When Sav’ell Smalls committed to Washington it was viewed as a sign that things were finally changing for the Huskies’ recruiting under Chris Petersen. He was the first 5-star in the 247 Sports Composite to stay home and sign with Coach Pete as he headlined the best recruiting class in a long time. By the time Smalls signed though Petersen had retired and in the end Smalls was never able to live up to the heavy hometown hero expectations as he announced tonight that he is entering the transfer portal without a career sack. He’ll have 2 years of eligibility remaining at his next stop.
April 18, 2023
The time from Smalls’ commitment to now were among the more tumultuous in the modern era of Washington football. His expected position coach and co-DC, Pete Kwiatkowski, left for the Texas DC job after his freshman season which oh by the way was in the shortened COVID season. Then as a sophomore the co-DC from when he signed turned head coach Jimmy Lake was fired. Finally, as a junior the Huskies ascended under Kalen DeBoer to once again be a Pac-12 power.
Unfortunately though Smalls wasn’t able to be a major part of that rise. He played 139 defensive snaps as a true freshman per Pro Football Focus but finished with 0 quarterback hits and missed 25% of his tackle attempts. In 2021 he once again held a backup edge spot but saw double the snaps thanks to a full season’s worth of games. Still, Smalls failed to get home to the quarterback and never quite looked fluid enough to be a natural pass rusher. In a new scheme as a junior that saw Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin flourish, Smalls still was a distant 4th on the depth chart with Zion Tupuola-Fetui also ahead of him.
Going into next fall Smalls was at best going to be 3rd on the edge depth chart behind Trice and ZTF but seemingly faced the possibility of also being passed by younger players like Maurice Heims, Zach Durfee, and Lance Holtzclaw. Given his pedigree and expectations it unfortunately isn’t a shock to see Smalls decide on a change of scenery rather than wait yet another year hoping for a breakthrough on the depth chart.
This announcement by Smalls also ends what seemed destined to be the Kennedy Catholic era of Husky football. Smalls was the highest rated recruit in the 2020 class out of Kennedy while 5-star QB Sam Huard and 4-star WRs Jabez Tinae and Junior Alexander (with a one-year prelude at Arizona State) also joined the program. Now only Tinae is officially still with the team and that may not be for long with Washington’s extremely crowded WR room.
When Smalls signed with Washington it was clear that his sky high recruiting ranking was based more on athletic upside and a high ceiling than dominant production and a certain future. In the end, Smalls never demonstrated that he was capable of being an above average pass rusher at the power conference level. But despite that he never took to social media to complain or blame the coaching staff for failing to earn a starting role.
Just like with Sam Huard’s transfer this past December, Washington fans will always wish that it could’ve worked out and that Smalls became a future 1st round pick with the Huskies. But there also shouldn’t be hard feelings. They gave it their all and consistently faced a depth chart with players who demonstrated elite college production. Hopefully Smalls will find somewhere he can thrive in a different system and it’s simply a shame it didn’t happen with his hometown school. Thank you Sav’ell for committing to Washington and embracing the hometown hero moniker even if in the end it wasn’t meant to be.