’ll be back.”
Until then, UW’s contributing outside linebackers are expected to be sixth-year senior Ryan Bowman and a rotating cast that includes redshirt freshman Bralen Trice, Texas A&M junior transfer Jeremiah Martin and second-year freshmen Sav’ell Smalls and Cooper McDonald.
When asked who has impressed in summer workouts, Lake specifically singled out Smalls — a 6-3, 255-pound former five-star recruit from Kennedy Catholic.
“His body looks different,” Lake said. “He’s more flexible. He’s bigger. He’s stronger. You can see his mindset’s different. It’s just that maturation process from being a true freshman, going into your second year.”
The McDuffie comparison
Under Lake’s tutelage, eight UW defensive backs have been drafted since 2017.
Trent McDuffie — a 5-11, 195-pound junior and preseason All-American — will almost certainly join that list. But after contributing 59 tackles, four passes defended, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in his first 17 games, how does McDuffie stack up to his Husky predecessors?
“I’ll give him an edge in that he’s one of the faster guys that we’ve had,” Lake said. “We’ve had some fast guys. I think clock-wise, when he clocks for the pros, he’s going to be one of our faster corners that we’ve ever had here.
“And then with ball skills, Byron Murphy is way up here (pointing to the sky), but he’s close to Byron Murphy — just with his punt-return ability and what he’s been able to do with his interceptions. He has special ball skills where he can change a game. I think with more opportunities — 12 games-plus hopefully this year — he’ll be able to showcase that.”
The quarterback derby
Dylan Morris is UW’s starting quarterback.
But that doesn’t mean he will be Sept. 4.
In his first four games as the Husky starter, Morris — a 6-0, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Puyallup — threw for 897 yards (60.9% completions) with six total touchdowns and three interceptions, leading UW to a 3-1 record and a Pac-12 North crown. And yet, he competed alongside graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien and five-star freshman Sam Huard this spring all the same.
Unless Huard makes seismic strides this summer, O’Brien will be the primary threat to unseat Morris in September.
And though Morris remains the betting favorite, a second season under center is not guaranteed.
“We’re very happy with what Dylan Morris did for us this last fall,” Lake said. “He played very, very effectively for his first time ever playing college football. But we also added some talented players in Patrick O’Brien and Sam Huard. We’re going to throw them in the mix and let everybody go compete. The cream’s going to rise to the top.
“But right now, Dylan is our starting quarterback. Right now, Trent McDuffie is our starting cornerback. We’re going to see who survives the competition at every single position.”
- UW will have an intriguing competition at safety this summer — with Dominique Hampton, Asa Turner, Cameron Williams, Julius Irvin and Makell Esteen vying for starting reps. But when asked about the 6-2, 225-pound Hampton, McDuffie said, “Look at Kam Chancellor, and then add my speed, and there’s Dom Hampton.”
- Besides the aforementioned receiver position, UW returns its entire starting offense. And left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, for one, is setting the bar in the stratosphere. “Guys are hungrier than ever,” he said. “This is one of the most motivated teams I’ve been on. We’re coming in every day with the right mindset. We’re itching to put those pads on, because we just know what we’re capable of. I think you saw that last year in some games. The talent is there on this team.” When asked to clarify his expectations, Kirkland added: “My expectation is for us to be the best offense in college football, and that’s how I see it — the most balanced attack.”