Jake Browning is back for his fourth season as the Huskies' starting QB. Gaskin could join him in the backfield for a fourth straight season.
The Huskies are a projected top-10 team going into the 2018 season opener against Auburn in Atlanta — ESPN ranks Washington No. 8 in its way-too-early top 25 — and they are expected to return seven regular starters on offense. Among those returning on offense are senior quarterback Jake Browning, three regulars on the offensive line and perhaps even star running back Myles Gaskin (more on that below).
Here is a projected depth chart and analysis for the 2018 UW offense. (Note: Defensive breakdown scheduled for Thursday.)
Jake Browning, sr., 6-2, 210
Jake Haener, rs-fr., 6-0, 193
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, so., 6-2, 211
K.J. Carta-Samuels (to transfer as grad senior)
Jacob Sirmon, fr., 6-4, 227
Colson Yankoff, fr., 6-4, 204
Outlook: Browning is back for his senior season and, if he stays healthy, will become the first full-time four-year starter in UW history. With 38 career starts under his belt he needs just two more starts to match Jake Locker for the most by a QB in program history. Browning already holds UW records for touchdown passes in a career, with 78, and with 9,094 career passing yards he should track down Cody Pickett’s school record (10,220) by early October.
Browning has his detractors, and they seemed to grow in number as the 2017 season went along. You’ll hear a lot more “he can’t win the big one” chatter this offseason. Some of that criticism is fair. A lot of it isn’t. People seemed to overlook just how devastating the injuries were to UW’s passing attack this fall. Put it this way: Of UW’s top eight receivers/tight ends, Aaron Fuller and Will Dissly were the only one to stay healthy all season. Chico McClatcher, Quinten Pounds, Hunter Bryant, Andre Baccellia and Drew Sample all missed considerable time — even star receiver Dante Pettis went down early in the Apple Cup and was only able to play a handful of snaps in the Fiesta Bowl. Browning is only as good as the talent around him — that’s true of most quarterbacks — and the Huskies simply did not have the depth on the perimeter to keep defense’s truly honest in the passing game.
Jacob Eason, if he follows through on his plan to transfer, will add an experienced voice in the QB room this fall. But he obviously has to sit out a year. Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff, two prized recruits, both began classes at UW last week. Maybe one of them will put up a good fight in fall camp — Yankoff, from what I’m hearing, might be the most ready to play early. Jake Haener is a bit of a wild card; he had emerged as the No. 3 during his redshirt season. Will be interesting to see who emerges as the No. 2 QB going into the Auburn game. But, in reality, there is no way Browning gets beat out by a freshman for the starting job. Not happening. Browning is everything Chris Petersen wants in a quarterback — smart, accurate, efficient and he almost never turns the ball over. They’ve won a lot of games together, and they’ll win a lot more of them next season.
Salvon Ahmed, so., 5-11, 189
Sean McGrew, so., 5-7, 169
Kamari Pleasant, so., 6-0, 194
Nate Ihlenfeldt, rs-fr., 5-10, 188*
Paul Wells, jr., 5-9, 177*
Lavon Coleman, graduated
Ralph Kinne, graduated
Richard Newton, fr., 6-1, 183
Outlook: The biggest question hanging over the entire program right now centers on Myles Gaskin, who has five more days to decide whether to make the jump to the NFL. (Deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 15.) Sources say Gaskin was leaning toward turning pro before the Fiesta Bowl. But since meeting with coaches over the past week and a half Gaskin is now more likely to return to UW for his senior season. UW records show Gaskin is enrolled in classes for winter term, and UW coaches have an incredible track record of convincing underclassmen to return to school. (You’ll recall Vita Vea had a foot out the door at this time a year ago before opting to stay; it looks like that decision will pay off for him in a big way come April.)
If Gaskin does return, the outlook for the whole offense looks even better next fall. Either way, Salvon Ahmed figures to play a prominent role in the offense; he’s the most explosive player on the roster and his versatility gives new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan a fun toy to employ. Will be interesting to see the development of Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. Both played sparingly as redshirt freshmen, and both appear capable of helping more.
Andre Baccellia, jr., 5-10, 171
Chico McClatcher, rs-jr., 5-7, 181
Aaron Fuller, jr., 5-10, 187
Quinten Pounds, jr., 5-11, 177
Ty Jones, so., 6-4, 209
Jordan Chin, so., 6-0, 171
Alex Cook, rs-fr., 6-1, 185
Terrell Bynum, rs-fr., 6-1, 184
Ian Biddle, sr., 6-0, 186*
John Gardner, sr., 6-3, 196*
Josh Rasmussen, jr., 5-11, 182*
Max Richmond, sr., 5-9, 183*
Dante Pettis, graduated
Brayden Dickey (Lenius), to transfer as grad senior
Trey Lowe, fr., 5-7, 174
Austin Osborne, fr., 6-2, 188
Marquis Spiker, fr., 6-3, 180
Outlook: The Huskies need a new No. 1 receiver … and there’s no obvious candidate to replace Dante Pettis’ production in that role. There are capable candidates. Andre Baccellia and Aaron Fuller are the two most sure-handed receivers on the roster; Chico McClatcher, presuming he’s back fully healthy from a broken ankle, returns as an exciting playmaking option; and Ty Jones’ size and length are coveted on the outside. There is pretty good depth at the position, but it’s still largely young and unproven. Figure at least two of the three incoming freshmen — Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne and/or Trey Lowe — get pressed into action next fall, and perhaps one of them emerges as one of Browning’s top targets.
Drew Sample, sr., 6-5, 259
Hunter Bryant, so., 6-2, 239
Jacob Kizer, so., 6-4, 244
Cade Otton, rs.-fr., 6-4, 230
Michael Neal, jr., 6-4, 240
Mike Petroff, so., 6-0, 228 (H-back)*
DeShon Williams, sr., 6-2, 225*
Will Dissly, graduated
Devin Culp, fr., 6-3, 235
Outlook: The Huskies appear solid at tight end again. In Drew Sample and Hunter Bryant, the Huskies have one primary blocker and one primary pass-catcher. Sample is a steady presence, and Bryant could be the most dynamic option in the passing attack — perhaps he becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver in 2018. Jacob Kizer was a surprising contributor as a true freshman; he started the final three games, including the Fiesta Bowl as the third tight end, when Bryant was out with a knee injury. Kizer’s role figures to increase next fall, and Cade Otton comes off his redshirt season as an intriguing candidate for an elevated role.
Trey Adams, sr., 6-8, 327
Jared Hilbers, jr., 6-7, 313
Luke Wattenberg, so., 6-4, 295
Jaxson Kirkland, rs-fr., 6-6, 312
Chase Skuza, rs-fr., 6-5, 312*
Nick Harris, jr., 6-1, 293
Matt James, sr., 6-5, 276
Cole Norgaard, rs-fr., 6-4, 277
Jesse Sosebee, sr., 6-5, 312
Henry Roberts, jr., 6-6, 300
Devin Burleson, jr., 6-8, 327
A.J. Kneip, so., 6-2, 289*
Kaleb McGary, sr., 6-7, 318
Henry Bainivalu, rs-fr., 6-5, 298
Coleman Shelton, graduated
Andrew Kirkland, graduated
M.J. Ale, fr., 6-6, 361
Victor Curne, fr., 6-3, 313
Matteo Mele, fr., 6-5, 277
Outlook: Biggest (like, literally) priority here is getting Trey Adams healthy and back to form after his October ACL injury. He has All-American potential entering his senior season. Getting Kaleb McGary to return for his senior season to anchor the right side of the line for a third straight season is another coup for the UW coaches. McGary had considered a jump to the NFL. Replacing the leadership and production lost at center with Coleman Shelton’s graduation will be no small task; look for Nick Harris to get the chance to shift over from right guard and take over as the new center. Adams’ injury forced Luke Wattenberg into a major role as the left tackle over the final six games, and that experience should benefit him going forward. He’ll likely shift inside. That’s essentially four positions with good starting experience coming back, which should make the UW line one of the best — if not the best — in the Pac-12 next fall.
Overall, that’s 43 scholarships accounted for on offense at the moment (which includes a scholarship set aside for Jacob Eason). It’s too early in the offseason to do a definitive scholarship count because there is certain to be more attrition in the coming weeks. It appears unlikely that the Huskies will be adding any more incoming recruits during the regular National Signing Day in early February — at least they’re not expected to bring in anyone else on offense. But this gives a general sense of where the team stands on scholarships, with a breakdown of the defensive roster coming Thursday.