Sam Huard is a work in progress.
There was plenty of progress Friday morning.
In UW’s second practice of preseason camp, Huard — a 6-foot-2, 193-pound redshirt freshman and former five-star recruit — took the bulk of the starting reps, as UW continues to split first-team snaps among its three competing quarterbacks. (Junior Michael Penix Jr. was the primary starter Thursday, while sophomore Dylan Morris took sporadic starting snaps Friday as well.)
Huard made the day’s most glaring mistake, staring down a wide receiver while husky nickelback Dominique Hampton dropped into coverage and nabbed an easy interception.
Huard didn’t hesitate to make up for that mistake.
A play later, the lefty took a shotgun snap and dropped a rainbow along the left sideline for a picturesque 56-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jalen McMillan — who had bolted past cornerback Mishael Powell. Huard added two more majestic touchdowns, serving up a floater that wide receiver Rome Odunze outmuscled corner Jordan Perryman to corral for another 56-yard score, before exposing a secondary that bit hard on play-action to locate wideout Jabez Tinae for a 70-yard catch and run.
In all, it was perhaps Huard’s most complete practice performance since arriving at UW — and a necessary outburst to keep him in the hunt alongside Penix and Morris. UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Thursday that the three quarterbacks will receive equal reps at least through the team’s first scrimmage Aug. 13.
Ultimately, the quarterback who best minimizes mistakes might start Sept. 3 against Kent State. Huard certainly didn’t let one such mistake submarine his first-team opportunity Friday morning.
Strong showings for ZTF and Fabiculanan
Junior edge Zion Tupuola-Fetui flashed Friday, recording a sack of Penix while blowing clean past starting right tackle Roger Rosengarten on a separate play.
While Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin again took most of the first-team reps on the edge, ZTF also took some snaps with the starters in place of Trice. Through April and into August, it has appeared edge coach Eric Schmidt believes Trice and Martin to be the assumed starters — though both DeBoer and co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell name-dropped Trice, Martin and Tupuola-Fetui as prominent playmakers at that position. It seems the staff generally considers Martin a physical and consistent run-stopper and ZTF an elite pass-rusher, while Trice might present the most complete combination of the two.
Regardless of who starts, expect those three to play heavily come September — with sophomore Sav’ell Smalls and redshirt freshman Maurice Heims duking it out for remaining reps.
As for the “husky” hybrid nickelback spot, Hampton continues to be the assumed starter — but Kamren Fabiculanan impressed Friday as well. The sophomore from Camarillo, California, jumped an out route to intercept Penix and later added a sack and a leaping pass breakup against tight end Quentin Moore.
The 6-1, 191-pound husky has repeatedly showcased significant ball skills. He’ll need to show he can stop the run to close the gap with Hampton.
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Davon Banks snared an interception for the second consecutive practice, securing an easy pick after freshman wide receiver Denzel Boston fell down in a one-on-one drill. After he surprised the coaching staff with his play last spring, it’ll be interesting to see if Banks can push Powell or Perryman for a starting spot at corner this fall.
- Virginia transfer running back Wayne Taulapapa was the primary starter for a second consecutive practice, while Will Nixon and Cameron Davis worked in with the second team.
- Graduate transfer linebacker Cam Bright picked up a sack on a blitz Friday, while linebacker Kris Moll and cornerback Elijah Jackson shared a sack as well.
- UW is trying out a combination of safety tandems — with Asa Turner, Cameron Williams and Alex Cook rotating with the starters Friday. Julius Irvin and Vince Nunley also worked with the second team. Cook made the play of the day from that position, muscling through a block to blow up a screen pass to tight end Devin Culp … before flexing in Culp’s face for good measure.
- Junior defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa bullied his way into the backfield to corral Taulapapa for a tackle for loss, earning a celebratory shove from co-defensive coordinator William Inge.
- Redshirt freshman running back Sam Adams II made a memorable play Friday, taking a swing pass from Huard for a long gain after linebacker Carson Bruener attempted a diving interception but missed the ball entirely instead.
- Penix wasn’t quite as sharp Friday as the day before, but the Indiana transfer did drop in a perfect pass down the seam to Culp for a significant gain in a 7-on-7 drill.
- Freshman tight end Ryan Otton sat out Friday’s practice with a possible injury.