If you’re reading this you likely know that every year we run our 30-day countdown series in preparation for the first game of the new season. There were obviously some fits and starts this year but we did end up getting through 29 days of it before it was announced that the Cal game had been cancelled. Each entry in the series seeks to answer a question for the new year and generally polls you the readers to see what your opinions are.
Now that we’re officially once again in the college football offseason let’s go back through the responses to see what the UWDP community got right or got wrong. A side note that some of the topics are more for fun than predictions about the season so those are excluded from this recap.
Day 30- Breakout Upperclassman
Results: Sean McGrew 43%, Henry Bainivalu 20%, Jacob Kizer 15%, Jordan Chin 9%, Other 9%, Brandon McKinney 4%
I think I would say that the respondents were spot on with this one. Sean McGrew ended up leading the team in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns at 43, 227, and 4 respectively. If we’d had a full season it’s reasonable to think that would’ve continued considering that McGrew got the majority of carries in their last game against Stanford.
Bainivalu certainly put up a fight in this conversation though as he held down the starting right guard spot admirably. Pro Football Focus graded out Bainivalu as the 9th best offensive lineman in the Pac-12 and it wouldn’t have been a stretch at all to see him earn all-conference recognition.
Jacob Kizer decided to opt out in between when the initial article was posted and the season starting but he likely would’ve gotten plenty of snaps as the 2nd or 3rd TE in the offense had he played and been healthy. Jordan Chin played sparingly as the 5th or 6th WR on the depth chart. Finally, Brandon McKinney only played 7 snaps during garbage time against Arizona.
For the “Other” crowd, Alex Cook surprisingly won one of the starting safety jobs and rarely made any game changing plays or major errors. I disqualified Ty Jones since he started 2 years ago but if you wanted to say he deserved consideration since he didn’t get a catch in an injury plagued season last year I won’t fight you too hard.
Day 29- Breakout Redshirt Freshman
Results: Josh Calvert 28%, Fa’atui Tuitele 25%, Daniel Heimuli 21%, Jacob Bandes 13%, Cameron Davis 8%, Other 4%
Coach B stated in the intro to this that he was disqualifying Dylan Morris from consideration because if he won the job then no one else could possibly compete for this spot. As it turns out Morris did win the job and also very clearly wins the title if he’s considered eligible.
Tuitele otherwise wins this by default if we play by the stated rules. He played more than double the snaps of any other eligible redshirt freshman. The defensive line as a whole was a disappointment and Tuitele didn’t really help to dissuade that notion. But he got on the field a decent amount and more so than his fellow DT Jacob Bandes. We saw flashes from Cameron Davis and based on quality of play he deserved consideration but he just wasn’t on the field enough to truly be considered a breakout.
Results: Other 37%, Kedon Slovis 22%, Jayden Daniels 22%, Chase Garbers 8%, CJ Verdell 6%, Max Borghi 4%, Davis Mills 0%
I also went with other, theorizing that in such a weird shortened season that we might see someone emerge to take the title that came out of nowhere. And sure enough, Colorado RB Jarek Broussard ended up winning the award. Broussard who had 0 career carries before the 2020 season and had a history of multiple ACL tears but then rushed for over 300 yards in a game.
Slovis ended up as the 1st team QB on the all-conference squad mostly by virtue of raw statistics rather than stellar play. But the potential for that was part of why he was the preseason favorite for OPOY. None of the other 5 nominees I put forth made 1st or 2nd team all-conference although Mills definitely had an argument to being the best QB in the conference. He just didn’t have the raw numbers because of games played totals and the offense in which he played.
Results: Elijah Molden 53%, Kayvon Thibodeaux 34%, Hamilcar Rashed 6%, Other 5%, Nate Landman 2%, Jahad Woods 1%
It’s not a surprise that the voters on a UW blog went with Elijah Molden here and I don’t know that they were necessarily wrong to lean that way. Molden had a phenomenal year and if Washington had played their full slate of games and ended up beating USC in the Pac-12 title game instead of Oregon then it might have happened. Thibodeaux had a slow start to the season but had a couple of dominant performances at the end of the year. If he had played like he did against USC in the majority of their games then he would have won.
For what it’s worth, I did put eventual DPOY winner Talanoa Hufanga in my others receiving consideration category. The winner of the award is traditionally either a linebacker who accumulates a ton of tackles or a defensive lineman who gets sacks. Hufanga was absolutely deserving of the win but it takes a special kind of performance for a safety to win and he put forth that kind of season.
Day 26- Strongest Position Group
Results: Cornerback 76%, Wide Receiver 9%, Defensive Line 6%, Offensive Line 5%, Running Backs 2%, Other 2%
This ultimately came down to a battle between the cornerbacks and the offensive line and it makes perfect sense in the preseason why the corners were the heavy favorites. Elijah Molden and Trent McDuffie were their usual fantastic selves. Keith Taylor didn’t really see a jump as a senior but was still above average. We saw more of Kyler Gordon as the short season went on and he had his moments as well.
Still, the offensive line never allowed Dylan Morris to be tackled behind the line of scrimmage (the 1 sack was when Morris ran out of bounds behind the LOS). They had some struggles run blocking against Utah and Stanford when those defenses packed the box but with the entire starting group returning I expect them to win this poll next August.
Day 25- Weakest Position Group
Results: Quarterback 49%, Inside Linebacker 28%, Tight End 8%, Offensive Line 6%, Defensive Line 5%, Outside Linebacker 4%
I completely understand why quarterback won this poll and given what happened after the season it might have been correct despite an extremely solid debut from Dylan Morris. With no starter announced until just before kickoff it certainly read from the limited access we had like no one took control of the job which is usually a sign of weakness rather than strength. We’ll see what happens to Sirmon and Garbers in their next stops but if neither ends up having an exemplary career then it may have been the case that the group as a whole had issues even if Morris turns out to be a plus.
Inside linebacker probably wins the award after the fact here for most fans because of the frustration over the play of Jackson Sirmon and the inability of the redshirt freshmen to challenge for playing time. But Edefuan Ulofoshio was one of the better linebackers in the country so it’s hard for me to go with that group. My pick would be the defensive line which finished the season per PFF with 15 total pressures, 0 sacks, and 6 missed tackles in 4 games. Part of that was the absence of Tuli Letuligasenoa for 2.5 games but the lack of production from that spot was disappointing.
Day 23- Comeback Player
Results: Ty Jones 58%, MJ Tafisi 18%, Someone Else 14%, Keith Taylor 10%
I don’t think there’s much to talk about here. Ty Jones is clearly the winner in my mind after returning from missing almost all of 2019 due to injury to lead all wide receivers in total snaps. It wasn’t a perfect season from Jones but he did have the Husky highlight catch of the season. Meanwhile, MJ Tafisi never challenged for playing time coming back from the scary neck stinger he suffered at Arizona last year.
Day 22- Impact True Freshman
Results: Sav’ell Smalls 41%, Mark Redman 20%, Rome Odunze 16%, Jalen McMillan 14%, Myles Murao 5%, Ethan Garbers 2%, Other 2%
The winner here is probably still Smalls but it’s at least a defensible argument between him and Rome Odunze. Smalls played the most snaps of any of the true freshman after Ryan Bowman missed a few games and Laiatu Latu missed the entire season. There were some flashes but overall Smalls looked like someone whose athleticism was more advanced than his technique at this point in his career. So basically how he was advertised.
The 3 pass catchers behind Smalls all saw a decent amount of playing time. Odunze and McMillan became starters in the finale against Stanford when Terrell Bynum and Puka Nacua were unavailable and showed some flashes. McMillan had plenty of times when he got behind the defense but had 3 potential big gains throughout the year hit his hands and fall incomplete even if none of the throws/situations were perfect. Bringing in even one of those would’ve really boosted how we looked at his performance.
Odunze looked like he was ready against Stanford and John Donovan tried to get him the ball on trick plays twice in 4 games although both were blown up through no fault of Odunze’s. Redman saw limited playing time as the 3rd tight end and didn’t get to run enough routes for us to see what he could do in that circumstance.
Cooper McDonald ended up the only other true freshman to see snaps outside of special teams. Long snapper Jaden Green made a terrible miscue on his first touch that directly caused an Oregon State touchdown but settled down after that to be invisible which is the goal of any long snapper.
We’ll be back next week to look over the results from days 11 through 20.