Well, hello again, you hooligans, and welcome back to UW Dawg Pound's annual fall camp preview. We start off today with an analysis of the incoming freshmen and will continue to feed your insatiable appetite for everything Huskies as a countdown to the start of Washington football's fall camp.
So without further ado...
The members of Washington's 2016 recruiting class include four early enrollees who took part in spring practice. For those of you who've forgotten or (gasp) never paid attention in the first place, here's a refresher on those guys:
Van Soderberg, P
Amandre Williams, DE
Taylor Rapp, S
Daniel Bridge-Gadd, QB
With the exception of Bridge-Gadd, who hails from Phoenix, all of the above are from in-state with Soderberg (Capital HS) and Williams (Tahoma HS) representing Thurston and King Counties, respectively, while Rapp (Sehome HS) comes from up north in Whatcom. Heck, he's practically Canadian.
All these guys have the benefit of spending the spring learning the system and adapting to college and the college game, not to mention going through Coach Socha's conditioning program, but it's when the rest of the class arrived that it felt like we could start to get excited for football again. (Not that anyone here is ever not, but you get me.)
Byron Murphy, CB
Camilo Eifler, LB
Brandon Wellington, LB
Sean McGrew, RB
Isaiah Gilchrist, CB
Luke Wattenberg, OL
Levi Onwuzurike, DE
Kentrell Love, CB
Kamari Pleasant, ATH
Jordan Chin, WR
Nick Harris, OL
Aaron Fuller, WR
As well, Washington managed to secure a few preferred walk-ons, many of whom picked UW over multiple scholarship offers.
Blake Gregory, QB
Duke Clinch, OL
Mike Petroff, LB
Ryan Bowman, DE
Myles Bryant, CB
I'm not gonna sit here and write 1000 words on the strengths and weaknesses of each recruit because a) it would be redundant as shit, since there's already about a billion different sites that offer that, and b) I don't want to. That said, as fans we like to fret and freak out about 'croots in as many ways as possible, so I do have some thoughts. Specifically, the topic of redshirting comes to mind...
Most likely to burn the redshirt:
Sean McGrew OR Kamari Pleasant - but probably not both. Based solely on rating/talent/whatever, we'd all be thinking McGrew, but based on Pleasant's ability as a bigger pass-catcher, given the less than stellar circumstances in the receiving corps right now, I could see Pleasant coming in. He feels to me like he could be a next-generation Dwayne Washington who can take advantage of defensive misalignment with routes out of the backfield. Furthermore, McGrew is essentially a mini version of Gaskin and so doesn't exactly bring anything unique to the table given what we have right now. Don't get me wrong, McGrew is a badman whom I'm so happy we got, but the comparative advantage of Pleasant sticks out to me right now.
In an ideal world I would guess McGrew, but based on what Washington's needs are right now, I'd go with Pleasant.
That being said, I still can't shake the feeling that McGrew will play this year.
Byron Murphy seems like a similar situation to McGrew, but in our secondary. He also would benefit from putting on a bit of weight. Still, he's stupidly talented, and with UW's propensity to rotate players through in the defense, I could see him on the field for a bit, especially as the season goes on.
Camilo Eifler again seems like a similar situation. (After writing that for three straight potential impact players, I realize what a great problem that is. Oh, the luxury.) We just seem to have a lot of rising redshirt freshmen/sophomores in the linebacking corps that will get to play before him. This is especially since Eifler is pretty new to football and he won't be able to just get by in college on being a freak athlete without fully understanding the nuances that become more important.
Taylor Rapp is interesting. Last winter I made a prediction that he would see some playing time, and I stand by that now. (I'm too lazy to find where I said that, but trust me.) He seems to have exceptional spatial understanding that leads him to take great angles, plus he hits like a bad motherfucker. I don't think he'll end up the starting strong safety, but I think he'll compete for a decent amount of time there.
Levi Onwuzurike seems to me like he could be 2016's Trey Adams, but on the defensive line. Coach Petersen doesn't love starting true frosh in the trenches (and I agree with him) but this guy did look like a monster on film. I'd go with a 50/50 chance for him to burn the redshirt.
And after that?
The true freshman year in college football is a bit of a paradox; fans get all excited for the shiny new arrivals and their accompanying stars and ratings, but in reality it is almost always a few years later - when we've all but forgotten that so-and-so was an All-American or whatshisface had a 94 composite rating on 247 - that they get to make their impact.
So once the excitement of these guys wears off, here's who I think we'll be actually excited about:
Eifler: yep, back to him again. As his football IQ matures, I think all his heralded qualities will become apparent on the field. In interviews he comes across as a smart dude, and that combined with his athleticism could be killer when he's an upperclassman.
Isaiah Gilchrist from Bellevue is similar. He is charismatic in the one or two interviews I've seen, which means he's not just spouting off cliches, which means he's thinking. Intelligence turns a good DB into a great DB, and we know how much fun it is to watch a secondary full of those guys.
Luke Wattenberg: he's an All-American for a reason. Wattenberg is listed as around 270 lbs currently and so needs to get bigger; after that he could either be a baller or - and I hope this doesn't happen - lose some vital quickness which sometimes happens with young O-linemen after they gain weight. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if he ends up a big part of the future offensive line.
Blake Gregory: hear me out: After Browning is gone, we're gonna have one awesome QB battle, and if he sticks around, it wouldn't shock me if he beats out DBG and Haener and Sirmon for a year or two. I'm not saying I would put money on it, but I also wouldn't see that as coming out of nowhere. Keep in mind this is the guy led Skyline to victory over Jacob Eason's powerhouse of a Lake Stevens team in the 4A state semi-finals. He chose UW over multiple FCS scholarship offers and I have a feeling that his size (he's listed as - and I expect this is a liberal estimate - 170 lbs) deterred some programs.
Aaron Fuller: he's good at getting the quick separation of a step or two needed for shorter slants and crossing routes. Also, he's one shifty punt returner. I don't see him becoming a superstar, but do see him being a solid contributor during his time here.
Of the preferred walk-ons?
My prediction that Blake Gregory will play notwithstanding, Duke Clinch would be my call for the walk-on most likely to make an impact. He comes from a school that tends to go under-the-radar but is in one of the top conferences in the state. Plus, if he's anything like his brother (with whom I went to high school), he's definitely an OKG. Of note also is that the last O-lineman to come out of Woodinville and play FBS football held his own when replacing an All-American LT last year.
Edit: I previously listed Myles Bryant as a scholarship player when he is, in-fact, a PWO. He at one point had offers from Colorado and UCLA among others but spots at his top schools filled up before he committed. Needless to say, we got a steal with him.
And that, my friends, was the beginning of our 2016 fall camp preview.
Do good things, don't do bad things, and bow down to Washington.