If you read this site regularly then you’re probably aware that a few weeks ago The Athletic announced that they will no longer have a dedicated University of Washington football beat. That unfortunately left Christian Caple without a position. He has responded to that adversity though and now has a new site where he will continue to cover Husky sports with an emphasis on football.
In the off chance that you haven’t done so, take a moment to go read Christian’s first post on his new site here explaining his vision and the type of content you can expect. And if you’re not going to do that then in you’re in luck that my first question for Christian is intended for you procrastinators.
UWDP: For those that haven’t yet read your first post at onmontlake.com, can you talk a little about what subscribers can expect from the site and the newsletter?
Christian Caple: If you’re familiar with the work I did at The Athletic, I’d say it will be fairly similar, but maybe with a more personal touch and an eye toward building community. The goal at my last job, and now the goal here, is to write thoughtful, differentiated stories about UW football. My personal barometer for what fit with The Athletic’s brand was basically, “if someone else wrote this story instead of me, would I be pissed I didn’t think of it?” I try to write stories that will give diehard fans FOMO if they don’t read them. If you’re going to ask people to pay for your product, that’s the only way to do it. And as you’re seeing now, I’ll also have coverage of spring practice, preseason camp and other more “daily” activities that I know people are really interested in.
I’ll try to write some about the Pac-12 more broadly, and about other UW sports where it makes sense. But it is very much a UW football site and newsletter.
UWDP: It took less than a week for you to get onmontlake up and running from the time The Athletic made their announcement to the first post. What kind of work behind the scenes did it take to turn things around so quickly? Did you have a potential logo sitting around ready for such an occasion?
CC: Honestly, not a tremendous amount, because Substack’s tech is pretty powerful. It doesn’t take long to register the site and get it up and running. All I really needed to do was purchase the domain, link it to the site and write and format the “about” section and my first column.
My sister-in-law, Meghan Plog, designed the logo. She’s a really talented artist and designer. She did our podcast logo, too. I texted her last Monday night, three days after I was laid off: “Any chance you’ve got availability to expedite a logo request?” I didn’t even have the name yet. My wife and I workshopped a bunch of different options Monday night, and I greenlit “On Montlake” Tuesday morning. The logo was done that night. It’s pretty cool, yeah?
UWDP: In your time covering the Huskies do you have one good take/prediction of which you’re particularly proud? And on the flip side is there one that was dead wrong and you wish the internet would forget (but you’re going to go ahead and tell us about anyways)?
CC: The incorrect prediction is the easiest to answer: I picked Washington to go 10-2 and win the Pac-12 North in 2021. Missed it by thiiiiiis much.
Maybe this doesn’t really count, because it’s not as if I formally documented it anywhere. But after sitting down with Rome Odunze for the first time while he was still in high school — while I was in Las Vegas for the bowl game in December 2019 — I remember telling people, “hey, this kid is going to be a Dude.” Not like I was going way out on a limb — he was a four-star recruit who fans were already pretty excited about — but it was so obvious he had every box checked. Mature, tough, driven, comfortable in his own skin. I’ve never been more certain that a recruit would develop into a star.
UWDP: I know that just like me, you can respect a good statistic, and last year was full of broken records. Do you have a favorite stat or two from the 2022 UW football season that particularly astounded you?
CC: There were three that really stood out, two good and one bad. The good: a 56.8 percent third-down conversion rate. That’s just silly. Also: Washington punted only 25 times, fewest by any FBS team (excluding 2020) since Navy in 2007.
The bad: only 2.54 passes defended per game, worst in Power 5. Taken together, I think all three of those stats help tell the story of the season.
UWDP: The NFL combine just wrapped with only two Huskies in attendance (OL Jaxson Kirkland and Henry Bainivalu) in part because everyone that could do so chose to come back for 2023. What are your early predictions for which Dawgs get selected come the 2024 NFL Draft and on which day? A reminder for readers that the 1st round is Day One, 2nd and 3rd round on Day Two, and 4th through 7th round on Day Three.
CC: It feels like Rome Odunze and Bralen Trice will have a shot at going in the first round. Jalen McMillan might be able to play his way into that kind of consideration, too. Who knows what Troy Fautanu’s ceiling might be if he puts together an all-conference-type season? I think there’s a good chance all four of those guys are off the board by the end of Day 2, and Zion Tupuola-Fetui could also be in that conversation.
It will be interesting to see how the narrative forms on Michael Penix Jr. Can another big season boost him into the top three rounds? There will always be questions about his injury history, but consecutive healthy seasons while putting up Heisman-worthy numbers could render him another Day 2 guy.
Other guys who could be Day 3 options with the right kind of season: Edefuan Ulofoshio, Tuli Letuligasenoa, Dom Hampton, Ralen Goforth, Jack Westover, Devin Culp. Am I missing anyone? I’m thinking less about which guys might declare early (though Odunze, McMillan, Trice and Fautanu all have eligibility through 2024) and more about draftable seniors. One wildcard: if Ulumoo Ale has a breakthrough season, his frame will catch scouts’ attention.
Thank you again to Christian for answering our questions and check out the first few posts at onmontlake.com. If you like what you see, consider subscribing. Our goal here at UWDP is to foster a community of Husky sports lovers who want to become better fans through quality analysis. And our readers also checking out coverage like Christian’s helps achieve that goal.