Quick roundtable convo this week:
Who is a player not currently expected to start, but by the end of the season will be?
Jeff Gorman: I’m going with Makell Esteen on defense. The Dom Hampton/Asa Turner safety duo does not feel like the most secure position on the depth chart and this team needs to generate turnovers. Esteen is a smart player who is always getting his hands on the football - that was his strength coming out of high school and he had two interceptions last year. Spring practice reports indicated he has continued being a ball hawk. This defense needs playmakers on the backend, and with the pass rush looking to be explosive, he could be the perfect compliment to take advantage of quarterbacks making errant throws while being chased by Trice and ZTF.
Runner up is Parker Brailsford. Don’t know how or where on interior of the OL, but I’m not sure Buelow and Kalepo hold onto the guard spots. They’ve started before but never been able to secure a spot long term. Brailsford is slightly undersized but extremely athletic and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Seems like the type who would succeed at UW.
Max Vrooman: One of the tricky parts of this question is it requires a position having a clear starter right now but that you don’t have a ton of confidence in and then also have a clear backup. Betting against a particular player isn’t a great option (besides you know the idea of not wanting to bet against any Husky) if there are 3 guys who could realistically replace him. I would go with Dillon Johnson as my first choice. Cam Davis came out of the spring as the clear starter at RB as Johnson transferred in later and then was banged up for the rest of the practices. But we saw Wayne Taulapapa come in after spring practices last year and split time but ultimately start over Davis last year. I am rooting hard for Davis to have a fantastic season but I think Johnson is really good and injuries aren’t exactly unheard of at the running back position.I don’t think it’s a bad choice going with someone along the interior offensive line as the odds of hitting a perfect 3/3 replacing all of those spots isn’t all that high. I could see Brailsford or maybe Geirean Hatchett end up supplanting someone if they get off to a slow start. The other 2 spots I would look at are the defensive line and cornerback. Faatui Tuitele struggled for much of last season and missed spring ball due to injury while Tuli Letuligasenoa has played through injury a lot in his career. I could see either Jacob Bandes or Ulumoo Ale or maybe even Jayvon Parker eventually start. But that violates the first rule I mentioned of there not being a clear backup I feel confident is next in line. It’s similar at cornerback where I think Thad Dixon would be my pick if injuries take their toll at the corner spot again but there are 3 other guys I wouldn’t be surprised by. Finally, Kamren Fabiculanan seems like he could potentially be the backup at both the safety and Husky spots so if there’s an injury anywhere in the secondary he has a shot to start even if I don’t think he’s going to do so by virtue of performance where he can’t be taken off the field.
Mark Schafer: I was going to say Dillon Johnson as well Max, but with the depth chart looking the way it is at running back right now and with Cam as the clear starter after a great year last year, I’m not sure who’s going to end up behind him. We may get a clearer picture of the running backs once fall camp starts and Johnson or somebody else may separate themselves from the rest of the pack. If that happens, I would think because of his versatility, he could step up with the first unit and make plays and be a key contributor.
I am going to go with Makell Esteen on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary as a whole was the weakest part of the entire defense last year but Esteen showed flashes of a solid defensive player, tying for the team lead in interceptions with 2. If he gets more playing time, he just might develop into UWs next great DB.
The line has a ton of questions in terms of personnel and who will step up now that Kirkland, Bainivalu, and Curne are gone. It would be great to see Geirean Hatchett slot in somewhere if someone can’t hold it down, maybe his brother will slide up if we have trouble at center as well.
I would like for one of our younger defensive backs to make an appearance, such as Dixon or Gordon, but I think Muhammad and Turner/Hampton hold more experience and are thus a safer bet to start, even though as Max said, the depth at safety is questionable.
Coach B: My pick is Geirean Hatchett. Max hit the nail in the head for what scenario we’re describing. A clear #1 on a shortish leash but also a #2 with upside. Hatchett is the clear 6th man on the OL with iOL positional flexibility, and it seems like Buelow, Kalepo and Mele have the iOL spots locked up. Buelow and Kalepo have some starting/rotation experience but are by no means entrenched at the top of the depth chart. Regardless of what the week 1 depth chart says, I have a gut feeling that Hatchett will be the first OL off the bench with some shuffling elsewhere in the event that there’s an injury or the need for changes to the line up.