You already know the names.
Cade Otton. Puka Nacua. Terrell Bynum. Rome Odunze. Jaxson Kirkland. Luke Wattenberg. The list goes on and on.
Washington returns the vast majority of its offense in 2021 — including starters at wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive line. For the most part, inexperience shouldn’t be an issue.
Still, in the first season in offensive coordinator John Donovan’s pro-style system, Washington ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (30.3 points per game), ninth in total offense (402.8 yards per game) and 11th in red zone touchdown percentage (55.56%).
The goal will be improved production from UW’s mostly familiar personnel.
As our 2021 position primer series continues, here’s a look at the Huskies’ wide receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen.
Terrell Bynum, rs.-jr, 6-1, 190
Puka Nacua, jr., 6-1, 210
Rome Odunze, rs.-fr., 6-3, 205
Jalen McMillan, rs.-fr., 6-1, 185
Marquis Spiker, rs.-so., 6-3, 200
Austin Osborne, rs.-so., 6-2, 200
Sawyer Racanelli, fr., 6-2, 210
Jabez Tinae, fr., 6-1, 205
Outlook: Washington’s wide receiver production underwhelmed in a four-game sample size last fall as the team’s leaders in catches and receiving yards — Puka Nacua and Terrell Bynum — only played three.
Still, there is talent here for Donovan and wide receivers coach Junior Adams to attempt to maximize. Nacua is an explosive 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior who has only begun to showcase his significant skills. Bynum has proved valuable as a possession receiver and option on reverses and end-arounds. Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan — a pair of four-star prospects — each earned reps as true freshmen last fall and will likely see their roles grow in their second seasons in Seattle.
There are question marks, too. Can former four-star recruits Marquis Spiker and Austin Osborne, who have failed to make an impact in three seasons on Montlake, finally become consistent contributors? Can second-year freshman Sawyer Racanelli or incoming freshman (and quarterback Sam Huard’s prep teammate at Kennedy Catholic) Jabez Tinae find their way onto the field? After Ty Jones (Fresno State) and Jordan Chin (Sacramento State) each found new homes this offseason, are there further transfer portal additions or departures still to come?
In Donovan’s second season, UW’s offensive coordinator must prove his scheme can utilize wide receivers as more than a decoy or a glorified change of pace. It appears he’ll have the players to make such a statement.
Cade Otton, sr., 6-5, 240
Jack Westover, rs.-so., 6-3, 245
Devin Culp, rs.-so., 6-3, 245
Mark Redman, fr., 6-6, 245
Mason West, fr., 6-4, 225
Quentin Moore, so., 6-5, 245
Caden Jumper, fr., 6-3, 250
Outlook: It’s possible Cade Otton could be the best tight end in the country in 2021. As a true junior last fall, the first-team All-Pac-12 performer led the Huskies in catches (18), receiving yards (258) and receiving touchdowns (3), while also earning acclaim as a bruising run-blocker. A 6-5, 240-pound talent from Tumwater, Otton could have declared for the 2021 NFL draft but opted instead to return for another run.
Westover, who earned a scholarship last offseason, considers himself a tight end but plays more of a halfback role for the Huskies — contributing one catch and five carries for 22 yards last season.
But don’t expect to see just those two in the tight end rotation. UW coach Jimmy Lake said last month that “we’re going to be in two-tight-end sets, one-tight-end sets, three-tight-end sets, four-tight-end sets, three-receiver sets, four-receiver sets. It’s going to be very, very multiple, which you guys have seen. You guys have only seen the beginning of it.”
Quentin Moore — the top junior-college tight end in the country who signed with home-state Washington last month — could present another dynamic receiving option for the Huskies’ starting quarterback (whoever he is). Redshirt sophomore Devin Culp and freshman Mark Redman each earned playing time as well last season and will likely be counted on in some role going forward.
Lake liked to say last season that heavyweights aren’t allowed to fight lightweights for a reason, and he has no shortage of heavyweights at the tight end position.
Jaxson Kirkland, rs.-jr., 6-7, 295
Troy Fautanu, rs.-fr., 6-4, 315
Roger Rosengarten, fr., 6-6, 280
Samuel Peacock, fr., 6-6, 270
Ulumoo “M.J.” Ale, rs.-so., 6-6, 355
Gaard Memmelaar, fr., 6-4, 295
Luke Wattenberg, rs.-sr., 6-5, 300
Matteo Mele, rs.-so, 6-5, 300
Myles Murao, fr., 6-3, 330
Henry Bainivalu, rs.-jr., 6-6, 335
Nate Kalepo, rs.-fr., 6-6, 330
Geirean Hatchett, fr., 6-4, 295
Victor Curne, rs.-so., 6-3, 330
Corey Luciano, rs.-jr., 6-4, 295
Julius Buelow, rs.-fr., 6-8, 325
Owen Prentice, fr., 6-3, 290
Robert Wyrsch, fr., 6-7, 285
Outlook: UW has been afforded complete continuity on the offensive line. All five starters — left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, left guard Ulumoo “M.J.” Ale, center Luke Wattenberg, right guard Henry Bainivalu and right tackle Victor Curne — will be back in 2021. Kirkland, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in his first season after shifting from right guard to left tackle, opted to return rather than declare for the NFL draft. Wattenberg is also back as a sixth-year senior to provide a steady presence at center.
And yet, UW has developed some valuable depth as well. Left tackle Troy Fautanu and right tackle Corey Luciano both played in all four games last season, and redshirt sophomore center Matteo Mele made a start at Arizona when Nick Harris was injured in 2019.
But that offensive line also produced inconsistent results. The Huskies’ 0.25 sacks allowed per game last season finished second nationally, but they ranked just sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (176.25 yards per game) and eighth in yards per carry (4.52). They managed an average of 102.5 rushing yards and 3.42 yards per carry in their last two games.
In other words, five returning starters still need to make some significant strides.
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