The original version of this article was set to come out the day before the Pac-12 announced there would be no games played until at least January. Needless to say it’s been a hectic couple of months since.
However, with that extra bit of delay comes a little bit more confidence in actually counting down to a season opener. So it may be 2 months later than normal but the 30-day countdown is back!
We’ll be counting you down to the start of the abbreviated 2020 Husky football season with one article per day giving you a chance to share your opinion about what you think is likely to happen.
With that said, let’s get to our first edition: breakout upperclassman.
Every year there is at least one if not multiple upperclassmen who were either buried on the depth chart or late bloomers that rose from obscurity on the roster to play major roles. This past season you could say that Elijah Molden, Brandon Wellington, and Andre Baccellia all fit the mold to varying degrees.
It’s somewhat difficult to identify those players right now for the simple fact that this is an extremely young roster. There are only 19 juniors and seniors combined on the team. I would consider half of them to have been either starters or significant role players in the past which eliminates them from consideration as a breakout candidate. QB Kevin Thomson should he win the job has a chance to be the most important upperclassman but I’m also disqualifying grad transfers from being eligible since it’s not really a breakout if you haven’t been there all along. That leaves 9 players to pick from and we’ll focus on the 5 most realistic candidates here.
It might be a bit of a stretch to include Bainivalu here and he is probably the one that I was least comfortable with putting on the list. He got a couple of starts at the end of last season when Jaxson Kirkland went down with an injury but was a clear backup on the depth chart when everyone else was healthy. Bainivalu was serviceable as the 6th man on the offensive line but his performance was a clear notch below the starters.
Coming into this year he should be pretty firmly entrenched as one of the starters although until we see an official 1st team offensive line take the field in practices it’s unclear exactly where he’ll line up. The best bet right now is probably at left guard but with his versatility it’s conceivable we’ll see Bainivalu at either guard spot or right tackle. As a highly recruited local lineman it’d be great to see him have 2 years as an above average starter to end his Husky career.
There’s a case to be made that on a per catch basis Jordan Chin is the most efficient receiver in Washington football history. He has 4 career catches and they’ve gone for 113 yards with 2 touchdowns. Chin didn’t get a lot of playing time last season but he came in and showed that he could be an effective target on play action when running go routes with his straight line speed. Given the talent the Huskies have at the receiver position it seems unlikely that Chin becomes a starter but is it crazy to think he comes in for 25-30 snaps per game and is able to have multiple games with 2-3 catches for 60+ yards and a TD? Probably. But it isn’t impossible.
The biggest problem for Kizer has been his availability as back injuries have slowed him down significantly and he missed most of last season. However, he is an absolute mauler as a blocking tight end and when the Huskies need to pick up a 1st down on the ground he will be in the lineup if healthy. Should Kizer play the entire year he could easily play the 2nd most snaps at the tight end position for the Dawgs. That has been an extremely valuable role for the Huskies in recent years and could be again.
McGrew is yet another player who has been held back by injuries. He was electric in limited playing time last season, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. After exiting high school as one of the top running backs in the country it wouldn’t be absurd to see McGrew close out his college career by taking over the lead spot in the running back rotation and letting Richard Newton be the primary short yardage back. No matter what, we can expect that McGrew will continue to play a major role in the kick return game when healthy and see a decent amount of time on offensive snaps. It just might be hard to consider him the true breakout for this award unless he ends up leading the team in carries.
For much of last off-season it seemed a lock that McKinney would be the clear cut winner of this award. The Huskies were losing both starting safeties and McKinney filled in at safety in the Rose Bowl for Taylor Rapp. That seemingly meant something even if McKinney understandably didn’t play great in that game given the lack of reps and the strength of opponent. However, a pair of true freshmen skipped over McKinney on the depth chart and Myles Bryant was moved over from nickel corner to take the other starting spot. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement but McKinney still saw some snaps as a reserve defensive back and it would only take maybe one injury for him to be promoted to starter.
Who’s the most likely breakout upperclassman?
This poll is closed
My Pick: Henry Bainivalu
I telegraphed it pretty hard in the write up above but he’s the only one that I think has a clear path to a starting job and at the very least I expect him to be solid this fall.