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Roundtable: Much Ado About Freshmen

In which Andrew cheats and we’re all desperate for receivers. Also, it turns out we’re all big fans of killer trench Dawgs — whoda thought?

Hello friends, happy day-after the 4th of July! I’d like to offer my sincere wishes that you’re not too hungover. And with that, it’s time for another roundtable.

With the new class of ‘croots officially on campus and summer workouts beginning as of a couple weeks ago, I thought to extend the following questions to our crew at UWDP:

With this recruiting class, who are you all most excited about? Who do you think will have the quickest impact, and who do you think will be the guy who takes a few years and then explodes?

The following are our answers:

Kirk DeGrasse: Most excited is a tough one to narrow down. So many guys that have a good chance to be future stars. Quickest impact I’ll go with Austin Osborne — position of need, he was here for spring and his film shows a guy that runs really good routes. I’ll be moderately surprised if he doesn’t see the field quite a bit this Fall.

M.J. Ale is an obvious candidate to take a few years before exploding, because “offensive lineman”, and also because he’s still a bit new to the sport and raw, but with enormous physical potential.

Marquis Spiker, Ale Kaho, Kyler Gordon, Julius Irvin — these are all really exciting recruits.

Sleeper guy is probably Mosiah Nasili-Liu. Dude is a beast.

Jeff Gorman: Most excited: Ale Kaho — he’s a playmaker and talent at LB we haven’t really had in a while. Quickest impact: Osborne is a great choice but I’m gonna go Tuli to give a different perspective. While I really like our DL, outside of big #99 Greg Gaines we don’t have any big body true-NT types. He played injured a lot of his senior year of HS otherwise he would have been rated even higher as a recruit. Especially with the new redshirt rule, I could see Tuli getting on the field.

One for the future: Dominique Hampton. Super talented, great size, but stuck behind a really deep group of DBs. I could see him not playing a lot for 1-2 years then seamlessly slotting in as another all conference corner for the Dawgs.

*Spongebob narrator voice: Three days later in the group chat*

Gabey Lucas: Late to my own party but I feel like as far as this year and/or next year, I’m most excited about -- surprise -- Kaho. Besides the fact that he’s just a baller in general, I feel like our inside linebackers are fine but kinda JAG-y compared to the rest of our defense. Having athletes of his talent-level there would be so beneficial to this defense as a whole just cuz it felt like the ILBs didn’t have the strength or speed to play at the same level as the DL and DBs the last year or two, especially after Azeem dropped off. They’re still a great unit, but getting guys like Kaho in there should really elevate the whole defensive performance. In that vein, I feel like a pairing of Jackson Sirmon and Kaho in the inside in a few years is gonna ruuuule.

Otherwise, again cliche, but immediate impact I’m gonna side with both of the receivers, at least Osborne and likely Spiker as well just cuz those guys, while raw, are coming into a WR room that desperately needs an infusion of talent which they should hopefully provide.

I think the players I’m most excited for as sleeper picks for the future (besides the entire DB class cuz that’s cheating cuz I mean... just look at them) would be Victor Curne and Matteo Mele. These two I feel like were kind of overshadowed by the pure insanity that was MJ Ale’s football ceiling given his size and inexperience, but the former’s a really solid guard and the latter’s quickness and lean strength given his body-type and past as a TE could make these two a devastating combo on the line in a few years. Also Yankoff. He doesn’t have the cannon of a right arm that the other Sirmon has, but it’s still above average and with some improved footwork, his combination of passing ability and deceptive long-stride speed (does anybody else get flashes of Kaepernick when he runs?) could wreak havoc on opposing defenses if he becomes the starting QB in a few years.

In fact, now that I think about it, this class seems like one that foreshadows the duos and trios to come that’ll be the backbone of the team in say three and four years:

Sirmon and Kaho running the midfield at ILB, Tuli and Taimani on the interior 0 or 1-tech DL, Bynum and ZTF 3-teching it, Irvin, Gordon, and Hampton in the DBs, Spiker and Osborne at WR, and whoever wins the QB competition down the line between Sirmon and Yankoff (assuming Dylan Morris from ‘19 doesn’t come in being like “bitch nah, I’m the QB now” and beat them both out, which I doubt).

Holy crap I did not mean to write this much but... here we are.

JG: Agreed on Curne, I think he’ll redshirt and play a lot next year (2019).

And your comments on the LBs.

GL: I don’t know if he’ll play a lot next year necessarily, but I think he’ll be in there in a bit for sure.

This is mostly a different topic, but next year my gut says Henry Bainivalu and Jaxson Kirkland are most likely to step into the vacated tackle roles (granted, this is mostly moot considering, especially with O linemen, we see so little until they’re in game situations) or that Wattenberg will shift from guard to LT, in which case I’d expect one of Kirkland or Bainivalu to take the vacated RT role and then the other is more likely to go to the now vacated LG role than Curne, hypothetically.

*Spongebob narrator’s voice: Three days later, again*

Andrew Berg: Most Excited: My choice is a little outside the box, but I’m extremely excited to watch Jake Eason run the offense when he is eligible next year. He came out of high school as a true five-star recruit, the #5 overall player in the country. He is the highest-rated player to come to Washington during Petersen’s tenure and in a dead heat with Shaq Thompson as the best UW recruit of the millennium (Shaq edges him .9978 to .9975 in 247 Composite rating). Eason’s 16/8 TD/INT ratio as a true freshman at Georgia compares favorably to Jake Browning’s 16/10 ratio. While Browning managed slightly more yardage and yards per attempt, he did so against softer defenses than Eason faced in the SEC. Browning will graduate as the most statistically proficient QB in school history and the position might get an upgrade when he leaves.

Quickest Impact: Freshman impact requires prodigious talent and opportunity. The coaching staff has carefully built a balanced depth chart without particularly thin areas that would require an immediate impact, so the opportunities might be harder to find. Since receiver appears to be one of the thinner spots, I could see Marquis Spiker or Austin Osbourne getting on the field. With heavy rotation in the secondary, Kyler Gordon or Julius Irvin could also play their way into the mix. It’s not a coincidence that these four all play positions where raw athleticism has a disproportionate impact.

For the Future: One of the most important achievements of Petersen’s tenure has been the consistent development of high-end defensive linemen. It’s a position that doesn’t lend itself to success off the bat, and guys like Danny Shelton, Vita Vea, and Greg Gaines have shown significant growth over their careers. Even though Tuli Letuligasenoa has the body to slide into that role earlier, I’m excited to see what he can do with a couple of years to work on his technique. He might never put up eye-popping numbers, but if he can learn to consistently hold up two blockers in the middle of the field, it will open up space for his teammates to plays.

GL: Lowkey picking Jacob Eason is cheating. That said, I totally agree.

Also “receiver appears to be one of the thinner spots” understatement/truth of the afternoon lol

*Increasingly agitated Spongebob narrator: Five freaking days later*

Ryan Priest: Most excited about: Quarterback Colson Yankoff. I know that Jacob Eason is considered by many to have all but won the starting job in 2019, but I’m not at all convinced that Yankoff won’t win the job between now and Aug. 31 of that year, when the Huskies take on FCS Eastern Washington at Husky Stadium. At 6-4 and 211 lbs., Yankoff ran one of the team’s best three-cone drill times at the Husky Combine in March (, and (alongside Eason and fellow 2018 quarterback Jacob Sirmon) represents the first time Chris Petersen has been able to field a quarterback with NFL-prototype measureables in his career.

Quickest impact: It feels like a cliche to name him, but linebacker Ale Kaho is the clear and obvious favorite here. With Keishawn Bierria and Azeem Victor both off to the NFL, the opportunity for playing time is there, and Kaho offers a skill set Bob Gregory likely hasn’t seen since Shaq Thompson roamed the Husky defensive front seven in 2014. There’s no reason he shouldn’t make an immediate impact in Pac-12 play this season.

Takes a few years and then explodes: Maybe it’s cheating to select an offensive lineman as someone who will need a few years to develop, but I’m really excited to see what M.J. Ale looks like as a redshirt junior in 2021. He wasn’t a terribly highly-rated recruit (247 ranks him as a three-star and the nation’s No. 821 prospect), but at 6-6 and 361 lbs., Ale has the frame to grow into a bookend tackle in the mold of Kaleb McGary. I can’t wait to see what he looks like in two or three years after living in the weight room under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha (who, by the way, might low-key be the program’s most underrated staffer).

GL: Yeah if there’s one thing we take away from this roundtable, it’s that Socha is a god.

That’s our thoughts from the crew at UWDP — feel free to let us know who you’re most stoked for.

As always: Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.