If you missed part one last week you can catch up on it right here. Otherwise, we’re continuing on looking over your responses to the polls from our preseason 30-day countdown series to see which ones were prescient and which were blind guesses.
Day 19- What is UW’s strongest position group in 2022?
-Wide Receivers- 59%
-Edge Rushers- 33%
-Running Backs- 6%
-Defensive Backs- 2%
This one doesn’t need a lot of discussion. It looked like the Huskies were stacked at wide receiver led by the trio of Odunze/McMillan/Polk and that’s exactly what came to pass. Odunze and McMillan became the rare set of teammates to each eclipse 1,000 receiving yards while Polk had nearly 700 yards and 6 TDs. Taj Davis and Giles Jackson each chipped in with 275+ yards and at least 1 TD. That group of 5 was up there with any other in the country.
It’s hard to argue that the edge rushers weren’t the 2nd best unit with the duo of Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin dominating a large portion of the offensive tackles the Huskies faced. Throw in Zion Tupuola-Fetui and you’ve got a stew going.
If there was going to be a surprise candidate that wasn’t in the poll it would have to be quarterback if only because of how amazing Michael Penix Jr. was in 2022. It’s hard to judge position groups as a whole when only one of them plays barring injury/garbage time but between Morris’ experience and Huard’s pedigree there’s a chance we look back on last year’s QB room as being similarly loaded now that Huard has entered the portal and may start elsewhere.
Day 18- What is UW’s weakest position group in 2022?
-Defensive Line- 22%
-Offensive Line- 17%
This one was tough for me to declare a winner but I think ultimately the answer has to be cornerback. That’s in part because of a truly impressive string of injuries at the position. We saw multiple games missed by: Jordan Perryman, Mishael Powell, Elijah Jackson, Julius Irvin, and Davon Banks. The Huskies were never without more than 3 of them for an entire game but when you do end up playing your true freshman 6th corner for substantial snaps in your biggest game of the year (Jaivion Green at Oregon) then it’s probably a sign you’re in trouble. If everyone stays healthy all season this isn’t the biggest weakness but based on on-field performance, it wins. That’s what 1 total interception from the CB spot will get you.
There were arguments to be made for the top-2 finishers in the poll as well. The linebacker spot clearly wasn’t a strength as Cam Bright transferred in and seemed to pretty clearly be a step down from Jackson Sirmon who made 1st team all-Pac-12 after transferring to play for his dad at Cal. Tuputala was pretty good but still played worse than a healthy Edefuan Ulofoshio. Eddie U came back at the end of the year and Carson Bruener/Kris Moll each had moments in reserve but it was overall a reasonably meh group.
The defensive line also struggled at times. Tuli Letuligasenoa played well when healthy but couldn’t quite live up to the legacy (fairly or not) of Shelton/Qualls/Vea/Gaines/Onwuzurike etc. He also missed time in a few games and no one really stepped up in his place. Faatui Tuitele started but had few impact plays. Voi Tunuufi finished with 4 sacks as a hybrid DT/Edge at times but the rest of the DTs combined had just 2.5.
Tough beat for those who picked the offensive line. Although I understand where you were coming from before the year.
Day 16- Who will be Washington’s breakout defensive player?
-DT Ulumoo Ale- 27%
-CB Jordan Perryman- 23%
-EDGE Bralen Trice- 22%
-ILB Cam Bright- 11%
-Someone Else- 9%
-ILB Alphonzo Tuputala- 8%
I should get absolutely no arguments from anyone about declaring Bralen Trice the winner of this one. He finished the season with 39 tackles and 10 sacks and was deservingly named to the all-Pac-12 1st team. The only other argument would’ve been his fellow edge rusher Jeremiah Martin but while Martin may have been a little bit better as a run defender, Trice’s superlative ability to pressure the quarterback definitely stood out for the fan base.
It seemed like injuries prevented the top-two finishers in the poll from being able to achieve breakout status. Ulumoo Ale didn’t make much of an impact when he was in the game at DT although part of being a good DT is that you occupy multiple blockers and don’t necessarily show up on every play. Meanwhile CB Jordan Perryman got hurt in the first game and never looked like the player that went toe-to-toe with Rome Odunze throughout preseason camp. 4th place finisher Cam Bright really struggled this season and was pretty clearly outplayed by 6th place finisher Alphonzo Tuputala.
Day 15- Who will be Washington’s breakout offensive player?
-WR Rome Odunze/Jalen McMillan/Ja’Lynn Polk- 30%
-RB Sam Adams III- 23%
-WR Giles Jackson- 23%
-TE Devin Culp- 9%
-OT Roger Rosengarten- 8%
-Someone else- 7%
I’ll be honest that if I were personally making the poll I would’ve only included Ja’Lynn Polk as an option rather than grouping him with Odunze and McMillan. Washington’s other 2 receivers were featured players the previous season and in my opinion didn’t count as breakout candidates. If you wanted to declare that threesome the winner by the letter of the law then I’m not going to stop you.
For me though the winner should be Roger Rosengarten who came in as a redshirt freshman and supplanted multi-year starter Victor Curne (who has since transferred to Ole Miss). Roger was one of the best tackles in the conference from day one and has a good chance to be preseason 1st team all-Pac-12 come the fall. His recruiting pedigree certainly suggested this was possible but all the credit to Roger for following through. If there was going to be a 3rd place winner I’d give it to “someone else” and specifically LT Troy Fautanu for forcing Jaxson Kirkland back to guard with his play.
Day 13- Which opponent will have the best offense UW faces this season?
-Michigan State- 27%
-The Field- 16%
Congratulations everyone, you got one! The Bruins ended up finishing 3rd in offensive SP+ with veteran QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and bruising RB Zach Charbonnet as the featured pieces. UCLA was able to carve up the Huskies defense for much of their game against UW in the Rose Bowl to the tune of 42 points. That tied Arizona State for the most points scored by an offense against the Dawgs (ASU had a pick-6 to help get it to 49).
Oregon was the next best option in reality as they wound up 6th in offensive SP+ behind a breakout season from Bo Nix after transferring from Auburn plus an exemplary offensive line. Michigan State it turns out was incredibly reliant on Kenneth Walker III at running back in 2021 and wasn’t able to recover without him (51st in Off SP+).
Of the options in “the field” the best choice was Arizona who made it to 21st in Off SP+ led by QB Jayden de Laura and receivers Dorian Singer and Jacob Cowing. In the end it was a very offense-heavy season for the Pac-12 and in particular for Washington’s schedule. That’s part of why Washington finished 48th in defensive SP+ despite the counting stats looking quite bad. The Dawgs played a lot of really good offenses this past season and will probably do so again in 2023.
Day 12- Which opponent will have the best defense UW faces this season?
-Michigan State- 44%
-Washington State- 6%
-(not in poll) Oregon State
It turns out that none of us did a good job picking for anything in this question. Michigan State got the plurality of results with a healthy showing for both Oregon and California. Of the 3, California had the best defense according to SP+ despite ranking 59th (Oregon was 60th and Michigan State 86th).
If you confined things to just the options in the poll, since I did not include an “other” option, then the winner was Washington State who finished 22nd in defensive SP+. That’s despite giving up 51 points to the Huskies in the Apple Cup in Pullman. But when the Cougs played anyone except the absolute elite offenses of college football they were quite good.
The true winner though was Oregon State which finished 16th in defensive SP+. The Beavers were more known for offense with former UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith in charge but their defense was tremendous in 2022 led by a physical and aggressive secondary.