Washington’s 2020 offense hinges on much more than just its quarterback or offensive coordinator.
We continue our ongoing series previewing the Huskies’ 2020 position groups with a look at UW’s wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line.
Puka Nacua, so., 6-1, 204
Marquis Spiker, so., 6-3, 193
Ty Jones, jr., 6-4, 213
Austin Osborne, so., 6-2, 199
Taj Davis, rs-fr., 6-1, 195
Terrell Bynum, jr., 6-1, 189
Jordan Chin, sr., 6-0, 174
Fatu Sua-Godinet, sr., 5-11, 190*
David Pritchard, so., 6-0, 172*
Jalen McMillan, fr., 6-2, 182
Rome Odunze, fr., 6-3, 205
Sawyer Racanelli, fr., 6-2, 208
Outlook: Here’s where things get interesting. Washington is losing a pair of senior starters in Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia. Yet, it’s fair for fans to expect a step forward at wide receiver in 2020.
And where do we begin? Redshirt junior Ty Jones — who led the Huskies with six touchdown receptions in 2018 — could return to the starting lineup after appearing in just four games last season because of a wrist/hand injury. Junior Terrell Bynum emerged in the second half of 2019, hauling in tight-window grabs and finishing with 31 catches, 368 receiving yards and two scores. Speedster Jordan Chin and former blue-chip recruit Marquis Spiker also made late-season strides that could carry over into 2020. Redshirt sophomore Austin Osborne has yet to break through, but he earned effusive praise from then-coach Chris Petersen last season nonetheless.
And, speaking of effusive praise, we might as well devote a full paragraph to Puka. The 6-1, 204-pound freshman’s first career catch was a 28-yard touchdown. He manhandled the entire Arizona secondary in a road win on Oct. 12, finishing with three catches for 97 yards. He scored a 33-yard touchdown the following week against Oregon. He averaged 24 yards per catch in his freshman season. He also missed UW’s final five games with a broken foot. But no matter. He’s not a finished product, but if any Husky wide receiver is capable of being a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2020, it’s Nacua.
Still, it’ll be intriguing to see if UW’s trio of freshman wideouts — Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze and Sawyer Racanelli — can crack the rotation as well. The Huskies signed perhaps the west coast’s premier set of wide receivers; McMillan’s speed and elusiveness should provide a different dynamic on the outside; Odunze (6-3, 205) possesses a bewildering blend of size and speed; and Racanelli did just about everything in his first three seasons at Hockinson before a torn ACL wiped out his senior season.
All things considered, Washington is stocked with intriguing options at wide receiver. But intrigue isn’t enough. It’s time for UW’s potential to transform into production. Until then, they’re empty words.
Cade Otton, jr., 6-5, 246
Jacob Kizer, sr., 6-5, 254
Devin Culp, so., 6-3, 262
Jack Westover, so., 6-3, 241*
Zeke Pelluer, rs-fr., 6-4, 246*
Carson Smith, rs-fr., 6-4, 236*
Mark Redman, fr., 6-6, 239
Mason West, fr., 6-3, 242
Outlook: Hunter Bryant was Washington’s most dynamic receiving threat (though that may not be saying a whole lot) in 2019. He led the Huskies with 825 receiving yards on 52 catches, averaging 15.9 yards per reception and scoring three touchdowns. He was a spark in an offense often criticized for its lack of consistent explosiveness.
In the next iteration of UW’s pro-style offense, the tight end will still be an oft-featured asset. And, unsurprisingly, UW’s roster lacks anyone who can sprint up the seam like Bryant — a wild stallion in space. But there are eligible options. Junior Cade Otton is a physically imposing, prototypical well-rounded tight end with reliable hands, who posted 32 catches for 344 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games last season. If his back cooperates, senior Jacob Kizer is a big body and a willing blocker. Redshirt sophomore Devin Culp has a captivating skill set, with a formidable frame and an ability to catch and run, but he struggled a bit with drops late last season.
Then there are the freshmen. Redman, specifically, might have the physical maturity to contribute immediately this fall. He made 72 catches for 979 yards and 13 touchdowns as one of incoming UW freshman Ethan Garbers’ most tantalizing targets at Corona (Calif.) Del Mar High School in his senior season.
First-year UW tight ends coach Derham Cato won’t inherit another Hunter Bryant this spring. But Otton could be an all-conference performer, and it’ll be Cato’s job to elevate UW’s depth at the position.
Henry Bainivalu, jr., 6-6, 326
Julius Buelow, rs-fr., 6-8, 342
Will Pliska, so., 6-5, 289*
Luke Wattenberg, sr., 6-5, 300
Troy Fautanu, rs-fr., 6-4, 295
Noah Hellyer, so., 6-1, 259*
Matteo Mele, so., 6-5, 305
Corey Luciano, jr., 6-4, 268
Cole Norgaard, jr., 6-5, 284
Jaxson Kirkland, jr., 6-7, 323
Victor Curne, so., 6-3, 320
Gage Harty, so., 6-4, 279*
M.J. Ale, so., 6-6, 352
Nate Kalepo, rs-fr., 6-6, 346
Chase Skuza, jr., 6-6, 307*
Myles Murao, fr., 6-2, 312
Roger Rosengarten, fr., 6-5, 258
Geirean Hatchett, fr., 6-4, 279
Gaard Memmelaar, fr., 6-4, 299
Samuel Peacock, fr., 6-6, 275
Outlook: The “who’s out” category, in this case, contains 111 combined starts. That’s not easily replaceable. But it’ll be offensive-line coach Scott Huff’s job in 2020 to replace UW’s established starters at left tackle, right tackle and center. He does have two established entities and all-conference candidates in senior left guard Luke Wattenberg and junior right guard Jaxson Kirkland. Both players have the frame to potentially kick out to tackle, should Huff opt for more experience on the edges. But for now, let’s leave them be.
It’s safe to assume that junior Henry Bainivalu — who has played in 23 games across the last two seasons — will earn a starting spot, though the position is more difficult to pinpoint. He started the 2019 Apple Cup and Las Vegas Bowl at right guard and has game experience at left tackle, possessing the versatility to slide inside or out.
Mele — a 6-5, 305-pound sophomore — made the first start of his career at center in last season’s win at Arizona, and generally impressed, which could put him in position to be Harris’ successor. Though true freshmen are rarely integrated on the offensive line, four-star Mater Dei (Calif.) standout Myles Murao may be the rare exception. The early enrollee should challenge at the center spot, starting in the spring.
New coach Jimmy Lake has made it clear that he wants Washington’s offense to set the tone with a physically imposing, downhill rushing attack. Of course, UW also needs a physically imposing offensive line to get that done. Huff has recruited his position awfully well, particularly in the last two classes. Now he needs to decide where the puzzle pieces fit — and spring is the time to do that.
Coming tomorrow: defensive line and linebackers