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Washington Huskies Football: Which True Freshmen Play in 2018?

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UW’s latest recruiting class includes a number of gems who are sure to earn immediate playing time.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With the Washington Huskies football team’s 2018 recruiting class signed, sealed and delivered, we can now turn our offseason attention to the question of how many — and which — of these prospects will see the field this fall. While he has in years past stated his desire to stash away as many players as possible for a year to help acclimate them to life as student-athletes, head coach Chris Petersen has also never been one to fear the consequences of burning a redshirt when circumstances have demanded his doing so. The Huskies return 75 percent of their offensive and defensive production from 2017 and should find themselves well positioned in most cases this fall to send freshmen into action as a result of their talents rather than a need to simply get warm bodies onto the field.

Quarterbacks

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Jacob Eason 6-5 235 5 0.9975 2 (Pocket Passer) Junior transfer; eligible in 2019
Colson Yankoff 6-4 204 4 0.9564 6 (Dual-Threat)
Jacob Sirmon 6-4 227 4 0.9559 6 (Pocket Passer)

Before we get started, I’ll address the vocal minority of fans: There is zero possibility that Jake Browning gets usurped as Washington’s starting quarterback in 2019. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

K.J. Carta-Samuels’ departure to UCLA vacates the role of Browning’s backup, which we should fully expect one of Jake Haener or Daniel Bridge-Gadd to seize by the end of spring camp. Even if one of the two prospective backups transfers during the offseason, Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan will surely do everything in their power to keep the redshirts on Sirmon and Yankoff until Browning exhausts his eligibility.

Running Backs

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank
Richard Newton 6-1 183 3 0.8767 24

There’s little reason that Newton should see the field in 2018, thanks to the logjam ahead of him represented by Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew, assuming both are on the roster come fall, will further impede Newton’s path to playing time. Perhaps most of all, Newton likely needs to add another 15 to 20 pounds of good weight before he can realistically withstand the rigors of Pac-12 play.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Marquis Spiker 6-3 180 4 0.9703 9 Wide Receiver
Austin Osborne 6-2 188 4 0.9180 39 Wide Receiver
Trey Lowe 5-7 174 4 0.9094 6 All-Purpose Back
Devin Culp 6-3 235 3 0.8809 80 Tight End

With Dante Pettis being a likely early-to-mid-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and Chico McClatcher, Hunter Bryant and others recovering from season-ending injuries, the door is open for one or two 2018 pass-catching signees to earn playing time, especially at wide receiver. McClatcher, Bryant, Andre Baccellia, Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones figure to be Browning’s top five targets in 2018, and Terrell Bynum and Alex Cook both have a chance to make their marks as redshirt freshmen. However, Marquis Spiker and Austin Osborne, in particular, offer a physicality and skill set that might prove difficult to keep on the sideline for an entire year.

Offensive Linemen

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Matteo Mele 6-5 277 3 0.8876 27 Offensive Tackle
Victor Curne 6-3 313 3 0.8689 27 Offensive Guard
M.J. Ale 6-6 361 3 0.8601 66 Offensive Tackle

Thanks to a roster of offensive linemen stacked with upperclassmen, there is no reason why any of Washington’s three offensive line recruits would need to see the field in 2018. At 6-6 and 361 lbs., M.J. Ale appears to be the most physically ready of the recruits to play, but two returning starters at tackle — Kaleb McGary and Trey Adams — should all but alleviate the need for any true freshmen to play next season.

Defensive Linemen

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Tuli Letuligasenoa 6-1 338 4 0.9517 8 Defensive Tackle
Sam Taimani 6-2 320 4 0.9190 N/A Rated as an Offensive Guard
Draco Bynum 6-4 258 4 0.8904 16 Strong Side Defensive End
Mosiah Nasili-Liu 6-2 281 3 0.8506 57 Weak Side Defensive End

Unlike his counterpart on the offensive side of the ball, Washington defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe might need to dip into the ranks of his newest recruits to help shore up the trenches. You don’t simply replace a player like Vita Vea, of course, but Greg Gaines, Shane Bowman and Jaylen Johnson will likely be the first players in line to earn first-string snaps. Washington’s depth took a further hit with the departure last month of Ricky McCoy to Fresno State, which all but ensures that at least one true freshman will play in 2018. Of them, the 6-1, 338 lb. Tuli Letuligasenoa figures to be the most likely to play, while Draco Bynum could work himself into the depth if he shows an early aptitude for rushing the passer.

Linebackers

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Ale Kaho 6-1 218 4 0.9448 7 Inside Linebacker
Jack Sirmon 6-2 224 3 0.8863 26 Outside Linebacker
MJ Tafisi 6-0 224 3 0.8788 24 Inside Linebacker
Zion Tupuola-Fetui 6-2 250 3 0.8606 52 Outside Linebacker

The departures of Connor O’Brien, Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria clear the way for at least two new starting linebackers to step up in 2018. Brandon Wellington, DJ Beavers, Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevis Bartlett should dominate the early spring depth chart, while Camilo Eifler, Benning Potoa’e and Myles Rice are all candidates to ascend to first- or second-string status themselves. Of the 2018 true freshmen, Ale Kaho seems the most likely to play: His junior season highlight reel demonstrates his quick-twitch ability to shed blockers, and he possesses a rare combination of burst and acceleration that allows him to quickly close the gap on quarterbacks and ball carriers.

Cornerbacks and Safeties

Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Name Height Weight Star Rating 247 Sports Rating Position Rank Notes
Julius Irvin 6-1 177 4 0.9361 12 Safety
Kyler Gordon 6-1 177 4 0.9256 19 Cornerback
Dominique Hampton 6-2 197 3 0.8586 77 Cornerback

The Washington secondary’s two-deep is well stocked with experienced upperclassmen in advance of the 2018 season, which comes as no surprise thanks to the stellar recruiting job that Jimmy Lake has engineered since coming to Seattle with Chris Petersen in 2014. Those upperclassmen include cornerbacks Byron Murphy, Jordan Miller and Austin Joyner, as well as safeties JoJo McIntosh, Taylor Rapp and Brandon McKinney. As a result, none of the 2018 signees should be pressed into action ahead of schedule.


So there you have it: Washington’s deep well of experienced players should allow Chris Petersen to redshirt the overwhelming majority of players in the most highly rated class of his career, with a few notable exceptions. My very early preseason projection for true freshmen who see the field in 2018 is:

  • Wide receiver Marquis Spiker
  • Wide receiver Austin Osborne
  • Defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa
  • Linebacker Ale Kaho

With the rest preserving their redshirt eligibility into 2019. Which true freshmen do you predict will earn playing time this fall?