Intros are stupid, so welcome to day 19. We’re deciding who’ll be the best position group this season. I think it’ll be one of these ones. Enjoy!
This one’s the obvious one, and honestly it feels glorious to write that sentence after years and years of the exact opposite being true thanks to the long-lasting ripple effects of Brent Pease, Matt Lubick, and co. Finally we have a deep, highly-talented pool of players? And a coach who doesn’t suck? It’s been a minute. Pour one out for the “Aaron Fuller would be an excellent third receiver but wasn’t put in a position to succeed by being foist into the WR1 role due to years of incompetent recruiting and too complicated offensive schemes” era.
To put into perspective, we could take away the three presumptive starters from this unit and the next three up would still be better than what Washington was rolling out between Dante Pettis’ graduation to like, a year, maybe two, ago.
If the 2018 Huskies lost a player like Terrell Bynum in the offseason, they’d be in shambles. Now, we’ve already forgotten. Nevermind that this unit’s in a better scenario personnel-wise than it’s been since Pettis-Ross (and you could argue even longer), the actual offense is, for the first time in a minute, conducive to their success. And bias aside, Washington clearly upgraded at coach during the offseason.
Odunze, McMillan, and Polk are good by themselves, Giles Jackson and Taj Davis are high end rotational players, and Jabez Tinae and Junior Alexander are young guys who, were this four years ago, we’d be desperately pinning all our hopes and dreams on. Even Denzel Boston has apparently looked pretty good in flashes.
I for one am just excited to see a receiver room where there’s no single player who we’re depending on. This group is extremely talented, dynamic, and diverse. It’s exciting. I’m excited. W00t.
First off, yes, the edge defenders don’t have as deep of a room as the defensive interior line. If the question was “who has the deepest group of guys with high potential,” then the edge group — I’ll let you all argue over whether they’re defensive ends or outside linebackers — would probably be kicked out in lieu of the true defensive linemen.
But for all the potential so many individuals in the defensive interior have — and there’s lots more individuals making up that core group — the edge just has more proven players alongside some significant further upside as well, even if there are simply fewer of them.
Essentially, the defensive interior has a very high and deep ceiling, but a much lower floor. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still rather optimistic about the interior defensive linemen.) The edge has quite a high floor plus a really dang high ceiling too. And in a sport where you’re constantly crossing your fingers about that ceiling being hit from the moment a bunch of 17-18 year olds sign binding pieces of paper, I’m not turning my nose up at the reliable disruption of a floor like that — one so high that it can make us overlook its associated killer ceiling. (For the Kraken followers, Shane Wright versus Juraj Slafkovsky, anyone?)
Just knowing Washington can turn to a rotation of Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin, and The ZTF warms my cold, existentially-jaded, college-football-as-a-jacked-up-industrial-complex-hating Kitsap Norwegian heart. Plus Sav’ell Smalls has looked better in camp than we’ve seen out of him so far, even considering how much of a cliche “Unproven but talented Player X has flashed in camp” is.
Similar to the receivers, it’s just lovely to be able to have decent confidence in a position group after years of crossing your fingers for the best case scenario, since anything less than the best case scenario would be garbage. The best case scenario for the edge rushers this year is great, but even without them hitting that best case, it’s still an effective unit.
After last season’s crapshow that was generally no fault of the running backs themselves, it feels weird to put them here. But it really wasn’t their fault; no group got screwed over by last year’s offense more than the running backs. Well, maybe the defensive line and linebackers since the inability of the offense to score even one American point allowed opponents to run it down the middle with zero urgency, exacerbating their already apparent weakness... But I digress...
Last year’s room was all about no single player being given enough time to establish a rhythm plus that being moot anyway since any given run was roughly a 97% chance of being through the A gap out of 22 personnel, anyway.
This year’s room is about redemption! Space in which to run! Players being given a chance to get rolling! Exclamation marks!
Come September, we’ll probably see some combination of two or three of the transfers Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon plus Cam Davis and Richard Newton. And we’ll get to see them in an offense that’s not counterproductive and forces them to essentially carry the ball upstream. I’ve unabashedly loved Davis since he was a recruit and have been staunchly pro-Newton for years. Taulapapa has slid right in at what looks like RB1, and Nixon’s clearly establishing himself well too.
Between scheme and consistency, the running backs benefit from this new staff as much as any other group on this team. Maybe more than all of them.
Sure, they lost both outside corners to the NFL Draft’s first round and beginning of the second, plus the starting nickel. Sure, they’re playing in a new scheme. Sure, they’re no longer the purview of a coaching staff known for dominant defensive backs. Sure, they’re also now starting to see a dropoff in pure talent level from said DB-focused coach dropping off his DB recruiting once he got promoted to head coach, ironically.
On paper, the secondary should take a significant step back. And I think it’s fair to say in certain aspects, they will.
For one, you simply cannot replace the individual skill level of Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon at corner. There are plays those two made that will not happen this season. That’s just a given. Whomp whomp.
On the other hand, former haver of a bunch of accolades and FCS transfer Jordan Perryman is by all accounts slotting in extremely smoothly, so that takes full care of one corner spot. And the new defense won’t position the safeties roughly 500 miles away from the line of scrimmage, so schematically that’s a win.
Furthermore, the change in philosophy from the nickel being responsible for too much to the new husky position plays quite favorably to Dom Hampton’s skillset. And with moving the defensive line away from a two-gap system (plus improvements in the linebackers’ personnel), that should improve performances in front of the secondary to take pressure off them.
So... when I think about it... it’s not actually inconceivable that the defensive backs are pretty dang good again?
They’re a longshot to actually be the best of Washington’s position groups, but... it’s not impossible.
What will be Washington’s strongest position group in 2022?
This poll is closed
As much as it’s more fun to talk yourself into galaxy brain-ing it, I just don’t see any way around this being the answer. It’s possible by the end of the season one unit comes out of the woodwork and all things go just right that they hit a high ceiling — probably would have to be the defensive interior line in that case, or maybe the edge rushers — but the receivers have by far the most complete combination of floor, ceiling, and depth.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.