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Mailbag: Avoiding Cal-amity Edition

Answering your questions on both football and men’s basketball

NCAA Football: Washington at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Washington football is on a bye this upcoming week and it appears so were some of you question writers so it’ll be a shorter than normal mailbag. Plus a little bit of Husky basketball pessimism at the bottom in case you were fixing for it. Don’t worry, I’ve got 15,000 words of men’s basketball previews coming out over the next week so you’ll still have plenty of my writing to ignore as you head straight to the comments.

DeBoer knows he must have better defense to compete for any type of championship so what does he do to upgrade the Achilles heel? Coaching change(s)? Shop the portal for immediate help? Combination of both? It just doesn’t seem reasonable to expect improvement without some significant upgrade in the secondary. -GU1966

Last week I talked about why I didn’t think DeBoer would make a coaching change and that still holds true. I would be surprised if he didn’t try to add either a corner or a safety in the portal who has FBS starting experience. Obviously in this day and age you could see any player on the roster leave through the transfer portal. As it stands though the only players in the secondary running out of eligibility are Alex Cook and Jordan Perryman. That means you could bring back 8 of the 10 players on the back end who have received legitimate playing time this year so far.

With another full offseason in the system there’s reason to think that relatively young guys like Davon Banks, Elijah Jackson, Jaivion Green, Tristan Dunn, and Makell Esteen could make major strides to become above average contributors. But would DeBoer take the risk that none of those guys make a massive leap? It could be that Washington just isn’t able to successfully recruit someone better than them from the portal but it seems like a mistake if they don’t at least try.

It’s also possible that guys like Dom Hampton, Julius Irvin, and Asa Turner decide not to use their last year of eligibility after 4 years in the program. If that were the case then it’s an absolute certainty that the Huskies add someone from the portal. You can be sure though that the coaching staff has already had conversations with the guys who have potentially already gotten their degree to see what they’re planning. Many of them may not have their minds made up yet or think they have and then will change it in the next 2 months. But DeBoer and the defensive coaches probably have a good idea who will be around next year and will make their personnel decisions based on that info.

Which true freshmen have played in more than 4 games and which others are getting close to losing their redshirt? -Purple Kaya

The following freshmen have already lost their redshirt by playing in at least 5 games: CB Jaivion Green and K Grady Gross. Green is on scholarship while Gross is a walk-on who I expect to be put on scholarship this offseason after Peyton Henry has graduated.

Coach DeBoer talked about Jayvon Parker on Monday being on the cusp of burning his redshirt by having played in 4 games but Pro Football Focus shows him with defensive snaps in 5 games. I’m going to trust DeBoer on this one who said they won’t burn his redshirt only playing him a couple of snaps but if injuries necessitate him playing 20+ or something then they won’t hesitate.

Both Tristan Dunn and Denzel Boston have had one game getting snaps outside of garbage time but those are their only appearances. That means they’d have to play in every regular season game the rest of the way to lose their redshirt which seems unlikely. Edge Lance Holtzclaw has appeared in 2 games but likewise seems unlikely to play enough to warrant not redshirting. We’ve yet to see Ryan Otton, Parker Brailsford, or Armon Parker in a game.

There were also a pair of first-year JUCO transfers who aren’t true freshmen from an eligibility standpoint. Sekai Afoau-Asau has already appeared in 5 games while Demario King is out for the year with an injury suffered in the offseason.

Where is my Big Brother Smalls ... is Sav’ell hurt or has he dropped out of the rotation. I don’t recall seeing him against Cal and per ESPN’s box score he has not made a tackle since at least UCLA. -Tiny

Per Pro Football Focus Smalls’ playing time has been pretty consistent over the last 5 weeks. His defensive snaps numbers by game have been: 19, 17, 12, 14, and 14. Unfortunately he hasn’t exactly been making the most of his limited opportunities. His pressure rate this season is at 7.3% which is down slightly from last year’s 8.6%. That’s less than half of the trrio of edge rushers that are ahead of him with Bralen Trice (19.6%), Jeremiah Martin (15.5%), and ZTF (16.9%). Maybe there’s an injury lingering for him but for the most part he just hasn’t been as good as the other 3 guys and so it has been hard to justify him seeing the field.

At a minimum, Martin will be gone after this season. I find it likely that at least one of ZTF and Bralen Trice heads to the NFL. There will absolutely be a chance for Smalls to become a starter next season. So far though we unfortunately haven’t seen anything on the field to suggest that he is likely to succeed in that role.

Was Marshawn there so ESPN could get fined? - Cheese!

If you were asking literally he was there because he was getting inducted into Cal’s hall of fame. But I very much appreciate the joke.

What kind of season ends it for Mike Hopkins? Any upcoming coaches we are looking at? -KPreston

Not ending up in any kind of postseason play you would think would end it for Hopkins. Hopefully the administration has set the bar at the NCAA tournament but given how much of a leash he has received so far it’s not absurd to think he is still brought back if UW has an injury excuse and still makes the NIT.

The only player who runs out of eligibility this year is Jamal Bey. If the team is good but just not quite NCAA tournament good and has the chance to bring back pretty much the entire core of the team then it becomes much more of a tough call.

Let’s say UW appears in good shape to return all of: Noah Williams, PJ Fuller, Cole Bajema, Franck Kepnang, Braxton Meah, and Langston Wilson from this year’s rotation. Most of whom would be in their 4th or 5th year of college. Plus they’d be bringing in top-40 freshman Wesley Yates to help at the guard spot and potentially more transfer help at the 3. The problem of course is that UW’s rosters have consistently looked better on paper than the end result with Hopkins as head coach which is why we’re talking about it.

I’m sure Jen Cohen has a list but the administration as of this second is clearly still invested in Hop’s success and there is no formal list of potential candidates. If a change does need to be made then based purely on resume my most intriguing name to watch is Colorado State’s Niko Medved. He coached 4 years at Furman and took them from 342nd to 309th to 175th to 106th in KenPom’s rankings. Then he spent one year at Drake and improved them from 258th to 155th. Then he jumped to CSU and they’ve gone from 180th to 99th to 76th to 46th.

It’s only 1 NCAA tournament appearance in 9 seasons but he literally has done nothing but get better with every subsequent team he has coached at the D1 level. This year they have to replace star David Roddy who is the NBA and have their best returning player out injured for at least another 10 weeks. If Medved improves yet again it will be a miracle and he’ll be the #1 mid-major candidate in the country. But if the Rams are still near the top of the Mountain West after all of that then I think it shows his coaching skills. He got an extension from CSU last spring but P6 schools will definitely come courting this season with another solid year.