We’re less than three weeks from the long-awaited kickoff to the Pac-12 season, so you know what that means: it’s time for idle speculation about historical Husky players!
Today’s entry in the Countdown asks us to ponder which former Husky would be the most valuable addition to this year’s squad. I’ve added a couple caveats to make the game more fun. First, players who were All-Americans don’t qualify, because it would be too easy to slot Hugh McElhenny or Steve Emtman onto any roster. Second, I’m focused primarily on players from the last 30 years, both because I’m more familiar with them and it requires less mental gymnastics to slot them into a modern style of football.
And with that, on to the candidates.
Marques Tuiasosopo, QB
The 2000 vintage of Tui won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, but lost out on All-American status to Oklahoma’s Josh Heupel and FSU’s Heisman winner Chris Weinke. The 2020 Huskies enter the season with a question mark at QB, and Tui would bring nearly three full seasons of starting experience to the position. Perhaps even more importantly, his dual-threat capabilities would help the transition to a new offensive line and would present an added threat in the ground game. Tui was not the most accurate passer, which might compromise the emerging talent at the WR position. On the other hand, his strong arm could unlock explosive plays to the likes of Puka Nacua and Rome Odunze.
If we play it loose with the space-time continuum, Tui also offers some advantages on the sidelines. He now has 12 years of coaching experience in the Pac-12, including an undefeated (ok, 1-0) record as an interim head coach. Most recently, he has spent the last 3+ seasons on Justin Wilcox’s staff at Cal, so he might be a useful double agent in the season opener. The only question is how Kevin Thomson would feel about having someone as old as him on the roster.
Mark Bruener, TE
Tight end has been such a strength for the Dawgs in recent years that the sneaky lack of depth might surprise some casual fans. Hunter Bryant’s departure to the NFL paired with Jacob Kizer’s opt-out has left Cade Otton without much support. Ergo, let’s integrate one of the most reliable and multi-faceted TEs in program history into the lineup. The Aberdeen native had prototypical size for the position at 6’4”, 253 lbs, so he could provide ample blocking support when needed. He also caught 90 career passes for over 1000 yards in a less pass-happy era. With Otton and Bruener in a two-TE set, there would be lots of mismatches and no run/pass hand-tipping. He would also get to play out the Ken Griffey Sr./Jr. storyline with his son, Carson, who is a linebacker on this year’s team.
Senio Kelemete, LT
The Huskies lost experienced tackles Trey Adams and Jake Hilbers to the NFL after last season. The preliminary plan has been to shift standout guard Jaxson Kirkland to LT to protect the new QB’s blindside. Why not leave Kirkland on the interior and go with a sure thing? The Dawgs recruited Kelemete as a defensive tackle and he appeared in eight games there as a true freshman. He shifted to guard as a sophomore, but locked down the left tackle spot in his final two years. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 as a senior and made it to the Senior Bowl. Kelemete is currently in his ninth NFL season for his third team. Mike Zandofsky might also qualify for this spot, but he just misses my 30-year cutoff, so others would have to weigh in on the comparison.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE/OLB
The late, great Hawaiian superstar left UW as the team’s career sack leader (later overtaken by Hau’oli Kikaha, who would have made this list if he hadn’t been an All-American). His 29 sacks and 46 tackles for loss would be exceptionally useful for a defensive front that has not had a consistent pass-rush threat for the last few seasons. With the early departure of Joe Tryon, Te’o-Nesheim would be an outstanding mentor to young pass rushers like Laiatu Latu, Sav’ell Smalls, and Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
Donald Butler, ILB
After a terrible showing in 2019, there’s reason for optimism with a crop of young inside linebackers on the 2020 roster. Butler would introduce some certainty to balance that potential and turn a potential weakness into a undoubted strength. Butler had the size and speed of a prototypical inside linebacker. He made 239 tackles during his UW tenure and succeeded against the run and the pass. His versatility took him to the next level, where he made over 400 NFL tackles mostly for the Chargers. After his playing career, Butler finished his bachelor’s degree at UW and went to Georgetown for his master’s.
Who would you choose to add to the 2020 Huskies?
This poll is closed
Marcus Tuiasosopo, QB
Mark Bruener, TE
Senio Kelemete, LT
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE
Donald Butler ILB