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Three Things We Learned: BYU

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The re-emergence of 12 personnel, the debut of the Trent McDuffie era, and some issues in the deep middle of UW’s zone

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Cal at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Home of the 12’s

It’s not just for the Seahawks anymore. At varying times over the last several years the Huskies have been primarily a 2 TE team. It’s part of a 2 game trend now but this year’s team has become increasingly reliant on the pairing of Cade Otton and Hunter Bryant.

In the first two games of the season Cade Otton played 77% of the offensive snaps and Hunter Bryant played 54%. Looking back, it might not be a coincidence that the one Washington loss corresponds with Bryant playing a season low 47% of the snaps. Meanwhile Corey Luciano, Jack Westover, Devin Culp, and Jackson Sirmon played about 22% of the snaps either at TE, as an eligible 6th OL, or at FB.

Against Hawai’i and BYU those snaps have shifted to the two primary tight ends as Otton has played 88% of the offensive snaps and Bryant 70% in the last two games. Meanwhile, Devin Culp upon his return has taken most of Corey Luciano’s snaps although unfortunately the most memorable play he’s made so far this season was missing a block to prevent the success of the fake field goal attempt on Saturday. This all corresponds to about an extra 15-20 snaps per game with at least 2 TEs on the field against BYU then against either Cal or Eastern.

Adding a TE means subtracting a WR or RB as the Huskies don’t get to play with 12 men on the field when fielding 12 personnel. The biggest loser from this switch has been Chico McClatcher who averaged 31 snaps in the first 2 games and had just 8 against BYU. If you look at just the first 3 quarters against BYU (non-garbage time) then Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia are still playing 75-80% of the offensive snaps but Terrell Bynum has seemingly passed Chico in playing time. And that gap became even more pronounced when Bynum played the entire 4th quarter largely in place of Aaron Fuller.

We’ll find out in the next few weeks if this is a result of Hunter Bryant getting healthier, a loss in confidence of Chico McClatcher, or just matchup specific game planning.

The McDuffie Era Is Upon Us

Coming into the season it appeared that Keith Taylor had one outside corner spot locked down while redshirt freshmen Kyler Gordon and Dominique Hampton battled for the other spot. Gordon ultimately won that battle and played at least 75% of the snaps in each of the first 3 games. However, zooming fast on the outside lane was Trent McDuffie.

It’s understandable that McDuffie didn’t win the job right out of camp considering he was a true freshman who didn’t make it time for spring ball. But as of right now the coaching staff seems to feel that he has now shown himself to be the second best corner on the roster and he was subsequently moved up to co-starter status on the depth chart this week.

So far this season there have been 70 pass attempts while McDuffie was on the field. He’s been targeted on 10 of those plays and opposing QBs are 5/10 for 49 yards for just 2 first downs and McDuffie both forced and recovered a fumble on one of those completions. There has been a little bit of luck as he’s yet to come up with a pass deflection and of those incompletions I deemed 4 of them inaccurate and 1 of them a drop. Still, it’s clear that he has played well enough to take a starting spot. I mean look at him hit the ball with his helmet, throw the receiver to the ground, and then jump on the ball practically all in one movement.

Kyler Gordon has been on the field for 100 pass attempts and opponents are 14/20 for 136 yards when throwing his way with 9 first down completions. That’s without counting the three penalties for 35 yards and an additional 3 first downs that he has committed. Expect to see plenty of Gordon still this week when the Huskies play USC’s air raid offense and will want 4 corners out on the field at the same time.

Not In The Zone

The Husky defense is still very good but the one spot where I think everyone can agree there has been the biggest drop off has been at inside linebacker. While those issues are most noticeable in not aligning properly in the run game, there also have been serious problems when they’ve dropped back into pass protection. The Husky zone was exploited time and again versus BYU as the Cougars attacked the deep middle and found a lot of success.

Zach Wilson was 5/7 on throws in the middle that traveled at least 15 yards downfield for 114 yards which translates to 16.29 yards per play and a 208.23 college passer rating. It would have been even worse for Washington except one of those throws was a wide open drop that likely would’ve gone for another 25+ yard chunk play on the drive that instead ended with the Brandon Wellington scoop and score.

If I had to guess the primary reason for the consistent lapse it’s that our linebackers were told to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage to prevent any Zach Wilson scrambles. That was one of my primary worries coming into the game but it never came to fruition as he only scrambled with the ball once for a gain of 2 yards. If the price we paid for giving up that deep middle space was that it prevented Wilson from ever breaking off a 15 yard run then maybe the coaching staff can live with it. But if that same space is open again versus USC with their devastating receiving corps then we may see a few house calls rather than just consistent 20-25 yard chunks.