For the purposes of this exercise, I will define All-American as getting first team for at least one major publication. For context, UW’s last All-American was ZTF last season, and the last consensus All-American was Dante Pettis in 2017. You have to go back to 2014 to find UW’s last unanimous All-American, Hau’oli Kikaha.
When it comes to who could be listed as an All-American at the end of the year, a few factors come into play:
- Pre-season hype
- History of that position at the school
- Actual play during the season
Obviously play during the season is the most important, but you cannot deny the effect of having lofty pre-season expectations. Similarly, when there’s a tradition of consistent high level play at a certain position, that player gets the benefit of the doubt and will be examined first for placement on All-American lists.
Lastly, a note on Zion Tupuloa-Fetui. He’d usually be a shoe-in for lists like these but with only playing half a season at best, I am not sure he’ll make any All-American lists, regardless of his production.
With that out of the way, here are my four candidates:
DB - Trent McDuffie
At 5-11 he’s not the biggest DB on the roster but he is a flat out shutdown corner, and has been since the day he arrived on campus. His sudden and explosive athleticism paired with this technique make him a high level player with very few flaws. He rarely gives up catches and is a strong tackler in the open field. Despite not getting many opportunities because opposing QBs avoid him, he still generates forced fumbles and interceptions.
His play will further solidify Washington as a team that produces elite defensive backs and make it easier to get noticed on AA teams. He gets mentioned frequently in the national media as a player to watch at UW. He is quite possibly the best player on the team and is a surefire early entrant into the NFL.
TE - Cade Otton
Similar to McDuffie, Cade Otton plays a position with a recent history of success at both the college and NFL levels, making it a bit easier for him to make an All-American team. Even without that bias, the 27-game starter is still one of the best tight ends in the country. He’s plenty effective as a blocker but has made a name for himself as a consistent receiving threat using his elite hands and catch technique.
What could hold back Otton from being an All-American is the competition at a national level and that All-American TEs in college football are usually of the “athletic freak” variety. Otton is plenty nimble as an athlete with both his size and body control, but with guys like Jalen Wydermyer (A&M) and Arik Gilbert (Georgia) out there, Otton will need to play extremely well to separate himself. It’s more likely he’ll be a second/third team All-American than a first teamer, but who wouldn’t take that right now?
OT - Jaxson Kirkland
How about the progression of Jaxson Kirkland? The UW legacy has been one of the best Husky offensive linemen of the past couple of years and has seamlessly made the transition from right guard to left tackle. After a good debut campaign in the 2020 shortened season, Kirkland looked comfortable protecting the QB’s blind side. He was an All-Pac 12 selection last year and some NFL pundits think he could sneak into the first round of next year’s draft. The 29 consecutive game starter is a superb athlete for his size, moving incredibly well and being a perfect fit for the Huskies zone blocking scheme.
With all five returning starters coming back from an offensive line that should have many feeling optimistic, Kirkland is in prime position to be the headliner of the group and become an All-American. With games against Michigan and Oregon, we will get to see Kirkland against two of the best pass rushers in the country in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson. Those two matchups will be viewed as “resume games” and the first that evaluators look at when building his resume as an All-American candidate. The opportunity certainly exists for Kirkland.
ILB - Eddie Ulofoshio
The 2018 class featured blue chip players like Tuli Letuligasenoa, Kyler Gordon, Julius Irvin, and Sam Taimani. Not even listed by the recruiting services was Edefuan Ulofoshio from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, by way of Anchorage, Alaska. While few believed he’d ascend as quickly as he has, his signing was celebrated as another under-the-rader walk-on coming to Washington with a realistic shot to make an impact. And made an impact he has. Filling the void left behind by Ben Burr-Kirven, Ulofoshio has stepped into the middle linebacker position, playing the role with an active intensity similar to Elijah Molden at nickel.
In the truncated 2020 season, he finished with 47 tackles in four games, showing off lateral agility and fluidity. He’s an intelligent player - but most importantly he is relentless and will willingly engage with blockers and finish plays. With a recent example of an All-American at his position (BBK) it’s not a stretch to see Ulofoshio make some lists if he piles up 120+ tackles. Given the uncertainty of the rest of the linebacking corps, that is not impossible.
My Pick - Trent McDuffie
There is no doubt that Otton, Ulofoshio, and Kirkland are all in line for big seasons with All Pac-12 honors at a minimum being likely for each one. However, with McDuffie’s combination of playing a position with recent success at UW, being top of mind for many pre-season national media types, and projecting to have a very strong season as a shutdown corner, it’s hard to see McDuffie not being an All-American. If he just keeps doing what he’s doing, he will reach that level. It feels like the other players (save maybe Otton) have a slightly more difficult road to navigate to reach All-American status than McDuffie.
Which Husky is mostly likely to be an All-American?
This poll is closed