The bye week gives us a chance to look at some big-picture questions that get lost in the minutiae of the average week. As the 2019 recruiting class takes shape, it got me thinking about what the roster will look like next year. To wrap my mind around it, I tried putting together a two-deep depth chart for what the team might look like at the end of the 2019 fall camp.
Before I start, two notes. First, I did not designate RS status in each player’s class. Second, I am projecting both Byron Murphy and Taylor Rapp declare for the NFL draft and are therefore omitted from the depth chart.
Out: Jake Browning
In: Dylan Morris
1: Jacob Eason, Jr.
2: Jake Haener, So.
While Haener has been in the program longer, Eason is the far more talented player. It would be utterly shocking if the highest-rated HS player who has been eligible to play under Chris Petersen had to ride the bench. I think the competition for QB2 will be tighter, with Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff jockeying for a chance to succeed Eason in the starting role. The coaching staff may want to get the leader of those two some game action.
Out: Myles Gaskin
In: Cameron Davis
1: Salvon Ahmed, Jr.
2: Kamari Pleasant, Jr OR Sean McGrew, Jr.
The Huskies under Petersen have always divided carries. Even with a workhorse like Gaskin in the #1 slot, the rest of the rotation has received consistent opportunities. Ahmed might prove to be more explosive than Gaskin, but he does not have the every-down steadiness, so Pleasant and McGrew with both be important cogs. Richard Newton will likely see some action, as well.
In: Taj Davis
1s: Aaron Fuller, Sr; Ty Jones, Jr; Andre Baccellia, Sr (slot).
2s: Terrell Bynum, So; Marquis Spiker, Fr; Austin Osborne, Fr.
As much as fans might like to hope that the touted redshirt freshman class would usurp the returning starters, Petersen’s coaching staff tends to value experience in the program. Fuller and Jones have certainly taken large developmental steps this year, and this position could turn into a clear strength if they do the same going into next season. Fuller has room to grow in terms of downfield explosiveness and Jones can develop his ability after the catch.
There are many question marks among non-starters not listed here. Will Chico McClatcher return to the team? Will Quinten Pounds come back from another injury? Will Jordan Chin stick with the program if younger receivers leapfrog him? Will Trey Lowe carve out a role as an APB or slot receiver?
Out: Drew Sample
1s: Hunter Bryant, Jr; Cade Otton, So.
2s: Jacob Kizer, Jr; Michael Neal, Sr OR Jusstis Warren, Sr.
Bryant is head and shoulders above the rest of this group as a pass catcher and his return to full health would provide a needed outlet in the passing game. Depending on how much he plays for the rest of the season, it might still be possible for him to use this year as his redshirt season and go into next year as a sophomore.
Otton overtook Kizer this year as a blocking TE. Without Sample on the roster next year, there will be room for both of them to play. Neal, Warren, and currently redshirting Devin Culp will have to make big strides to get into the mix. The coaches have sought another TE recruit this year but have come up empty so far.
Out: Kaleb McGary, Jesse Sosebee, Matt James
In: Julius Buelow, Nathaniel Kalepo, Troy Fautanu, Corey Luciano
1s: LT: Trey Adams, Sr; LG: Luke Wattenberg, Jr; C: Nick Harris, Sr; RG: Jaxson Kirkland, So; RT: Jared Hilbers, Sr.
2s: LT: Henry Roberts, Sr; LG: Henry Bainivalu, So; C: Cole Norgaard, So; RG: M.J. Ale, So OR Victor Curne, So; RT: Devin Burleson, Sr.
The announcement that Adams will return is happy news for the Huskies. He stabilizes the most important position on the line and gives the coaches options in how they choose to replace McGary, assuming Adams is able to fully recover. The guards have shown progress this year and could become a major strength as they continue to get playing time together. Although McGary will be a tough player to lose, there is definitely more depth in the incoming class than those leaving. Luciano, a top Juco recruit, could figure in more quickly than the others with a year of college ball under his belt.
(Note: UW has used a variety of defensive line/linebacker combinations this year. For the purposes of this depth chart, I am considering three down linemen, two inside linebackers, and one outside linebacker/edge rusher)
Out: Greg Gaines, Jaylen Johnson, Shane Bowman
In: Jacob Bandes, Sama Paama, Noa Ngalu
1s: Levi Onwuzurike, Jr; Benning Potoa’e, Sr; Tuli Letuligasenoa, Fr.
2s: Josiah Bronson, Sr; Sam Taimani, Fr, Jacob Bandes, Fr.
Onwuzurike is the only established down-lineman returning next year. Gaines and Johnson have both had outstanding careers and it will be impossible to replace them one-for-one next year. Due to recruiting misses in 2016 and 2017, there is limited upper-class depth in this spot, which is why I have projected Potoa’e to move inside on a regular basis. We have seen him play with his hand in the dirt at times this year and the personnel situation may require more of it next season. It’s always dicey to project playing time for a true freshman, but Bandes has the physical tools for it and the team might need him quickly.
Out: Ben Burr-Kirven, Tevis Bartlett, Jake Wambaugh, Matt Preston
In: Alphonso Tuputala, Joshua Calvert, Miki Ah You
1s: Brandon Wellington, Sr; D.J. Beavers, Sr.
2s: Kyler Manu, Sr; Jackson Sirmon, So.
Wellington and Beavers are talented players who have had a difficult time staying healthy. That particular issue might show up in this position because there is not a great deal of depth behind them next year. With four players graduating from this position, it’s no surprise that the Huskies remain hot on the trail of Daniel Heimuli to try to fill in a gap at this spot.
In: Bralen Trice
1: Ryan Bowman, Jr OR Ariel Ngata, So.
2: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, So.
Depending on how the Huskies line up, more than one of these players could be on the field at the same time, particularly if Potoa’e moves inside on a permanent basis. Bowman and Ngata provide more of a threat in the pass rush, but neither has matched Potoa’e’s ability to seal the edge against the run. Tryon has the most impressive physical tools of the bunch and could become a standout if he harnesses them. Zion Tupuola-Fetui is currently in his redshirt year and is another athlete who could contribute if he masters pass rushing techniques.
One thing we have learned this season is that the Husky coaches require their pass rushers to seal the edge. It has been frustrating at times to see rushers hold that edge rather than sell out for QB pressure, but it fits into the larger scheme of preventing big plays and allowing offenses to beat themselves. Whoever among these players shows commitment to that strategy will likely see the most playing time.
Out: Byron Murphy, Jordan Miller
In: Kamren Fabiculanan
1s: Keith Taylor, Jr; Elijah Molden, Jr; Myles Bryant, Sr (nickel).
2s: Julius Irvin, Fr; Kyler Gordon, Fr; Dominique Hampton, Fr.
Somehow, the depth at CB still looks pretty good even if you assume that both starters are gone from the program next year. Taylor has stood out in limited action this year. While Molden hasn’t had the same shutdown impact, he has flashed enough skill to project as a starter. I expect that Bryant will stay inside in the nickel spot due to his size, but he is already one of the better players on the defense. Due to the rotational nature of the position, the three freshmen who are currently redshirting will almost certainly see action. Irvin and Gordon, in particular, looked like the jewels of last year’s recruiting class, so they may see more playing time than other players with similar levels of experience.
Out: Taylor Rapp, JoJo McIntosh, Sean Vergara
In: Cameron Williams, Asa Turner
1s: Isaiah Gilchrist, Jr; Brandon McKinney, Jr.
2s: Julius Irvin, Fr; Cameron Williams, Fr.
This position could look very different depending on whether Rapp decides to return for his senior season. McKinney has looked good in limited action, although he does not have the deterrent effect of the hard-hitting McIntosh. Gilchrist has a couple of years in the program, which likely gives him the first crack at the other spot, but don’t be surprised if the coaches move pieces around in the secondary to get the most talented players on the field.
K: Tim Horn, Fr
P: Joel Whitford, Sr
Peyton Henry has not missed a kick since the fateful icing against Oregon. He’s up to a very respectable 14/18 for the season, albeit without any lengthy attempts to speak of. It seems that Petersen has come to realize that the offense has a better point expectancy if they go for it on fourth down rather than trying a kick longer than 40 yards. Henry’s limited distance has also led to numerous long kick returns, which would not have occurred had the kicker forced a touchback. Horn is reputed to have one of the bigger boots in the prep ranks, so I expect to see him on kickoffs immediately, and likely on FGs as well.
Taking everything into consideration, that looks like a fairly stable offensive unit that will rely on Eason to augment some of the playmaking that Gaskin will take with him when he graduates. The defense looks thinner on paper due to significant graduations, but there are some promising replacements who might have started for other teams by now. Here are my best guesses for how the Huskies will line up for their first series on each side of the ball next season:
Offense: Eason, Ahmed, Fuller, Jones, Bryant, Otton, Adams, Wattenberg, Harris, Kirkland, Hilbers
Defense: Onwuzurike, Potoa’e, Bowman, Beavers, Wellington, Ngata, Taylor, Molden, Bryant, McKinney, Gilchrist