1. When Things Can’t Get Worse Sometimes They Get Better
We are all aware that Washington’s play at inside linebacker has been atrocious this season. I don’t need to get into that part of it. The coaching staff is aware of this. Kyler Manu has been gradually phased out of the defense over the past month. He has played 35, 21, 23, and 17 defensive snaps over the last 4 games after playing at least 40 snaps in every other game this season.
However, Brandon Wellington’s playing time had remained high while Manu was being weaned away from the field. Wellington played 100% of the defensive snaps against Oregon and 78% of the snaps against Utah. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury early in the game against Oregon State and did not return. Of course we never want a player to get injured but the bright side is that it allowed Edefuan Ulofoshio an opportunity to shine.
I thought that Eddy U looked good in 11 of his 12 snaps against Utah with the one exception when he was stiff armed by likely 1st team all-conference back Zack Moss and allowed a TD on 3rd down in the red zone. That obviously wasn’t a good look but there are a lot of guys in the conference who fail to tackle Moss 1 on 1 in space. I’m mostly all about numbers but Ulofoshio passed the eye test for me. There was one play in particular where an offensive lineman got out to the 2nd level and tried to wash him out of the way on a quick out throw. It’s been happening to Wellington and Manu all season. Instead, Ulofoshio fought through it and made the tackle to prevent a first down on what otherwise would’ve been a 15-20 yard pickup.
Defeats are when a defensive player makes a tackle for loss, forces a turnover, or makes a stop on 3rd/4th down short of the line to gain. Ulofoshio already has 3 defeats in just 59 defensive snaps which is good for 5.1%. For context Brandon Wellington has only 5 in 559 snaps (0.9%) and Kyler Manu has 4 in 414 snaps (1.0%). If he’s healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see the coaches play Brandon Wellington plenty against Colorado, Washington State, and in the bowl game. But it’s certainly in the best interest of the program’s future to give plenty of playing time to Edefuan, Jackson Sirmon, and if health M.J Tafisi. And it’s probably in the interest of the program’s present as well.
2. Good Things Happen If You Just Keep Tryon
I mentioned the defeat statistic above and Ulofoshio’s 5.1% mark is by far the highest for any Husky defender that has played at least 50 snaps. The second place mark goes to Joe Tryon who has 13 such plays in 461 snaps for a defeat percentage of 2.8%. He had 4 defeats against Utah and another 4 against Oregon State.
The promise showed late in the season a year ago and the hope was that Joe would be able to keep that momentum going into the start of this season. That didn’t quite happen as there were still flashes but no consistency. There was also the bizarre California game where it almost appeared that Tryon had been concussed with how poorly he contained the run game. But the back to back games he just put up are by far greater than anything he achieved last season and if we see anything close to this kind of play in the final 3 games of the season then Tryon will have set himself up as a preseason all Pac-12 selection.
The outside linebacker spot will be one of the most loaded ones on the team next season with a redshirt junior Joe Tryon opposite senior Ryan Bowman with Laiatu Latu, Zion Tupoula-Fetui, and incoming 5* true freshman Sav’ell Smalls backing them up. Whatever happens it seems there will be no doubt that Tryon will be one of the most integral parts of next year’s defense.
3. Friday the 13 Personnel
When Coach Petersen announced that Jacob Kizer would miss significant time with a back injury in the preseason there were many who were greatly concerned. Tight end was one of the shallowest positions on the team following a year where the Huskies whiffed at the position on the recruiting trail. The Huskies felt good about starters Hunter Bryant and Cade Otton (justifiably) but the backups with Kizer out were converted OL Corey Luciano, redshirt freshman Devin Culp, and walk-on Jack Westover.
Westover would end up becoming the most utilized of the bench as the team’s fullback when they wanted to go to the I-formation but none of them played more than 8% of the team’s total snaps entering Friday. But Washington decided that they would bring Kizer back in a big way against the Beavers with a heavy dose of heavy personnel in the form of both the I and 13.
For the purposes of this article I’m considering it a 3 TE look if they have a TE lined up at fullback. Washington played 30 which was more than double the number of snaps in the next highest game this year (USC). When the Huskies ran down the clock on the final drive of the game they went exclusively with Ahmed at running back, Bynum at wide receiver, and the combination of Bryant, Otton, and Kizer at tight end.
The results were fairly mixed. Unsurprisingly, the team ran it pretty well with the extra blocker on the field to the tune of 4.8 yards per carry. But the flip side is that they also only averaged 4.8 yards per dropback across 9 pass attempts as well. Oddly enough the team went with an empty set that included all 3 TEs on the field as well and went 3/3 for 27 yards on those throws.
With the injuries to McClatcher and Nacua plus Fuller/Baccellia either being banged up or phased out of the offense I guess it makes some sense that the team would be more willing to go with the 3 TE offense as they did a few seasons ago. And getting Kizer more snaps in preparation for the early entry to the NFL of Hunter Bryant makes sense. But I’d still prefer for us to give more playing time to Ty Jones or Marquis Spiker and just substitute Kizer in on a drive here or there for the existing tight ends rather than going this route the rest of the year. We’ll find out in 2 weeks against Colorado if this was a specific game plan for Oregon State or an offensive shift.