The 2019 class was arguably the most talented of Coach Petersen’s tenure, but with the notable exceptions of Puka Nacua, Cam Williams, Trent McDuffie, Asa Turner, and Tim Horn (yes, specialists are people too), we didn’t get to see much of their talents on the field. Fa’atui Tuitele, Jacob Bandes, Daniel Heimuli, and Josh Calvert were all candidates to fight into the rotation this past season, but all four were able to preserve their eligibility and take a development or rehab year. Now, it’s a year later, and we’re looking to see them contribute on the field. Just to illustrate how much talent we brought in on defense, 247’s class calculator had UW’s 2019 defensive recruiting class rated so high that it would’ve been a top 25 class by itself. That’s a lot to get excited about, so let’s take a look at the top candidates to breakout to become impact redshirt freshmen.
Before we start, let’s get a couple ground rules out of the way so you guys know how I narrowed down my list (which was much harder said than done with all this talent). First, I’m going to disqualify Dylan Morris.
Yes, I know I pulled a head fake using him as the cover picture. And yes, I know he’s got a shot in the QB competition, and I actually like what he could bring to the table, but picking a QB feels too much like a “no duh” type of pick. So, let’s just give an automatic pick for Morris to be an impact redshirt freshman if he wins.
Second, I’m looking strictly at how guys can earn their way to playing time. Any of them could get onto the field and make an impact (positive or negative) after a rash of injuries, but you can make those types of hypotheticals for any position. Obviously earning reps in a rotation is easier for positions that have deep rotations, but it is what it is, and that’s how I decided to write this.
The Top Candidates:
Fa’atui Tuitele, DL
As the highest rated player in our 2019 class, redshirt or not, Tuitele is obviously high on my list of candidates. Having near prototypical Power 5 DT measurables coming out of high school (6-3, ~300 lbs), and a diverse toolbox of interior and edge skills, it was a bit surprising to see him play as little as he did for a defense that looked to be in need of a bigger interior presence. After some time, it became clearer that an unrepaired pectoral injury during his senior season in high school was hampering him more than we initially were led to believe. I was hopeful that he could step right onto Montlake and make a difference since I had never noticed his injury slow him down in the handful of his HS games that I was able to watch in person, but then again college is a big step up from Hawaii HS football. Hopefully he was able to use this extended time away from football to get healthy, but even if it did, it’s still a stacked DL group that could make reaching higher than 4th on the DT depth chart difficult.
Jacob Bandes, DL
Bandes was our second highest rated player in the class, and like Tuitele, I had some high but reasonable expectations of Bandes’ ability to make a difference early. As a prototypically-sized Power 5 DT (6-2, 313 lbs) with a powerful base and solid quickness off the snap, I had visions of him becoming another Greg Gaines type of presence on the interior. Those visions might still become a reality for Bandes next season. He still will have to contend with a talented DL group but the draft delcaration of Levi Onwuzurike opens up a path for more playing time. An expanded usage of heavier DL personnel in Coach K’s sub packages could open up more reps for a talented guy like Bandes.
Josh Calvert, ILB
It was a real bummer when news came out that Calvert hurt his knee in practices last season, and that he’d have to miss his first season at UW. The reports out of practice were that he was really starting to push for playing time in the rotation, and it wouldn’t have taken a herculean effort from Calvert to have outperformed our ILBs last season. As a heady ILB with good size, speed, and physicality, I have no problem projecting him into the ILB rotation next year given his momentum before last season. Unlike the DL, the ILB room doesn’t have as many entrenched rotation pieces who will be guaranteed snaps. Sirmon and Tafisi were decent last year, but they didn’t show anything that should safeguard their spot on the depth chart (especially when they were Calvert’s main competition last year when he was making waves at practice). Eddie Ulofoshio seems to have found his footing in the rotation last year, and he was incredibly effective as a blitz threat and tackler. Those are two areas that Calvert should also shine in, but I believe he has a more versatile skill set as well. The only thing that could hold him back is his rehab.
Daniel Heimuli, ILB
Heimuli is another ILB that should be right in the middle of the competition for snaps next season. Even more highly rated than Calvert, the Polynesian Bowl DMVP simply oozes talent that should provide an immediate upgrade to the athleticism in the middle of our defense. Having bulked up a little to a stout 6-0, 225 lbs, Heimuli is a prototypical modern ILB. He’s physical and has sideline-to-sideline range with upside as a coverage LB. Like Calvert, the competition should be wide open, so I expect Heimuli to at least get on the field for significant snaps next season.
Cam Davis, RB
I’ve already written a lot about Cam Davis in my breakdown of the RBs on UW’s roster, but in short, he’s a versatile and athletic RB who could rise to become a feature back in our offense if Richard Newton doesn’t seize the role first. Outside of Newton, there isn’t much competition that offers a well-rounded skill set for the staff feature. The tricky part with predicting Davis as an impact redshirt freshman is how much John Donovan wants to rotate his running backs. Typically, it’s a pretty short rotation, and Sean McGrew is known to be a staff favorite in certain when he can stay healthy. With Newton and McGrew both having spotty injury histories, I still feel confident saying that Davis will get his shot.
Others to Watch:
Miki Ah You, ILB
Nate Kalepo, OT
Julius Buelow, OT
Which redshirt freshman will have the biggest impact?
This poll is closed