The countdown to the showdown in Atlanta rolls on and we are officially only ten days away. Do you have anxiety thinking about the game? Don’t worry, so do I. Let’s take our mind off that by considering which true freshman has the best chance of making an impact this season.
Last year Chris Petersen and Co. brought in the most heralded recruiting class in school history, inking the number 16 class in the country. However, this is year five in Petersen’s tenure, and he has done a great job of building up quality depth across the roster. Gone are the days of the Huskies signing heralded freshman and immediately forcing them into action. However, there are still position groups—wide receiver, for instance—that seem open for a young player to come in and challenge for immediate playing time. And if you believe the reports from camp and what the coaches have been saying (and I think you should) it sounds like true freshman defensive backs will seriously challenge for playing time as well. Can you see where we are going here? All right, good; let’s move to the candidates.
Dominique Hampton, Julius Irvin, Kyler Gordon, Defensive Backs
Okay, so is this cheating to lump all three of these guys together? I don’t know; it might be cheating. But then again I’m the one writing this article so I declare it to be okay. If you’ve followed fall camp closely you’ve no doubt heard both the media and the coaches rave about the trio of freshman defensive backs. It sounds like all three have put themselves in position to contend for playing time this season, which is incredible on two fronts: one, It’s remarkable that they will get onto the field much at all this season considering how deep that position group is, and two, the fact that not one of these freshman will likely be in the two-deeps at the start of the season is a testament to the quality of depth that has been built up in the secondary over the years. Hampton, Irvin, and Gordon would likely start at a handful of schools in the Pac-12 this season.
Marquis Spiker, Wide Receiver
There is no position group on this Huskies team that has more questions surrounding it than receiver. Dante Pettis is gone and has taken his immense production with him, and there are only two receivers on the roster (excluding Hunter Bryant, who will miss a significant portion of the season with a knee injury) who caught touchdowns last year. Enter Marquis Spiker. The 6-3 191-pound freshman set the California state record for career touchdown receptions, hauling in 72 during his four years at Murrieta Valley High School. He recorded 1,490 receiving yards and pulled down 27 touchdowns his senior season, which earned him second-team All-American honors from Max Preps. The freshman certainly seems to have the potential to become a truly dynamic threat for the Huskies on the outside in the years to come, but the question remains whether he can break through so early in his career. Let’s not forget that many Huskies fans, myself included, expected Ty Jones to come in and help the Huskies immediately and he finished the season with just 7 catches and 71 receiving yards. That’s no knock on Jones, who looks poised to be one of the Huskies’ top receivers this season. It just illustrates how hard it is to come straight out of high school and produce. Still, it’s hard not to get excited about the idea of Spiker hitting the ground running this season and producing for the Huskies right away.
Austin Osborne, Wide Receiver
Austin Osborne is another freshman receiver who could have an opportunity to make a splash for the Huskies this season. Osborne graduated early from Mission Viejo last year and was enrolled and on campus in time for spring camp, which should (theoretically anyway) give him a bit of an upper hand. The 6-2 194-pound freshman is another big-body target that the Huskies have lacked outside, and like Spiker, should have an opportunity to push for playing time immediately.
The Verdict: Julius Irvin
Okay, I’ll admit it: This is a bit of a hedge on my part. First, I went with Hampton over either Spiker or Osborne because there has been more allusion by the coaching staff and the media that covers the team on a daily basis that the freshman defensive backs have a good chance of seeing the field this year. I have yet to hear the same about Spiker and Osborne. There has also been enough positive reporting out of practice about the performance of Aaron Fuller, Ty Jones, and Quinten Pounds, as well as tight ends Drew Sample and Cade Otton, that there may not as many opportunities for the young freshman wideouts as we on the outside may believe. Now, I think you could make very convincing arguments for any of the three defensive backs. I went with Irvin because of the fact that he was the highest rated defensive player for the Huskies in the 2018 class, mainly because I needed a tiebreaker between the three.
Which true freshman do you think has the best chance of making an immediate impact this season?
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