If, come August 2021, you found yourself asking “Hey, where did The Jake Eldrenkamp Award go? Who’s our winner?”, you are not alone. Or, actually, you probably are alone, but that doesn’t make for as good of a rhetorical device.
What happened to The Eldrenkamp is actually quite boring, because what happened is that I forgot about it. And then a year went by. And then I remembered it again.
If you too have forgotten about it, the award’s full name is The Jake Eldrenkamp Award For Excellence in “Oh S*** he was Actually Way Better Than we Realized Until he Left and Now We’re Feelin’ It.”
The JEA4EiOShwAWBTwRUhLaNWFI’s awarded to the most recent former Husky who’s the answer to “Who are the Dawgs gonna miss most that we haven’t yet realized we’re gonna miss?”
Obviously the question of who qualifies is subjective, but anyone who’s unanimously regarded as kicking ass and/or taking names is immediately disqualified. And anyone who maybe wasn’t unanimously regarded as such but was otherwise so high profile they can’t be ignored — think Jacob Eason two years ago — may as well be disqualified as well.
Honestly, at this point we (read: I and I alone) have been doing this long enough to just know when someone does or does not qualify for the JEA4EiOShwAWBTwRUhLaNWFI. It’s a gut feeling. You just know. Or at least, I know, and then being the dictatorial overlord that I am, I lorde that over all y’all and do what I want.
Sidenote, is that how you spell “lorde” in this sense? No one tell me, it’s the mystery that keeps life interesting.
Anyhoo, people who don’t qualify:
- Trent McDuffie
- Kyler Gordon
- Cade Otton
- Terrell Bynum
So without further ado, your candidates:
Sean McGrew or Kamari Pleasant — Running backs
If two players got hosed more than these two by last year’s coaching staff, I don’t know who it would be. It was reported that Lake and Co preemptively decided to move on from McGrew and Pleasant without so much as giving them a chance in camp to show why that’d be a mistake, only to then be forced to play them after the first couple games of the season after the running game turned out to be total dogshit without them. Granted, was that the other running backs’ fault considering they had roughly one inch to work with in constant 22 personnel runs and were always getting hit in the backfield? No, but considering McGrew and Pleasant were clearly better, that was some bullcrap.
Not by any fault of their own, it’s kind of hard to picture these two being winners of The Eldrenkamp, if solely because it’s almost mathematically impossible for the running game to be as bad as it was last year. I mean, I think even I could be a better running back in Kalen DeBoer’s scheme than an All-American could be in Jimmy Lake’s. And I’m pretty much the answer to “What if we took all the traits necessary in a running back and then made a human who was the opposite of it?” (I guess I have strong ankles, but otherwise a center of gravity somewhere around my clavicle and a body that’s 85% limbs...)
Writing this actually makes me really sad about how these two got so screwed over to end their Washington careers. “Hey, let’s take two returning hundredth-year seniors, not let them play until the season’s done for, and then when they do play it’ll be into the A gap of an I-formation against a 9-man box.”
Maybe they’re no more than dark horses based on scheme advancements alone, but I hope we all appreciate them in retrospect nonetheless.
Luke Wattenberg — Offensive lineman
A gazillionth-year senior last season who was singlehandedly responsible for the recruitment of high school teammate and at-the-time two star Nick Harris, Wattenberg played every position on the line during his Washington career and was drafted this spring in the fifth round by Denver. Most of us probably thought of him as roughly replacement level, which is fair enough. Not ever really a highlight of the offensive line, but fine-not-great.
Still though, replacement level offensive linemen are something you can kinda take for granted before you realize that oh crap you’d kill for a replacement level offensive lineman right about now. Washington has a very deep offensive line room right now as far as raw talent level, but we’ve seen that optimism based on talented young guys turn fast.
Jackson Sirmon — Inside linebacker
Now you might say “hey now he was high profile!” which — true. But I mean, being high profile for playing a high profile position that got its shit socked in every snap isn’t exactly a glowing legacy. In other words, perfect circumstances for someone to have been underappreciated... right?
Bookie Radley-Hiles — Nickelback
I feel like in a different year where UW didn’t have two starting DBs taken in the first 40 picks of the draft, Radley-Hiles would be mentioned far more often as far as impact losses. Further overshadowing his departure is the fact that the former Oklahoma transfer started at nickel last season, and now under Kalen DeBoer’s defense that position’s been overhauled completely so there’s no “who’s nickel this year?” to fuel an obsessive discussion.
Still, it kinda blew my mind that Bookie wasn’t at least drafted in a later round and ended up signing in Cincinatti as a UDFA. Sure, he’s a short guy and so would have limited projection on the outside. But almost all modern defensive schemes require a nickel anyway and he’s pretty dang good at it, plus has experience at safety as well.
The thing that makes Bookie a bit of a tricky case here is that, if Husky fans end up feeling underwhelmed by the secondary between the corners this season, is our first reaction “Aw crap we miss Bookie” or is it “Aw crap we miss having a nickelback instead of this new husky position”? The uncontrolled variables regarding scheme versus player — Xs and Os versus Johnnys and Joes, if you will — make it hard to evaluate, and it makes it even harder to evaluate our own evaluations. So even if Radley-Hiles does end up a guy we should appreciate more in hindsight, will we all have the clarity under Inge’s new defense to see that?
If I know sports fans, it’s that we’re all complete dummies (myself included), so my gut is “no.”
Race Porter — Punter
Race Porter is the only non-Australian punter. “But Gabey, Punt God Matt Araiza,” you say. “Shut up I don’t care,” I say. The lore of Race Porter is half about him kicking ass, but 100% about him having elite vibes.
Although now that I think about it, do we all love Race Porter so much that he shouldn’t qualify for the Jake Eldrenkamp Award? He was, after all, Washington’s literal best player at times. Wow, that’s depressing.
Ah man, I miss him already.
Ryan Bowman — Defensive lineman
Making Ryan Bowman’s departure even more bittersweet is the fact that the last time we saw him on the field, we didn’t even realize it. Then one day Bowman’s out for the season and the last time we’d see him in uniform was in the past. That is just demoralizing.
I feel like Bowman’s a perfect candidate for the The Eldrenkamp. Steady contributor? Check. Limited physical ceiling? Check. Played different positions from year one to 20? Check. Had higher-rated young players behind him at every point in his career? Check. Was here forever? Check.
There could be a world where the defensive line crushes it this season with the edge personnel looking how they do and the interior having loads of potential. But in the words of Washington Dual-Threat Quarterback Legend Jake Browning, you don’t win games off of potential. If the interior doesn’t break through the “potential” phase, though, having a reliable presence like Ryan Bowman could be something we all realize we miss.
Who will be the winner of The Sixth Annual Jake Eldrenkamp Award?
This poll is closed
Race Porter — Punter
Listen, don’t try to talk sense into me. It can’t be done.
In a good, wholesome world, Washington’s offense will be revitalized by Kalen DeBoer’s scheme, one that’s actually been updated since the Carter administration. In that world, the punter’s right foot won’t be what decides whether the Dawgs lose by 24 points or merely seven. In that world, we will see on Montlake actual points scored by an actual offense. In that world, we will remember Race Porter’s ass-kickery fondly albeit as the only good thing in a garbage season.
But I don’t care about your logic, we’re not talking enough about Race Porter and how he is The Man and how punters are people too but only if they’re Australian unless they’re named Race Porter.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.