So... it’s that time of year again.
Ya know, the one where you start considering which distant relative you’d sacrifice to make football season arrive sooner.
Fortunately for me, instead of just considering which distant relative I’d sacrifice, I can actually kill — no, wait... Wrong thing. I meant to say, fortunately for me, this silly little site lets me write silly little words which help distract from the existential pain of this whole it’s-not-football-season thing.
And, with the new guys scheduled to arrive in less than a month, that ended up manifesting itself in a rewatch of their tape followed by a lot of rambling on the subject.
Which, by the way, if you’re wondering “Why didn’t you write this for signing day, you useless piece of horse crap?” I present the following footnote:
It’s too stressful to deep-dive Hudl film of guys who you just have to cross your fingers and go “I sure hope this dude commits to/sticks with his commitment to/signs with my team... but he probably won’t.” So instead, my technique is to half-assedly watch film early on, determine a flexible-ish opinion, forget why I had that opinion of him five months later, trust that I had that opinion of him for a reason, and then be too scared I’ll ruin Washington’s chances with him if I watch film again to remember why I had that opinion. If that’s too complicated, it can be simplified to this equation: watching recruit x’s game tape = jinxing your team’s chance with recruit x.
In other words, if I had had a single ounce of thoughts ready to go on signing days, all Washington’s commits would’ve decommited while all their targets would’ve signed to teams with names like Southern Country Football State University, or Willamette Valley Fashion Institute Tech, or Notre Dame.
Make sense? Cool.
So yes, I would like credit for #PukaWatch and Asa Turner’s re-commitment, thank you very much.
Anyhoo, while Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times had his superlatives for 2019, I have one-upped him with this monstrosity:
Gabey’s Guide to
Everything Ever Still Being Stoked for the Arrival of 2019’s Class Even Though it’s Almost Motherflippin’ Summer
There is a caveat here that a handful of guys (mostly the ones who committed earlier) didn’t have senior tapes available. This is especially tragic in the case of the defensive line, seeing as that group is absolutely crazy-go-nuts and none of them had cumulative senior tape.
Otherwise, now that football’s around the corner, I have oh-so-kindly put together a beginner’s guide to re-remembering why were stoked on this year’s newcomers. Let’s begin with...
Offensive Skill Positions Not Named Quarterback
This was the gang we were all a wee bit disappointed with, until Puka Nacua came around and then every member of the unit fit in perfectly.
To begin with, for most of Puka’s traits, Taj Davis is a lot like a less-refined version. In other words, one of these guys is almost certainly going to certifiably kick ass, and the other has the potential to kick almost as much ass depending on development. For the former, here’s 10 qualities you should be excited about:
- Dude can high-point like a bad man.
- When in space, doesn’t dance around like a seizing tarantula but actually knows how to pin his ears back and go.
- Seriously, point number two.
- For real though, will make one, maybe two moves when necessary, then commit to it.
- Points 2-4.
- Reads space and pre-snap leverage well.
- Doesn’t just go 0-60, but utilizes different gears when running routes.
- Strong hands in contested catches.
- Most importantly, his highlight reel was 8-bit arcade game-themed. (Update: It turns out that theme is pretty common in 2019, I guess.)
- Points 2-5.
If you want to know about Taj, pretty much read points 1-10, take out the emphasis on 2-5, and the extreme skill level of the others, and he’s who you get. The one point where Taj stands out is his ability to do damage in go routes against man coverage, as well as make zone players bite to get behind them — and the part where Puka is a particular upgrade is the amount of plays on Taj’s film where he makes a good play that would be a great play (read: touchdown) if he either took a slightly different angle or didn’t make so many cuts trying to create a big play but rather just committed to his decision. But honestly, if Junior Adams can train that out of him, there’s no reason Taj Davis can’t be a fantastic complement to Puka.
Otherwise, the last skill player on offense who’ll be joining these two in the backfield is Cameron Davis who, after reviewing, is an absolute killer. His vision and decisiveness reminds me of a poor man’s Gaskin and his cutting in space reminds me of poor man’s Christian McCaffrey. There were even some tackle breaks from his highlight reel that look like Najee Harris’ high school film in 2017 where, while watching, you go “Oh okay this is the end of the play obviously” and then somehow he emerges from the black hole of one million tacklers and you’re just sitting there all “WTF, mate.”
Now. Before you go calling me a homer for those thoughts, I’m not saying Cameron Davis is a Gaskin, McCaffrey, or Harris. Just that we’re likely gonna see potential bits and pieces of those three scattered throughout his play. And, based on all available evidence, that’s gonna be dope.
Which brings us to...
Offensive Skill Positions Named Quarterback
Dylan Morris was one of the guys without senior film, as far as I could tell. Really there’s nothing I could say here that hasn’t already been said. High floor guy with a mid-range ceiling, which is neither great nor terrible; in other words, a good insurance player to have on the team since the bust-rate for quarterbacks is so high.
The only thing I have to add is that (as a junior), it looked like he at times didn’t transfer lower body torque fully in his throws, leaving power behind on his back food. This was just on occasion and presumably he got better in the year-and-a-half between then and now. Otherwise he has disciplined feet and, like 99.99% of high school passers, often stares down targets.
Per Reddit user sjmilty:
With the caveat being, naturally *high school* quarterback.
Pretty much, Morris seems a hail of a lot like Browning — even down to his time-to-time elusiveness where he somehow manages to escape certain death to get the pass off. Otherwise he has a better back foot throw than Browning. I’m sure everybody here will have no opinions on these similarities and a peaceful, civil discussion will ensue.
Motherf&^king OL Truckers
*Airhorn* it’s time to talk big dudes! *Airhorn*
Without going too in detail so this turns into 4,000 words, a blurb for each member of this crew:
Nathaniel Kalepo: Since his commitment to Washington (which was approximately the Triassic era), Kalepo’s feet have improved, plus he has the brute strength to flick his wrist wingardium leviosa-style and levitate objects (human opposition). Plus he has good straight line run blocking speed for someone roughly the size of the Columbia Tower. Being so tall, he doesn’t consistently get low enough, but that’s nothing Tim Socha can’t fix. Overall, he’s a project — which we knew — but one with a mega-high ceiling.
Julius Buelow: A more project-y version of Kalepo, i.e. potentially could destroy so hard it becomes classified as manslaughter, but if he reaches that potential it won’t be for a while. Among the traits that need to be improved are footwork and leg strength and knee bend — when he does get low, too much of it originates in his waste, which obviously is not how Good Sports-Playing™ happens. If those are the cons, the pros are that he’s strong enough to single-handedly take Bikini Bottom and push it somewhere else and is valuable as a puller when run blocking. The end.
Troy Fautanu: I stand by what I said in his signing day piece...
Fautanu played tackle and DE at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada. Despite a small-ish frame for a collegiate tackle — he’s listed at 6’4” 275 lbs on 247Sports and 6’4” 262 lbs on his Hudl — he has many lower body traits that do well there; he’s quick at the snap and is quite light on his feet when pass blocking and, on running plays, is stronger than his size would suggest while being insanely fast when called upon to pull. He really broke out when he more than held his own going up against 247’s #1 overall player, DE Nolan Smith. Seriously, his highlights look like a running back who just happens to be gigantic, it’s awesome.
Now that his measurements have been verified, we know he’s 6’3.5” and 289 lbs. Everything else still stands.
Corey Luciano: The most important thing Corey Luciano contributes is a name that’s a solid 18 years behind naming trends; it’s a commonly known fact that every Cor(e)y on Earth was born between 1979 and 1984, or at least was, until this dude came around. Plus his last name’s Luciano, so he’s definitely killed a man. And after watching his film, he’s even more definitely killed a man. Maybe multiple, who knows. He plays like he could punch a hole in bricks and keep going. You know that scene in The Blind Side where Michael doesn’t know when to stop blocking, so he pushes the dude all the way across the field into the stands? Yeah, that’s this guy. There’s no way we’re not gonna see some personal fouls from him. It’s awesome.
Oh, and he’s built for the interior and is more technically sound than Buelow or Kalepo. Moving on.
Thicc Dudes (Interior DL)
I’ll level with you here, I started this whole article mostly as an excuse to lose my mind over defensive linemen film.
Simply put, each one of these guys is a Certified Ass Kicker™, just in different ways. Noa Ngalu, being the smallest*, doesn’t have film that makes you drool over him being a physical freak (which will be following this paragraph shortly), but has impressive pound-for-pound strength and great straight line speed in pursuit given where he plays. He is versatile — having played anything from 0 tech to 7 tech (the latter against an option team, but I digress) — and the only fault that stood out to me was a tendency to sometimes get high on blockers, even if he disengages from them well.
Alright, on to that aforementioned physical freak. We all know it’s Paama. He has a mullet. He’s probably Vita in disguise. He’s mean. He’s hilarious as an offensive lineman because he touches guys and they fall over. There’s not much more to say. I love him.
And then of course there’s the last two in this group, who are holy-crap-nuggets so hype-worthy that, as a millennial who grew up with Gilby and Willingham and Co, I almost don’t know how to process this new reality.
If I had to pick one to feel more #blessed about, it would be Bandes; Tuitele has the athleticism to play anything from 5 tech to 0, but currently lacks the pure violence and explosion that Bandes brings. Tui doesn’t stop until the whistle, gets great leverage, and is a just a general baller (God I told myself I’d never use that term in an article), but Bandes is nuts. My initial notes just say “For someone to be both that powerful and have that good of hands is just silly.” I stand by that.
Like, have you ever seen a grizzly bear fight? That’s what Jacob Bandes looks like.
*”280 lbs? That’s practically as skinny as Posh Spice.” (Is a sentence you’ll only hear here.)
Slightly Less Thicc Dudes (Edge DL/OLB/Who Even Knows in This Defense)
Bralen Trice, like we knew, is somewhat of a project — or at least, based on his junior year tape since that’s the most recent available. He doesn’t consistently have great finishing speed and can play too upright, but is quite fast and has the length and athleticism where, after a couple years, could turn into a Joe Tryon-y type payoff.
Laiatu Latu’s section comes with the caveat that — as I’ve made blatantly obvious the last three years — I’m massively biased towards rugby players. And we already know UW getting Latu over USC is a certifiably big deal, then add on that he’s a rugby guy, and yeah, I’m gonna be a bit over-zealous.
Watching his film, my inner-monologue went something like, “Wow he’s quick for his size, great tackling and leg drive ugh rugby tackling amirite please give us more rugby tackling it’s so beautif— hold up why is he lined up wide at receiver what the hell is going on here OH NO isn’t that a violation of the Geneva Convention?”
Laiatu Latu is the kind of person where you look at them and just go “Why?”
Just Normal Linebackers
For the first two here, I’ll revert to what I wrote when they signed. For Josh Calvert, besides having a Sam Darnold-esque baseball delivery as a quarterback, that means this:
In his past junior highlights (his Hudl currently doesn’t have anything more recent), he had a tendency to at times approach a play a bit too upright before hitting at a good level, but otherwise there’s not much to criticize there; he’s strong and physical, diagnoses misdirections and screens well, and has good anticipation for where a play is going. Furthermore, he was Oaks Christian’s quarterback as well so presumably, as a linebacker, has a healthy appreciation for an offense’s perspective. However, of his traits as a quarterback, what I believe is most revealing is his speed as a dual-threat — either pulling the ball in a read-option or when escaping the pocket in unplanned emergencies — and his physicality and leverage as a ball-carrier; if you have a linebacker, and he also plays quarterback, and you want to see things that bode well for his linebacking abilities? Those two are high on the list.
Seriously, good feet and good hitter. Wonderful.
And Daniel Heimuli:
...was clearly prioritized early in the recruiting process over guys like Washington legacy and USC signee Maninoa Tufono. If there’s one negative tick he has, it would be an occasional poor angle that he usually can make up for by being a better athlete than his competition at the current level, but otherwise there’s not much to nitpick; he’s patient, spatially aware, and has fantastic leg drive in his tackles combined with a strong upper body at the point of contact. Perhaps most impressive, though, is his abilities that go beyond what a normal linebacker’s capable of — his agility, body control, and ball skills are more that of a defensive back than a linebacker. Put that together with the rest of his strengths, and the Huskies got a good one.
The other three — I’m including a steal of a walk-on here too — are icing on the cake. Miki Ah You enrolled early despite a knee injury that kept him out of football most of fall. He was listed by 247 as an OLB but I’m putting him here both due to his body type being far more suited to a traditional inside role, plus the fact that GoHuskies.com’s official roster has him under a standard “linebacker” listing. What stands out is his decisiveness (and subsequent speed) and tackling form, which combine to make his play look like he wants to murder you. It kind of reminds me of a less refined, linebacker version of Taylor Rapp’s high school film in that regard, although I don’t see the same ready-out-of-high-school, nuanced spatial instincts that Rapp had. While most of what I see is a positive, my instant instinct if I were an offensive coordinator is that he might be prone to biting on play-action or RPOs.
The last two are the Washingtonians Alphonzo Tuputala and Drew “Would be on Scholarship Were it 2016” Fowler.
Tuputala plays real mean. He also has the size (6’2”, 250 lbs) to both destroy the run and legitimately match up with tight ends. He also is somewhat unpolished, however, and will need to work on A) less wasted movement and B) more consistently hitting lower and less upright. That being said, those are pretty simple things to fix.
Fowler picked walking on at UW over scholarships at Utah, UCLA, Louisville, Oregon State. So that’s rad.
Also, he accelerates quickly and wraps up and drives well. He’s clearly a legit Power Five linebacker, and Washington gets him for free!
The Jimmy Lake School for Ass-Kicking and Charm
First off, I so wholeheartedly trust Jimmy Lake as a coach and recruiter that he could sign four strands of bull kelp and I’d still feel confident they’d end up all-conference first round draftees.
Second-of-ly, as such this class can be summed up like so:
Per spring practice, Cameron Williams is The Man.
Trent McDuffie sounds like the bully in a John Hughes movie.
Kamren Fabiculalala-lala-lala-lala-lala-ti-da-nan means you now have Brown-Eyed Girl stuck in your head, which I did deliberately to establish dominance.
And Asa Turner is a living reminder that Jimmy Lake > Notre Dame. Always.
Who needs to watch tape when you have Lake?
A Kicker (It’s the Kicker)
He’s a kicker.
Now, if you actually read til the end of this... I’m flattered but also... What is wrong with you?
Anyhoo, that’s all. Stop reading.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.