Washington can’t afford to keep losing outside linebackers.
And yet, senior starter Ryan Bowman — a 6-foot, 280-pound Bellevue product — did not dress or play in Saturday’s home game against Utah. First-year UW head coach Jimmy Lake said this month that he won’t comment publicly on injuries or COVID-19 issues within his team.
Whatever the reason may be, Bowman’s absence could be catastrophic for UW’s concerningly thinning front seven. The Huskies are already missing a pair of would-be starters at outside linebacker — Joe Tryon (who declared for the 2021 NFL draft) and Laiatu Latu (who has been sidelined for all three games with an apparent injury).
In his first two games this fall, Bowman — a preseason second-team All-Pac-12 selection — contributed six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
Without one of its senior leaders, UW will have to depend even more heavily on redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui — who produced seven tackles, four sacks, four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup in his first two career starts this season — to provide a pass rush. Senior defensive lineman Josiah Bronson moved outside to make his first start at outside linebacker, and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Faatui Tuitele made his first career start next to Sam Taimani.
True freshman and former five-star recruit Sav’ell Smalls will also likely be counted on to make an added impact on Saturday. Smalls — a 6-3, 250-pounder from Kennedy Catholic High School — recorded one tackle in his first two collegiate games, UW wins over Oregon State and Arizona.
But the Huskies will need more from its five-star freshman — both now, and in the future.
More of the same for Morris?
UW redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan Morris has produced a somewhat modest stat line in his first two starts, completing 59.2% of his passes while throwing for 371 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 6-0, 200-pound passer from Puyallup was allowed more downfield throws in last weekend’s 44-27 win over Arizona, and went 7 of 8 for 145 yards and a pair of scores on third down.
So, is the plan to stretch the field more consistently as the redshirt freshman gains confidence?
“We’re just saying (to Morris), ‘Hey, do what you’ve been doing in practice,’ ” UW coach Jimmy Lake said this week. “We don’t force the ball to anybody. We don’t operate that way. Our quarterbacks go through a progression, and if it’s there they’re going to throw it and if it’s not they’re going to throw it to somebody else. And if everyone’s covered they’re going to run it or throw it away.
“That’s the beautiful thing about a pro-style offense and our style of offense, is we will rep situation after situation and let them go through their checks and balances. And if they’re reading it the correct way, the end result should be a positive play for our offense.”
- This week’s game between USC and Colorado was canceled after the Trojans failed to meet the scholarship minimum requirements at a specific position, due to “a number of positive” COVID-19 cases and subsequent contact tracing. But Lake said he’s not concerned about letting his players match up against Utah — which fell to those same Trojans 33-17 in Salt Lake City a week ago. “I feel very confident in the Pac-12 testing protocols that we have put in place,” Lake said this week. “Everyone’s getting tested exactly the same way we are getting tested, so I feel very, very confident that on game day we will not have anybody that has the virus (on the field), and neither will our opponent.”
- Though the Apple Cup was canceled last Sunday, Lake confirmed his program had already begun significant preparations for the Cougars the previous week. “It was a short week,” Lake explained. “We played Arizona on Saturday and it was a Friday game (the following week against WSU), so we’ll always do prep work before that. So we had a bunch of stuff already ready to go even before the news that hit Sunday.” For now, at least, it seems that early game planning was ultimately unnecessary.
- After missing UW’s first two games for an unspecified reason, redshirt sophomore tight end Devin Culp dressed for the Huskies on Saturday night. The 6-3, 245-pound tight end from Spokane has yet to record a catch in his Husky career but was expected to have a role in the UW offense this season.
- Four of the last five meetings between UW and Utah have been decided by seven points or less.