The Washington Huskies lost to the Boise State Broncos on Friday night in a game that was much closer than just about any objective analyst or observer would have predicted. What was interesting about that game if you are a Husky fan (and completely irrelevant if you are anybody else) was just how many young players were featured in critical roles for Chris Petersen and his staff through out the game.
By my count, the Huskies rotated in 24 players that did not have significant roles on the team a season ago. Of those, 16 were either true or redshirt freshman (true frosh are noted with an *). I broke down the roles of those freshmen as follows:
Standouts - Players featured in prominent roles
OL Kaleb McGary
RB Myles Gaskin*
DL Greg Gaines
QB Jake Browning*
The quarterback aside, I thought of all the freshmen that played, McGary, Gaines and Gaskin were the three stood out as featured players whose performance really popped on the field. McGary may have been the best player on the field for the Huskies offense on Friday night. He had little trouble standing up oncoming pass rushers and his mobility was a sight to behold.
Gaines also got a ton of playing time at the nose which allowed Elijah Qualls the opportunity to slide to the 3T much of the night. You can't miss Gaines and his stout presence. He was gobbling blockers all night.
Gaskin had a rough go of it as the primary backup to Dwayne Washington. The true freshman showed good quickness, but had trouble finding the holes he wanted to work through and was not patient with his blockers.
Notable - Players who showed up multiple times
DB JoJo McIntosh
WR Chico McClatcher*
DB Ezekiel Turner (Soph)
DL Jaylen Johnson
QB KJ Carta-Samuels
Most of these players had their numbers called multiple times during the night, but failed to make much of an impact while they were out there. I say this with some hesitation, though, because I have yet to go back and re-watch the game. I expect some of our readers will correct me if my memory on any of these guys is incorrect.
Of the list, I thought the Huskies really tried to get McClatcher involved with a couple of different screen passes. It just didn't work out. I'd expect each of these guys to continue to have the opportunity to carve out niches and rotational roles for themselves over the next few weeks.
Coffee Club - Players who made brief appearances
LB Ben Burr-Kirven*
CB Jordan Miller*
CB Austin Joyner*
DL Vita Vea
LB Tevis Bartlett*
DB Brandon Lewis
WR Isaiah Renfro*
I noted the appearance of each of the players above in the game at various points. It is probably the case that one of more of them played more than I probably recall (I have a suspicion that Vea and Joyner fall into this camp). Of this list, only Burr-Kirven rates as a surprise among freshmen expected to see a redshirt year, though one could argue that the staff may have had the opportunity to explore one for Miller as well.
Of the young players I expected to see that I didn't (or maybe I just missed) were DE Shane Bowman, OG Jesse Sosebee and OT Matt James.
Looking into the weeks ahead, I expect that Vea, Joyner and Bartlett will continue to see their roles expand. Renfro might also get more of an opportunity given how poorly the rest of the receiving corps played on Friday night.
Those were the young players that I saw make their appearances during the game. Apologies if I missed anybody or did not give enough credit to players who participated in more prominent roles than what I observed. It will be interesting to see what other redshirts may come off in the next few weeks. Players like OL Trey Adams, DL Benning Potoa'e, LB Kyler Manu and WR Quinten Pounds are all guys who could see their redshirts stil get pulled.
What do you all think about how the coaching staff used their young players last night?