I recently read an article on Athlon Sports' web site which analyzed returning starters for the Pac12 schools. (https://athlonsports.com/college-football/pac-12-football-analyzing-returning-starter-data-for-2022) The number of returning starters for use (5 on offense and 4 on defense) seemed low to me, so I decided to look at the data. I looked at the official starters (from the UW ‘Final Stats') for each of the games. And this is a look at what I found.
A total of 47 different players had at least one start for UW last year. Five players started every game (Henry Bainivalu, Luke Wattenberg, Victor Curne, Kyler Gordon, and Jackson Sirmon). Eight players had only one start. Of those 47 players, at least 34 are still on the roster. (As far as I know, we are still waiting to hear whether Jaxson Kirkland will be on the roster again this year or not.) Three of the players not returning are ones that started every game last year (Wattenberg, Gordon, and Sirmon). Eight other players started at least half of the games (Cade Otton-8, Trent McDuffie-11, Cooper McDonald-10, Brendan Radley-Hiles-9, Ryan Bowman-7, Sam Taimani-10, Terrell Bynum-7, and Sean McGrew-6). Mark Redman is the other player that started a game last year that is not returning.
If you look at the percentage of starters returning, that is 72% (34/47). That is nowhere near the 9 out of 22 starters that Athlon listed. (I didn't see a reason to break it down by offense and defense since they are that far off.)
Next I decided to look at the number of returning starts. For that I added up the number of starts for each of the 34 returning players and divided by the total number of starts. This worked out to 56% of the total offense and defensive starts returning. Broken down by offense and defense, it is 67% of the offensive starts and 46% of the defensive starts. Or, this is the equivalent of 7 returning offensive starters and 5 defensive starters. (And this is still not including Kirkland.) This is at least closer to the numbers that Athlon had, but their numbers are still low.
Then I decided to look at getting the numbers by subtraction. What if Athlon looked at players who started more than half of the games and are not returning and subtracted them from the totals for offense and defense. One offense, 5 players that started at least 6 games are not returning (Kirkland, Wattenberg, Otton, Bynum, and McGrew). That would get us to 6 returning starters on offense, not 5. The only way I get down to 5 returning starters on offense is to include Mark Redman, who only started 1 game. On defense, I can get to Athlon's number of 4 if I subtract the number of players who started and are not returning since that number is 7 (Gordon, McDuffie, McDonald, Radley-Hiles, Bowman, Taimani, and Sirmon).
Based on all of that, it is clear to me that the Athlon numbers are misleadingly low. UW definitely has some holes to fill, especially the starters on the defensive side. But those numbers also don't take into account the number of starters from other programs that have transferred in to take those spots. Cam Bright should be able to make up (in large part) for the loss of Jackson Sirmon. Jordan Perryman may make up some (at least in terms of starts) for the losses of Gordon and McDuffie. And Aaron Dumas could make up for the starts from Sean McGrew.
Looking at this another way, let's ask the question as to whether UW has players at each position that have started at least 6 games.
- QB: Morris started 11 games, and Penix has started at least that many (at Indiana)
- RB: Newton started 3 games last year, but at least 3 others from previous years, and Dumas started at least 6 at New Mexico
- WR: Davis, McMillan, and Odunze have all started at least 6 games
- TE: Culp started 5 games, so slightly under there
- OL: Curne and Bainivalu each started at least 6. Ale started 6, although he's moved to defense. Buelow started 5. If Kirkland is allowed back, he'd be another that has started at least 6.
So on offense, there will be at least 7 players returning that have started at least 6 games.
- CB: Powell only has 3 starts, but Perryman has more than 6 at UC Davis
- S: Cook has at least 6 starts; Turner only had 4 starts last year, but started more in the past; likewise Williams had 3 last year, but more in previous years
- Husky: New position although Hampton started 3 games last year and is one that looks to be playing this position this year
- LB: Ulofoshio and Bruener only had 5 starts each last year, but Bright had more than 6 last year at Pitt
- DL: Tuli had 11 starts last year; Bandes, Tuitele, and Tunuufi all had multiple starts last year, although all less than 6. Ale had 6 starts last year, but on offense.
- EDGE: ZTF only had 3 starts last year, but had 4 the year before. Trice and Martin had starts, but just 2 and 1 respectively.
So it doesn't look as good on defense. There are only 2 players that had more than 6 starts at UW at their position last year that are back this year. But, there are 4 other players that have more than 6 starts at either other schools or at that position over more than just last year.
Overall, UW does have more returning experience on the offensive side of the ball. I'd put the number of returning starters on the offensive side at 7 (Morris, Newton/Dumas, Davis, McMillan, Odunze, Curne, and Bainivalu) and just 4 on the defensive side (Letuligasenoa, Ulofoshio, Bruener/Bright, and Cook). (I could be persuaded to say 5 and include Perryman or Turner/Williams, but that may be pushing it since Perryman didn't start at the FBS level and neither Turner nor Williams had more than 4 starts just last year.) I think that gives a more realistic picture.
Also, and this should be obvious, but as bad as UW played last year, returning those players isn't necessarily a good thing. Obviously, the bigger question about the Huskies in 2022 will not be returning starts, but how those (and the other) players, especially the new ones, adapt to the new schemes with the new coaches.