The Washington Huskies are halfway home.
As Jimmy Lake’s team wraps up its seventh practice of the spring this weekend, let’s open the mailbag and answer a few questions from UW football fans.
Q: What are the chances that Sam Huard gets on the field this year? — Steve
A: There is a chance.
Would I encourage you to bet on it? No, I wouldn’t.
Through seven practices this spring, Huard has worked entirely with the third team, and it’s easy to see why. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound passer — who played exclusively in an Air Raid offense at Kennedy Catholic High School — is adjusting daily to the offensive system, the calls, the route tree, the snaps under center and the speed of the game. As a byproduct, there have been intermittent mistakes — such as Friday when he stared down a shallow crossing route to tight end Quentin Moore and threw an easy interception to nickelback Kamren Fabiculanan instead.
Besides, the cupboard isn’t otherwise bare at UW. Sophomore Dylan Morris — the Huskies’ returning starter — has taken every snap with the first-team offense. And though he rarely makes the remarkable play, Morris is consistently accurate on shallow and intermediate routes and understands how to avoid mistakes and escape pressure. Meanwhile, sixth-year senior Patrick O’Brien has proven plenty capable as well and might actually have the best arm strength of the bunch.
With all that said, Huard’s arm talent is undeniable. He’s the state’s high school career passing leader for a reason, a natural leader with the velocity and touch to make NFL throws. Maybe, with a full 15 practices under his belt, he’ll absorb the offense and that talent will take over.
But for now, Morris still is in the driver’s seat for the starting job. Huard might be the future, but it’s going to take time.
Q: Mike, how does the UW staff view the transfer portal? Will it be used in a similar fashion as the NFL where teams might want to say move down the draft because of their positioning (aka recruiting)? Obviously, we won’t know who is going to be available. Just curious on thought process. — Jerry G
Q: How do you see recruiting/recruiting philosophies changing with the “one free transfer” rule going forward? — Jonathan Horton-Loup
A: Let’s try to knock these both out at once. The foremost priority for Jimmy Lake and Co. will continue to be recruiting, signing and developing high-school recruits. They almost certainly will not bypass recruiting a certain position or player in the high-school ranks with the thought that they’ll land a transfer instead.
But, with that said, the one-time transfer rule — which allows players to transfer one time and be immediately eligible at their next destination — has essentially brought free agency to college football, and the Huskies will use that resource to fill holes on their roster. This offseason is a good example. UW has welcomed five transfers — quarterback Patrick O’Brien, defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles, outside linebacker Jeremiah Martin and wide receivers Ja’Lynn Polk and Giles Jackson — and each addition served a specific purpose.
In the wake of Laiatu Latu’s medical retirement, UW added Martin. After five Washington wideouts transferred elsewhere, UW added Polk and Jackson. After two quarterbacks transferred, too, UW added O’Brien. After Elijah Molden left for the draft, UW added Radley-Hiles.
It’s inevitable that some high-school signees won’t pan out, and others will transfer. When that happens, the Huskies will address their weaknesses in the transfer portal. It giveth, and it taketh away.
Q: If you had to choose one current Dawg to be your partner in a tag-team wrestling match, who ya got? — Michael
A: Thank you, Michael, for this very important question.
(I promise, though our names are identical and I’m an admitted wrestling fan, that I did not submit this question.)
It’s tempting to choose a high-flyer who could dazzle audiences with explosive moves off the top rope — say, a 450 splash or a shooting star press or maybe even a take on Pac’s “Black Arrow” — while also providing the stamina to carry our team in a 60-minute Iron Man match. If I were to go in this direction, Kyler Gordon would be the obvious choice.
Before he was a 6-0, 190-pound defensive back at UW, a preteen Gordon dabbled in both kung fu and competitive dance — being named “Mr. Spotlight” at the Spotlight Dance Cup national finals in California. He brings natural showmanship and a background in martial arts, not to mention a 42.5-inch vertical jump.
So, in other words, he has all the tools to be a frog-splashing, drop-kicking tag-team wrestler.
But, to go along with my mic skills, I’m going to need more muscle. Which is why I’m choosing 6-6, 365-pound junior offensive lineman Ulumoo “M.J.” Ale.
Imagine Ale charging full speed to crush your puny neck with a clothesline in the corner. Imagine Ale executing a picture-perfect leg drop, a la Hulk Hogan, to squash someone’s skull. Imagine Ale climbing to the top rope, as the crowd comes to life, before summoning merciless gravity with a tsunami-like splash.
Now that I think of it, why not remove myself from the equation altogether? The Husky tag team of Gordon and Ale might be too good to pass up.
Q: Who’s the sixth and seventh offensive lineman into the game? — Zach Beal
A: Let me give you three: senior Corey Luciano, junior Matteo Mele and sophomore Nate Kalepo.
The 6-4, 290-pound Luciano operated often as an extra offensive tackle last season and has the flexibility to play just about any offensive-line position. Mele, likewise, made his first career start at center against Arizona in 2019 and played with the starters at right tackle last week while Victor Curne sat out scrimmage drills because of what appeared to be a minor injury.
A 6-6, 340-pound sophomore, Kalepo is a physically massive athlete who actually played with the starters at left guard ahead of Ale on Wednesday (though Ale returned to the first team this weekend).
All things considered UW is fortunate to bring back its entire starting offensive line: left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, left guard Ale, center Luke Wattenberg, right guard Henry Bainivalu and right tackle Curne. But position coach Scott Huff has developed more than five game-ready maulers, many of whom are capable of lining up at multiple positions as well.
Q: If you were to assemble a 4×100 team for offense and defense, who would be your eight picks? — reignGod
A: So basically, we’re looking for the four players on offense and defense with the most elite straight-line speed.
In no particular order, here are my answers.
- Offense: Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Cameron Davis and Giles Jackson
- Defense: Kyler Gordon, Trent McDuffie, Makell Esteen and Dyson McCutcheon
Give the edge to the offense.