It is inevitable that several true freshmen will burn their extra year of eligibility and play this season. We've already debated which freshmen will play. Now, of those freshmen, who do you think will end up providing the most value for the Huskies? I'll list a few obvious options, but the poll will include even more. Note that since our image database does not yet include photos of the new class, the image of Coach Pete I have chosen is meant to represent the face he probably makes at the thought of playing freshmen.
With Jaydon Mickens, Marvin Hall, Dante Pettis, and Brayden Lenius the only major contributors at receiver from last season set to play in 2015, at least one or two true freshmen receivers should expect to play. Both this positional need and the relative ease with which younger players can make an impact catching the football (as opposed to the learning curve for line-of-scrimmage types) make McClatcher a natural option.
Chico is a 5'7" speedster who spent his Federal Way days in the backfield before the switch to wide receiver here at UW. He recently bulked up to a listed 174 pounds, which is adequate for a player standing so low to the ground. His RB experience and high-level speed and agility mean he could see time at WR, make an impact in the return game, and possibly even provide a change-of-pace option at running back.
Besides receiver, linebacker may be next in line in terms of requiring a boost to depth. Jusstis Warren's name has been hyped up a bit on these very boards, and if nothing else his listed weight of 239 seemed to indicate he was as physically mature as any other true frosh LB. Fast forward to a week or so into camp and we have not heard Warren's name mentioned often.
Does this actually mean Warren is behind the other freshman LBs? I have no idea. I'm not making it out to practices, so I only have whatever info is filtered through the local beat writers. All we really know is that at least one freshman will likely need to play at some point (especially with Drew Lewis gone).
Basically I'm throwing Manu's name as a form of blatant speculation. D.J. Beavers and Tevis Bartlett are also options, but the fact that Manu enrolled early to take part in spring ball seems like it could provide an edge. He's also closer to average Pac-12 LB size at 225.
It's not that running back is necessarily thin. Dwayne Washington, Lavon Coleman, and Deontae Cooper all return from last season. It's simply unclear if that three-man rotation will prove satisfactory in the eyes of the staff. Washington made a huge impact in the last few weeks of 2014 and will likely start. Still, he is not yet a complete back and his success shouldn't be taken for granted. Behind him, Coleman was mostly mediocre last season (though he was also injured), and it is unknown how big of a role the coaches feel comfortable giving Cooper.
Gaskin could provide a smaller, speedier backup option than Coleman, though with Washington and Cooper around speed isn't an obvious issue. Still, while we can debate Gaskin's chances of leapfrogging Cooper and Coleman, even if he begins the season 4th on the depth chart, he will likely contribute at some point during the course of the year. One would think a single injury at the position would necessitate at least a modest role.
This one is all or nothing. Browning is currently taking part in the competition for the starting quarterback spot. If he won the job as a true freshman and held the job all season, he would almost certainly be considered the most valuable true frosh.
Thing is, with how rare it is for a true freshman to start at quarterback, we probably would have had to see Browning dominate the competition for Coach Pete to throw him into the fire in that manner. Instead, he has apparently made some great throws to go along with some poor turnovers. Like one might expect from a freshman.
While the announcement won't be made until closer to kick-off September 4th, the super-steady Jeff Lindquist seems more likely than not to end up starting against Boise State, in which case only bizarre circumstances would necessitate the wasting of Browning's year of eligibility.
See: Chico. There is a need for receiver depth, and Isaiah is the other freshman that seems likely to fill it. In contrast to Chico the sparkplug, Renfro is a more traditional wide receiver build at 6'1' and 208 pounds. Where Chico bears some resemblance in body type to Jaydon Mickens, Renfro strikes me as a somewhat similar player to Austin Pettis.
Both will probably be needed, but watch for how much the offensive staff is willing to line up UW's glut of talented tight ends out wide in order to supplement the receiver corps. If guys like Darrell Daniels and Joshua Perkins are lining up like big receivers, it could minimize the need to rush Renfro into the rotation.
2014 was the year of the freshman defensive back for the Huskies. Two frosh starters, Budda Baker and Sidney Jones, will enter this year penciled in as key contributors for the upcoming season after playing their very first collegiate game less than 12 months ago.
The defensive backfield is not quite so badly starved now, but young players will still be called on to provide depth at corner. Joyner, who finally ended up signing with UW after Coach Pete indicated he could play CB instead of RB, was the most hyped of the DBs signed. Hopefully he will not be put in a position to start in the same manner as Sidney Jones, but there are unlikely to be better options for 4th or 5th on the chart.
Verdict: I'll go with Joyner simply because it will only take one or two players flagging due to injury of ineffectiveness for Joyner to play tons of snaps against the Pac-12's more pass-happy teams. Sidney Jones is, in my mind, destined to be Washington's next NFL-caliber corner. Beyond him, though, is the promising but unproven Gardenhire and the converted safety Kevin King. Even if all three play well and avoid injury, Joyner has only to beat out Brandon Lewis and fellow true frosh Jordan Miller to be the first corner off the bench in nickel downs.