TEN FREAKING DAYS PEOPLE.
We’ve examined the redshirt freshmen, and now it’s time to look at the Dawgs that have just arrived on campus. The Huskies brought in historic 2018 and 2019 classes, and many thought we’d see more freshmen take the field last year. Turns out, with the four-game rule, the Huskies could redshirt every member of the class. Will that happen this year, or is there a starter among the 2019 true freshman?
The obvious answer already is S Cam Williams, who seems to be in line for a regular spot in the rotation, if he’s not starting already by Week 1. He showed up early for spring ball and impressed the coaches from day one with his understanding of the defense and always being around the football. This continued into fall camp where he’s been consistently running with the first team.
Barring injury, it seems pretty set that Cam Williams will be the instant impact true freshman, and be the first freshman starter in the secondary since Taylor Rapp in 2016. Chris Petersen strongly indicated this at Pac-12 Media Day.
So, Cam Williams aside, which true freshmen will make an instant impact this year? I present five options:
While Puka hasn’t been consistently getting first team reps, he’s arguably the most talented WR on the team right now, playing a position that is in dire need of playmaking ability. He’s a very polished player with excellent feel for the game, making impressive sideline catches while keeping his feet inbounds. He’s also got that Dante Pettis-like athleticism with his springy, bouncy legs. He’ll have to fight through a talented group of second- and third-year players if he wants to see the field, though: namely Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne, and Terrell Bynum, not to mention the veterans like Ty Jones, Aaron Fuller, Chico McClatcher, and Andre Baccellia. If the pass game gets stuck in the mud like it last year, and Puka starts coming on in practice, he will make a huge impact. But at this stage it’s hard to think he’ll be catching many TDs in September.
Oh, look, another absurdly talented and athletic true freshman playing a position of need. Though in Latu’s case, I think he’s got a better chance to see the field earlier than Puka. He’s been playing with the first team on a more regular basis and has shown out while doing so. Chris Petersen keeps it close to the vest when talking about impressive freshman but he was clearly happy with Latu’s ability so far in fall camp. Another factor: defense, when compared to offense, is much more about effort and mentality than finer execution details, making it a little easier for a freshman to make an impact. The Huskies need help on the edges for the defense to really purr, and with Latu they have the juice they need. We’ll probably see a lot of Ryan Bowman and Joe Tryon with the first team, but I expect to see plenty of Latu early on. Reports from the open scrimmage are that he was explosive off the edge and showed off his rugby player athleticism on more than few occasions.
I initially wasn’t going to put Danny Hammer on here but with Josh Calvert being out for the season, Heimuli moves up the pecking order. As a true MLB prospect, he fits the need the Huskies have with Brandon Wellington currently the only known quantity at the position. Kyler Manu is running alongside Wellington, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson Sirmon or M.J. Tafisi start taking snaps from him as the season wears on. Heimuli is an incredibly physical and aggressive inside linebacker prospect who was MVP of the Polynesian Bowl (along with one Puka Nacua on offense). Even among the best players in the country, he stood out. As much as I’d love to see him on the field, and it’s a distinct possibility if there’s an injury or two, I suspect he might be headed for a redshirt year. He’s only 216 pounds currently so may need a year to bulk up. But should he be needed this year, we could do a lot worse.
Here’s a guy I have been excited about since we started recruiting him over three years ago. Faatui Tuitele is an extremely rare type of athlete who can play anywhere along the defensive line and could probably rush outside the offensive tackle in certain packages. While it sounds like Tuli and Taki will be the first set of subs to spell Levi Onwuzurike and Benning Potoa’e, I think Tui finds his way onto the field. Coach K loves to rotate the DL, and giving guys a breather at the position without seeing a huge dropoff in production has been critical to the Huskies’ defensive success over the past five years. When Elijah Qualls got hurt, we brought in Greg Gaines (granted, he was a redshirt freshman, not true) and the standard remained the same. Josiah Bronson will get plenty of snaps, but with John Clark out for the year, I think Tuitele is the team’s fifth or sixth DL right now—meaning he’ll have plenty of shots to make an impact.
Despite the amount of turnover in the secondary, it was still a little surprising to hear that Trent McDuffie was running with the twos at CB pretty much from the start of fall camp. He’s extremely good and was a highly rated recruit so it’s not that surprising, but with the talent amassed in the DB room, it’s impressive that a freshman came in and ascended the depth chart so quickly. He doesn’t have the greatest size but boasts excellent technique and has the right kind of strong mentality needed for the position. Like everywhere on the defense, the Huskies play a lot of dudes here, so Trent will be seeing plenty of balls thrown his way. Under the tutelage of Jimmy Lake and Cliff Harris, I like our odds there.
Which freshman will have the biggest impact?
This poll is closed
Cam Williams is the only real answer, you bozo