It’s unclear when the Washington Huskies will play their next game.
But while the season abruptly stopped, the mail keeps right on coming.
As coach Jimmy Lake and Co. continue to maneuver a seemingly endless offseason, let’s address a couple key questions the program will face moving forward.
Any thoughts on whether or not some top players will opt out or transfer? Or does Coach Lake have everyone locked in? — Shawn Bowen
Let’s first say this: It would be exceedingly difficult for any player to transfer to another school in hopes of playing immediately this fall.
Here’s a list of the hurdles a player would need to clear in order to do that:
Hurdle No. 1: You need to find a school that is willing to accept you and somehow has a scholarship randomly available in mid-August, with the 2020 season a month or less away. This would be rare under normal circumstances, let alone a situation in which most FBS teams have already postponed their seasons.
Hurdle No. 2: So you found a fit with the right program? Great! Now it’s time to pack and move as soon as possible and begin the 7- or 10- or 14-day quarantine said program requires. Only then can you complete COVID-19 protocols and hypothetically be cleared to compete.
Hurdle No. 3: So you’ve been cleared to compete? Great! Now all you need to do is digest an entirely unfamiliar playbook, as well as the accompanying verbiage, in a matter of days or weeks.
Hurdle No. 4: So you understand the playbook? Great! Now you need to beat out the returners who have already been playing in this program’s system for years. And you probably need to do it in fewer practices than your competition. And you barely know your coaches or teammates, so forget about chemistry. And remember, if you transferred and went through all that trouble just to sit, it probably wasn’t worth it in the first place.
Hurdle No. 5: So you won a starting job? Great! Now you need to hope that your new team’s season isn’t also postponed, which is a realistic possibility. Because if/when that happens, you’ll find yourself in the same situation in a strange new place.
Now, with that all said, I get it: If you’re a fifth-year senior and you have significant doubts that the Pac-12 will play football in the spring, you have few available options. The NCAA will likely allow you to return in the fall of 2021, but are you really willing to wait? It isn’t an easy decision, and two Washington State starters — wide receiver Tay Martin and defensive back Skyler Thomas — announced their intentions to enter the transfer portal this week.
But don’t expect a parade of Pac-12 products to follow. After all, that’s a considerable number of hurdles to clear.
(None of this means UW players won’t transfer, by the way. But if they do, it’s likely they’re leaving for more than the prospect of a fall season that could fold at any second.)
As for opt outs, it’s possible a significant number of players could opt out of the spring season to be fully healthy for the fall. The NCAA is also expected to pass a rule that will allow players to participate in up to 50% of spring competitions and still preserve their eligibility. So you’ll likely see coaches and players be strategic in how they utilize their talent.
Don’t be surprised if sure pro prospects such as defensive back Elijah Molden or defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike skip the spring season to enter the NFL draft. A few standout underclassmen could theoretically follow the same path as well. But let’s address that below.
Are there any redshirt sophomores or juniors on the team that you can think of that might not come back in 2021 and go straight to the NFL. — Jimmy
UW doesn’t have any slam dunks in this department, but I think three players could conceivably go this route: redshirt junior outside linebacker Joe Tryon, true junior tight end Cade Otton and redshirt junior offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland.
Tryon, of course, is the 6-foot-5, 262-pound pass-rusher that NFL dreams are made of. He exploded for 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 13 games, adding production to an already formidable frame. The Renton product and second-team All-Pac-12 selection only started to excel midway through the 2019 season and would be expected to make even more significant strides next spring (or fall). But should he choose to leave, it’s easy to imagine NFL coaches and scouts falling in love with his measurables and athletic potential.
As for Otton, the 6-5, 240-pounder has legitimate NFL size and has developed into a complete tight end. He’s a willing and effective blocker and has showcased reliable hands, hauling in 45 catches for 518 yards and five scores in his first two seasons.
Fomer UW tight ends Drew Sample and Will Dissly were drafted in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, and Otton contains many of the same physical traits. But the Tumwater native may be too tied to his home state school to want to leave just yet.
Likewise, Kirkland — a 6-7, 322-pound snow plow of an offensive lineman — has undeniably impressive physical traits, and he has started 25 games at right guard in the last two seasons. But it’s worth noting that UW was set to kick Kirkland out to left tackle in the 2020 season. He’d be much more valuable in the NFL’s eyes after a successful season at left tackle, and that fact may ultimately keep Kirkland in Seattle.
Good story last week on UW Athletic revenues. Beyond ticket sales and TV, how much will the UW lose in gameday revenues like parking, concessions, retail, etc.? — KSea5
In the last complete financial year unaffected by COVID-19, 2018-19, UW reported $2.75 million in football revenue (and $3.7 million in total revenue) from “program, novelty, parking and concession sales.”
Of the department’s $133.8 million in total athletic revenue and $84 million in football-specific revenue, the key contributors were football ticket sales ($25.3 million), football media rights ($20.2 million), football contributions ($19.8 million) and Pac-12 bowl distributions ($7.5 million).
In comparison, it’s a relatively small slice of the pie. But for a suddenly starving athletic department, every slice counts.