We may not know for sure what the final depth chart will be but after 6 practices open to the media and an open practice this morning we have a pretty good idea. That likely gives us enough clarity to determine what players may have a significant role but not quite have a starting spot available for them come the season opener against Kent State. Today, we’ll run through the candidates for players to come off the bench but still make a big impact on the team this season.
I am expecting the following players to end up with a starting spot and therefore be ineligible for consideration: QB Michael Penix Jr; WR Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, and Ja’Lynn Polk; TE Devin Culp and Jack Westover; OL Jaxson Kirkland, Troy Fautanu, Corey Luciano, Henry Bainivalu, and Roger Rosengarten; DL Tuli Letuligasenoa and Ulumoo Ale; Edge ZTF; LB Cam Bright and Alfonzo Tuputala; CB Jordan Perryman and Mishael Powell; S Alex Cook and Asa Turner. That isn’t a complete list of starters but there are still some races too close to call which means I don’t feel comfortable putting anyone in contention for that starting spot on the list.
WR Giles Jackson
2021 Stats: 8 catches, 87 receiving yards; 8 carries, 45 rushing yards; 20 kickoffs, 442 return yards; 12 punts, 81 return yards
Last year Jackson was the poor man’s version of vintage Chico McClatcher. He didn’t do all that much as a receiver but took a few end around gadget plays while also handling return duties on kicks and punts. It looked however like the coaching staff didn’t quite know what to do with him on offense. Essentially every smaller fast receiver or rusher got ran off upon Lake’s arrival (see: Lowe, Trey) and the JonDon offense didn’t exactly thrive on creating space.
So far this month however Jackson has been one of the most frequent names to come up as far as standout performers. He’s seemingly caught just about everything thrown to him and looks more explosive. The starting trio of Odunze, McMillan, and Polk seems fairly entrenched at the receiver position. However it won’t be stunning to see this offense go 10 personnel with 4 receivers and have Jackson get in the game. There’s also the impact he can make in the return game. You could argue that Jackson is the favorite to be a starting kick returner and thus not qualify for this list but obviously I’m not subscribing to that and adding it in to his potential value.
CB Davon Banks
2021 Stats: 0 defensive snaps
Banks has one of the more unusual recruitments we’ve seen in a while after multiple leg injuries and a COVID-delayed season left him with 0 offers until UW offered at the tail end of his senior academic season. Fortunately for the Huskies it looks like he may be the last gift (for real) of the Jimmy Lake DB era having impressed early with his ability to wrack up interceptions in practice.
There’s a chance that Banks ends up beating out Mishael Powell for the outside corner spot opposite Jordan Perryman but the odds are he starts out as the 3rd corner. That’s a position that still might see a lot of snaps and would be in line for a major role with an injury in front of him or a slow start by Powell. Last year Powell saw 300 snaps in reserve with 2 entrenched all-conference guys in front of him so we might see Banks with a similar or even greater workload. If he is able to snag a few interceptions he’ll be in contention for winning this award.
DL Voi Tunuufi
2021 Stats: 9 solo tackles, 12 QB pressures, 3 sacks
I had quite a few options along the defensive front to go with but ultimately decided to choose Tunuufi coming into his true sophomore season (also considered Jeremiah Martin but it’s still not clear if he or Trice will start opposite ZTF). Coming in as a true freshman Tunuufi was one of my favorite prospects the Huskies signed and he showed that he had great potential as a pass rushing interior lineman who could either stay inside or move outside on 3rd down. And oh yeah, he ended up leading the team in sacks. With 3 but still.
This year Tunuufi has slimmed down to below 260 but is still playing inside. He had a pretty ghastly run defense grade from Pro Football Focus and that probably isn’t going to help him. But he has the skills to be devastating primarily playing in clear pass rush situations. With a (knocks on wood) healthy ZTF all season long it seems unlikely that Tunuufi will have a chance to lead the team in sacks again this season. And it is probably a bad sign if he does. But piling up the counting stats helps him to end up winning an award like this.
(Coach DeBoer said he expects Ulumoo Ale to be back from injury some time this month which means
LB Kris Moll
2021 Stats (4 games at UAB): 8 solo tackles, 1 QB pressure
Once again there were a few options to pick from here and Carson Bruener is a reasonable choice as well at the linebacker spot. Washington hopes that Edefuan Ulofoshio will be back some time in the 2nd half of the year but unfortunately that isn’t a guarantee. Regardless of anything else we should see 3-4 middle linebackers getting snaps and while Alfonzo Tuputala has taking command of the starting spot next to Cam Bright for now we’ll see if it keeps up during the season.
Moll dealt with injuries last year but he had 10 sacks with UAB in 2019 so the potential is there for him to come in and be another weapon on the defense particularly blitzing from the LB spot in passing scenarios.
The Running Backs- If I had to guess right now I’d say Wayne Taulapapa begins the year as the starter but we really have no idea how the depth chart at this position is going to shake out yet. Whoever ends up #2 whether it’s Cam Davis, Will Nixon, Richard Newton, or someone else will definitely deserve consideration.
Jeremiah Martin- As I eluded to above, it is a 3-way race for the 2 starting spots on the edge and I think Martin is most likely to finish 3rd behind ZTF and Bralen Trice. All 3 will see significant time though and I don’t think the competition is over which is why I couldn’t feel justified including him.
Julius Buelow/Nate Kalepo- LT Jaxson Kirkland has unfortunately already missed some time in camp coming off an injury to end his season last year and will be out for the opener due to a condition of his eligibility appeal. If he misses games during the season it seems Buelow is next in line while we could also see Troy Fautanu slide outside with Kalepo playing LG. Given the lack of rotation along the line in non-injury situations I can’t justify putting one in the main article but if an injury does happen to one of the starters then whoever fills in will have a chance to win this at the end of the year.
Which projected non-starter to begin the year will have the most impact this season?
This poll is closed
WR Giles Jackson
DL Voi Tunuufi
CB Davon Banks
LB Kris Moll
Other (put in comments)