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Day 21: Breakout Redshirt Freshman Candidates

A few highly touted redshirt freshman have an opportunity to produce this year.

NCAA Football: Washington Spring Game
It’s hard to find good pictures of Redshirt Freshmen before they’ve played in an actual game.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Update: An earlier version of this story included Myles Bryant as a redshirt freshman. Bryant is actually a sophomore, and appeared in 11 of the Huskies 14 games last season. The article has been updated, and he has been removed from the list of potential breakout redshirt freshman.

Our 30 day countdown rolls right along. If you’re like me, you are stalking the UWDP comment sections, scouring twitter for any and all updates on fall camp you can find, and desperately awaiting the return of Husky football. Before we dive into which redshirt candidates are poised to breakout this season, let's check in with Taylor Rapp about how many days until the Huskies head East to HighPoint Solutions Stadium for the season opener against Rutgers.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Colorado vs Washington Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, onto the reason why you clicked on this article. The Huskies currently have 14 redshirt freshman on the roster from the heralded 2016 recruiting class. Let’s take a quick look at the complete list.

Redshirt Freshman chart

RS Freshman
RS Freshman
Daniel Bridge-Gadd
Kamari Pleasant
Sean McGrew
Jordan Chin
Luke Wattenberg
Myles Rice
Levi Onquzurike
Amandre Williams
Camilo Eifler
Kentrell Love
Byron Murphy
Isaiah Gilchrist
Van Soderberg

Looking at the list, three names jump out at me but before we dive into the candidates, let’s discuss the rules.

The only rule is that this list will not include players who have previously logged minutes for the Huskies, but did not play and red-shirted last season. So, this eliminates Sean Constantine and Brayden Lenius. “Well, that seems pretty arbitrary, why did Lucas decide to do that?” You’re right, it is arbitrary, I just decided on the rule while typing this out now. I guess I want to only discuss redshirt freshman in this article.

Onto the candidates!

Byron Murphy, Cornerback:

Murphy is the obvious choice to start this list. It came as a bit of a surprise to Husky fans that Murphy was redshirted to begin with last season, considering he is the highest rated recruit not named Jake Browning Petersen has signed since he arrived on Montlake four years ago. It’s still the preseason, but the Saguaro high school product has lived up to the high rating, and expectations that come with it so far.

He hit the ground running this spring when he snagged three interceptions in the first four days of camp, and has continued to make plays in fall camp. Most recently he hauled in a pick six in Tuesday’s practice. He looks like a virtual lock to start at corner alongside junior Jordan Miller come September 1st, so he will have ample opportunities to make his present felt against opposing offenses this season.

Levi Onwuzurike, Defensive Lineman:

Another highly touted recruit from the 2016 class, Levi Onwuzurike will have an opportunity to make a big impact for the Huskies this season. The Huskies are looking to fill the void left by Elijah Qualls. While Juniors Vita Vea and Greg Gaines will be tasked with picking up the majority of that slack along with Junior Jaylen Johnson as well.

Behind those three though is a dearth of players who have yet to make much of an impact for the Huskies, such as sophomores Ricky McCoy and Jason Scrempos. This isn’t necessarily either player’s fault — after all, McCoy was a redshirt freshman last year buried behind Qualls, Vea, Gaines, Johnson and Senior Damion Turpin, and Scrempos missed last season while rehabbing a shoulder injury. However, the fact that Scrempos and McCoy don’t have much experience does leave an opening for Onwuzurike to claim a role in the middle of the line. And at 6’3 290, it isn’t all that hard to envision the Allen High School product entrenching himself in the rotation this season. Plus, with Chris Petersen’s tendency to liberally rotate players on the defensive lines, there’s still a big opportuntiy for Onwuzurike even behind the jacked trio of Vea, Gaines, and Johnson.

Myles Rice, Outside Linebacker:

Myles Rice has been slotted at the BUCK position, where the Huskies will be looking to replace Joe Mathis. It’s still relatively early into fall camp but the Huskies seem to have two Sophomores slated to take up the majority of snaps at the BUCK position. Benning Potoa’e is looking poised to take over the starting role from Mathis, while Justiss Warren has been practicing with the number two defense at the position so far according to the Tacoma News Tribune’s Todd Miles. So, much like Onwuzurike, Rice finds himself behind on the depth chart currently. However, unlike his fellow Texan, Rice is not sitting behind a possible top ten pick and an All Pac-12 honorable mention. Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski mentioned Rice by name when discussing who he expects to be in the mix at BUCK this year with the Seattle Times’ Adam Jude, furthering the argument for Rice.

Amandre Williams, Outside Linebacker:

Amandre Williams rounds out the list. The 6-2 225 pound linebacker out of Tahoma high school competed hard last season, forcing the coaches to consider burning his redshirt. Ultimately they did redshirt him last season, allowing him to adjust to the speed of college football.

He’ll be competing with senior Connor O’Brien and junior Tevis Bartlett for the same position this season, and may also see a few snaps at BUCK as well. While it is safe to say he is behind both O’Brien and Bartlett, who both have an immense amount of experience, Williams may be more athletic than both which may help him get on the field this season.

The Pick: Byron Murphy

This one was pretty easy for me. Murphy is the only redshirt freshman listed here that Husky fans can pencil in as a sure starter. While all of the candidates listed above could possibly make a splash for the Huskies this season, particularly Murphy’s counterpart Bryant, none will likely get nearly the amount of snaps that Murphy will. That alone gives the freshman from Arizona an inherent advantage.

The Huskies scheme also favors Murphy here. The Huskies prefer to play a lot of man coverage on defense, which puts pressure on their corners to make plays. Due to this scheme, the Huskies will be relying on Murphy to have a breakout season. The Pac-12 is notorious as a league for slinging the rock, and Murphy will certainly be tested all season long. It’s a daunting task for any corner, let alone a red-shirt freshman. However, I believe he is more than up to the challenge, and that’s why he’s my pick.

Tell us what you think by voting in the poll, as well as commenting below!


Which Redshirt Freshman is most likely to have a breakout season for the Huskies this year?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Byron Murphy
    (534 votes)
  • 17%
    Levi Onwuzurike
    (135 votes)
  • 3%
    Myles Rice
    (26 votes)
  • 2%
    Amandre Williams
    (16 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone Else
    (57 votes)
768 votes total Vote Now