Yesterday we came at you with the potential options for impact true freshman. That’s an easy category to define. It’s anyone who hasn’t been enrolled in college previous to this winter. Today we traditionally would be looking at impact redshirt freshman. This too is normally easy to define. Someone who is in their second year in the program but redshirted the previous season.
The problem is that Washington only played 4 games last year so even without the eligibility mulligan every true freshman from the previous year would have counted under the pre-existing NCAA redshirt rules. What to do with players like Rome Odunze or Sav’ell Smalls who were clear rotation pieces as true freshmen last year and pretty clearly would’ve burned their redshirt if they’d had the opportunity to do so?
The answer is we’re casting them out. Instead we’ve changed the category to simply breakout redshirt. I’m looking for a player who likely would’ve redshirted last season even if the team had played 12 games and also has not meaningfully seen the field in a prior season. It’s an arbitrary threshold but I’m including in this category players who were on the roster last season and have 25 or fewer career non-special teams snaps. That excludes players like Dom Hampton, McMillan and Odunze, Cooper McDonald, Mark Redman, Cam Davis, Devin Culp, and others.
Now that that’s settled, let’s get to it.
Outside Linebacker Bralen Trice
Trice easily fits under this umbrella since he has 0 career defensive snaps despite entering year 3 in the program. On the day before spring practice started it wouldn’t have been absurd in the slightest to suggest that Trice was a likely transfer candidate. He had yet to see the field and had 2 true freshmen and a transfer that seemingly jumped him on the depth chart over the previous year. Outside linebacker was likely Washington’s deepest position.
But then ZTF tore his Achilles, Laiatu Latu medically retired, and Trice gained glowing praise from the coaching staff. It seemed like obvious hyperbole that the coaching staff said he was further along in his development than Joe Tryon at the same stage but Ikaika Malloe doubled down on that statement this past week. In Tryon’s 3rd year with the program he had 9 pressures and 2 sacks on 99 pass rush opportunities while starting 2 games. I think most Husky fans would be pretty happy if Trice exceeded those numbers this season as part of the rotation opposite stalwart Ryan Bowman. And if he does then he’s a strong contender for this title.
Inside Linebacker Daniel Heimuli
This was a narrow thing as Heimuli played 22 snaps last season in his first college action all in garbage time against Arizona. He definitely struggled during that time although to be fair the entire defense had clear problems in that 4th quarter. To many fans it seems like Jackson Sirmon’s starting spot is clearly up for grabs and if Heimuli has truly levelled up and lived up to his potential coming out of high school then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see him snatch it up.
With all of the attrition the Huskies have seen at the ILB spot given the transfer of Josh Calvert and the (maybe temporary) absence of Miki Ah You and Will Latu there seems to be no question that Heimuli will at the very least earn a backup spot alongside MJ Tafisi. Washington traditionally rotates through an extra 2 players at the position along close to a 75/25 split and so no matter what we’ll see Heimuli on the field. As a very highly regarded prospect if Heimuli looks good in that time his role could increase throughout the season.
Safety Julius Irvin
It’s easy to forget that Julius Irvin was actually the highest rated recruit among a defensive back class that also included Dom Hampton and Kyler Gordon a few years ago. Injuries slowed him down and he so far has only appeared outside of special teams in that aforementioned 4th quarter against Arizona. Irvin was targeted on a pair of TD passes which was not a great first impression. However 1 of those throws was perfectly placed and the other Irvin had a chance but just didn’t quite get his head around in time.
This fall it seems that Irvin is in the thick of things as part of a 5-person competition for the pair of safety spots. Even if Irvin doesn’t end up winning one of the jobs he’s shown that he should at least rotate in to get some more experience. Safety is also one of the few spots where the coaches have been willing to make changes to the lineup during the season. Starting the year as a backup, excelling, then moving to starter is entirely possible as well.
Offensive Lineman Nate Kalepo
The obvious young talent on offense don’t quite fit the definition for this list but we needed to find them some representation. The starting offensive line seems to be pretty set but if there’s a vulnerable spot it would likely be MJ Ale at left guard. Kalepo has put himself in position to be the backup at that spot and would have a chance to see serious playing time if either Ale struggles or there’s an injury at either guard spot.
Clearly we aren’t rooting for either of those things to happen but at the same time it’s never a bad thing if a younger player balls out so hard that it forces the coaching staff’s hand.
OL Roger Rosengarten- Kalepo earned the OL spot over him since Matteo Mele is also in contention to take over in the event of an injury at an offensive tackle spot.
DL Noa Ngalu- Most of UW’s defensive tackles are 300+ pounds so it’s possible that Ngalu as a lighter body type could find a niche in the rotation.
RB Jay’veon Sunday- Washington’s running backs room is a little too crowded to imagine Sunday realistically breaking out this year but it seems only a matter of time.
Which Former Redshirt will have the biggest breakout season in 2021?
This poll is closed
OLB Bralen Trice
ILB Daniel Heimuli
S Julius Irvin
OL Nate Kalepo