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Roundtable: Who’s the next Zee Tee Eff?

“The Gang Tries to Predict Some Stuff”

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Get your weekly roundtable thoughts here. All of us in this week’s discussion, you can follow on Twitter here, here, here, here, or — wait for it — here. No, I will not be telling you which “here” is which of us.

Anyhoo, let’s end your week with some titillating discussion on UW football stuff. Also I promise to never use the word “titillating” again. Sorry.

To the roundtable!

Gabey Lucas: Okay roundtable time! This is kinda the classic — the question last year where I predicted ZTF being awesome at some point in the future (albeit not as awesome as last year, and certainly not so soon) — but who do you think is overlooked going into spring/next season?

Kirk DeGrasse: I’ll go with Julius Irvin. He was a recruit with a lot of hype and the Huskies had to overcome some late drama to secure his LOI, so I think a lot of folks figured that with his 4* rating and being the son of an All-Pro DB in LeRoy Irvin that he’d be right in the mix for playing time early in his career. Instead he’s battled injuries which have limited his progression and he’s seen classmates Kyler Gordon and younger players like Trent McDuffie, Asa Turner, and Cam Williams pass him on the depth chart. If he’s healthy, I think this could be the breakout year for Irvin. There’s playing time to be had in the secondary and I think he’s got the potential to grab one of the open spots.

Andrew Berg: Irvin is a good pick. If he can get back to his physical peak, the underlying talent is there for him to be great.

Max Vrooman: This is a tough category because the team returns so much production that there are guys who might be overlooked and normally would have a chance to show it but still might not see much of the field despite being really good. Also, since we only played four games there aren’t very many guys who saw 100-200 snaps but weren’t starters a la ZTF in 2019.

I like the Irvin pick. He gave up two touchdowns in the 4th quarter against Arizona but it’s not as if he got burned on either of them, he just didn’t get his head turned around in time which is teachable.

Trying to think of eligible players on offense essentially discounts the offensive line since with all five starters returning there’s just about no chance we see someone break through without injuries. We got to see enough of Odunze and McMillan that they don’t really qualify in my mind. I’m going with Cam Davis. It really felt last year like he was as good as any of the other backs when he saw the field but he just didn’t get to play as often. I don’t think it would surprise any of us if by the end of next season he was getting as many snaps as anyone else on the team if his pass blocking improves or if he continued to be 4th on the depth chart because there’s just so much veteran talent there.

Andrew: I usually approach these types of questions by looking at players who have the physical ability to excel, but haven’t had the opportunity, either due to position blockage, injury, or needing to refine technique. For that reason, I’m going with Laiatu Latu.

He might not be a conventional pick because the OLB position has so much competition that could keep him off the field between ZTF, Ryan Bowman, and Sav’ell Smalls. Think back a year, though, and Latu looked like the best bet from that group to be a star in the near future. He alternately looked outstanding and inexperienced in his 2019 cameos. Even when he made mistakes, his game-changing ability was apparent. He has the frame to hold up against the run right now. He already showed the ability to beat tackles in the pass rush. He would have entered 2020 ahead of ZTF on the depth chart if not for his injury. With UW’s OLB rotation, he’ll have a chance to play, and if he plays as well as I expect, he’ll be getting as many snaps as any OLB in the second half of the season.

On offense, I want to pick Mark Redman. He has the size and speed to create constant matchup problems as a pass catcher. He blocked better than I expected as a true freshman. I can’t commit to him fully because the Huskies have an even better TE who also needs to get more targets and attention, so asking for increased volume for a second TE seems like too much to ask.

Kirk: If healthy, Laiatu Latu should get a lot of playing time. While it’s great for the team, Ryan Bowman returning could cause some headaches for Malloe in keeping all his guys happy. With Bowman, ZTF, Latu and Smalls returning with extensive experience and guys like Jordan Lolohea, Bralen Trice and Cooper McDonald also hoping to earn time, that’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Andrew: The latter trio will only play in blowout time or in case of an injury, I would guess.

Coach B: Circling back to the defense, I could see a scenario where Cam Williams “breaks out” after a season coming off the bench and/or Dom Hampton jumping into the line up at safety. Both seem to have passed Irvin for reps, but I think Hampton’s lack of success in limited minutes might be attributable to his usage in the slot. He’s a big DB at 6-2 220, and I wonder if he’d be better suited at safety where it might be a little easier to hide him from man-assignments or unfavorable match ups. He has solid athleticism for a safety, and he could let his instincts play a little more freely at safety than at corner.

Gabey: I think that’s a fair assessment especially regarding Hampton. I remember when the updated heights and weights came out last... summer, I wanna say? And one of the things that stood out was him bulking up to 220, with the speculation being he was being set up for a move to safety.

Late to add some thoughts, but I also agree with Latu up front. I mean who knows what he would’ve looked like last season, but there’s reason why after the 2019 season he was the guy we were all excited for and ZTF was more the “down the road he could be something” of our consciousness. Definitely overall am very excited to see our OLB rotation.

Max: I totally spaced on Latu when going through names in my head which means he’s absolutely someone being overlooked heading into the spring.

Andrew: Reading through the rest of the nominees, it’s interesting that we mostly focused on defense. That’s doubly true since we probably need more growth on the offensive side of the ball from where we were last year. Part of the reason is probably that the offensive growth comes from normal progression from fairly established players. It would make a big difference, though, if a RB like Davis (as Max mentioned) or one of the WRs outside of Nacua and Bynum became an all-conference contender at his position.

Max: Also circling back to the offense (and giving you the shout out) I like the Redman pick as someone who should definitely be really good and it could come as early as this year. I’m not sure if our second TE is going to get enough targets to really feel like they’ve had a breakout season but he’ll definitely see the field (nine routes run on 47 snaps in the four games last year).

Along those same lines Devin Culp is someone who I don’t think anyone is really talking about that I could easily see ending up with a larger than expected role. Culp ran seven routes on just 26 snaps last year as clearly he’s more of a receiving TE than a blocking one. Between injuries and suspensions he’s been unavailable for a lot of Husky tenure but sets with him and Otton as the two TEs provides a lot of flexibility with play action. I expect that Culp leaking out into the flat and catching a dump off should be a great option on a 2nd and two around midfield.

Andrew: I’m not confident enough in any one player to nominate for him within that profile, but I do think that’s a category where there is an opportunity. I’ll cross my fingers and say McMillan might have the best shot.

Gabey: Same and same on everything, but I’ll go with Odunze. At the end of 2021, whichever has the better season, Andrew or I will owe the other a beer.

Andrew: Odunze was better than McMillan in 2020. McMillan had a slightly better pedigree. We’ll see which one wins out in 2021.

Gabey: I think you’re right-ish, but also I feel like if Morris puts just a liiiittle bit more air on a deep ball or two last season, we’d be saying a lot more on McMillan.

Either way they both showed that this offense is indeed easier to get in and play earlier and both looked like there’s a lot in both of them to look forward to. So I suppose in that way, I kinda feel like they’re not overlooked at all and I retract my answer. Although I’ll still owe you a beer and vice versa depending on 2021’s outcome...

Max: Gabey smartly supporting the player whose dad is most likely to roast her on twitter had she picked against them. Brilliant.

Gabey: I would be honored to get roasted by James Odunze, he’s the man.

I’m wondering also about some more guys — which, on brand, all are on defense. I keep wondering about the ILBs because it feels like there has to be one of the 2019 guys who takes a significant step forward this year just, like... probability-wise. I think a huge factor here is how much of a lingering effect Josh Calvert’s knee injury two years ago has, because if it didn’t permanently limit his ceiling he would be someone I’d anticipate could make an impact.

But really there’s none of the 2019 guys — including PWO Drew Fowler, even — who I’d be surprised if they saw a big jump in snaps and production.

Also insert obligatory “Jacob Bandes rules and I want him to pwn fools next season.”

Thoughts, questions, musings? Regardless, surely all of us will end up wrong and it’ll be some other player, but... *shrugs*

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.