Yesterday, it was the best position group. Today, not so much. This is a tough piece to write because whatever is Washington’s weakest position group won’t be that bad, and in fact could turn out to be quite good. This is really about who has the most to prove.
I have listed three positions below - two on defense, and one on offense. I considered evaluating the safety position since it will likely have two new starters in Dom Hampton and Julius Irvin and last season’s safety play was substandard compared to recent years. But, I trust the secondary overall and it is unlikely the safeties will be a huge liability. Also, three of the four position groups most likely to be worst on the team being on defense just didn’t seem right to me.
With that out of the way, allow me to help get you one day closer to the season. Let’s start with what I am sure most are thinking already.
It feels like a lifetime since John Ross and Dante Pettis were burning defensive backs left and right. While there’s been some efficiency to the pass game in recent years, explosive plays have been few and far between. That could all change this year, but at the moment the wide receivers need to prove they can be a key part of the offense, especially in modern college football where explosive pass plays are a key ingredient to winning.
The Huskies threw the ball to wide receivers last year at a lower clip than almost any team in the country. That should change this year as the coaches will look to exciting sophomore Rome Odunze and veteran Terrell Bynum to lead the group. Odunze in particular has enticing quickness to go along with a physical 6-3 frame. The speedy Jalen McMillan might be out with a hand injury but could be replaced by a more proven player in Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk, who had 256 yards and 2 TDs in his freshman season. Michigan transfer Giles Jackson looks like a Chico McClatcher/John Ross type hybrid who could add an exciting element to the offense. Sawyer Racanelli has shown flashes of being a consistent pass catcher in traffic during camp.
There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the talent in the WR room, but most have yet to prove much of anything in a Husky uniform. We saw Ondunze as a freshman against Stanford show he might be a future #1 WR. Terrell Bynum looks poised to have a breakout season. There have been encouraging reports from camp, but until it is proven in games, the wide receivers are the most likely unit to hold back the offense and team.
If the wide receivers have unproven depth, the inside linebackers are the opposite - they are proven, but with no depth. Eddie Ulofoshio is an excellent player and should be All Pac-12 minimum by the end of the year. Jackson Sirmon was up and down last year but looks much improved during camp and should have a better year.
After that? Daniel Heimuli had seemingly taken that next step and got Husky fans salivating over his potential only to sprain his knee in practice yesterday. Alphonso Tuputala is also injured. That leaves MJ Tafisi, who plays the position with a lot of intensity but I am not sure is quite ready to be an every down starter. There are some freshmen like Carson Bruener (son of TE Mark Bruener) and Drew Fowler (walk-on but had UCLA offer), who both could be great down the road, but should probably not be relied upon this year.
Like the receivers, there is plenty of reason to believe this unit might have a very good year. But another injury, and things could look bleak in a hurry.
Another strange one, since there is seemingly so much talent, but they’ve underperformed in recent years. We were very spoiled by Vita Vea and Greg Gaines space eating and disruptive play.
The best DT on the roster right now is Tuli Letuligasenoa, who has struggled with injuries since arriving at UW. When healthy, the 6-2, 300 hundred pounder defends the run well but also has uncommon quickness and ability to get into the backfield for a guy his size. He looks healthy and ready to destroy people this year. After that, it’s Taki Taimani who is entering his third year as a starter, playing solid football the past two. Jacob Bandes and Faatui Tuitele were blue chip recruits now entering their third years in the program, but did not necessarily look great in limited time last season. Noa Ngalu is one of those undersized ultra-athletic DTs that always seem to do well at UW. Finally, true freshman Kuao Peihopa looked primed to contribute this year before getting injured as well.
There is more than enough to be optimistic about with Tuli leading the line, but for this group to get back anywhere close to the Vea and Gaines levels of play, multiple players need to elevate their games.
Sorry receivers, but it’s you for now. I am as excited about the potential of this group as anyone, but every other position listed has at least ONE player that’s played consistent, mostly great football. The closest the receivers have is Terrell Bynum, who I do expect to have a really good year. It would represent a substantial improvement in production in the wide receivers if they were a playmaking group that could be relied upon every game.
What is the weakest position group on the Husky roster?
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