Hello and welcome to the seventh annual Jake Eldrenkamp Award For Excellence in “Oh S*** he was Actually Way Better Than we Realized Until he Left and Now We’re Feelin’ It.”
The JEA4EiOShwAWBTwRUhLaNWFI is awarded to the most recent former Husky who becomes the answer to “Who are the Dawgs gonna miss most that we haven’t yet realized we’re gonna miss?” It is the state and indeed nation’s most prestigous honor. And not just in college football. In life.
As a refresher, here’s what I wrote about it last year:
Obviously the question of who qualifies is subjective, but anyone who’s unanimously regarded as kicking ass and/or taking names is immediately disqualified. And anyone who maybe wasn’t unanimously regarded as such but was otherwise so high profile they can’t be ignored — think Jacob Eason two years ago — may as well be disqualified as well.
Honestly, at this point we (read: I and I alone) have been doing this long enough to just know when someone does or does not qualify for the JEA4EiOShwAWBTwRUhLaNWFI. It’s a gut feeling. You just know. Or at least, I know, and then being the dictatorial overlord that I am, I lorde that over all y’all and do what I want.
So, you get it. It can't be somebody who's just a bonafide star. Next year, Michael Penix will absolutely not be eligible, despite the fact that he'll certainly be the guy we miss the most.
Past nominees include:
- 2017: Umm... Jake Eldrenkamp?
- 2018: RB Lavon Coleman, OL Coleman Shelton, TE Will Dissly, LB Keshawn Bierria (winner: Lavon Coleman)
- 2019: TE Drew Sample, DL Jaylen Johnson, CB Jordan Miller, LB DJ Beavers (winner: Jaylen Johnson)
- 2020: LS AJ Carty, DB Myles Bryant, P Joel Whitford, DL Benning Potoa’e (winner: Joel Whitford)
- 2022 because we (I) forgot about it in 2021: RBs Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew, OL Luke Wattenberg, LB Jackson Sirmon, DB Bookie Radley-Hiles, P Race Porter, DL Ryan Bowman (winner: Race Porter — although in hindsight, he wouldn't have won it if we conducted this after the season seeing as the punter wasn't too necessary last year)
What’s kind of wild looking back is that the last time a non-punter won this (I say as if I can’t just declare anyone the winner — although in my defense the polls from past years have shown you all agree with my decision) was before COVID. And yes, that surely wouldn’t be true had I remembered to do it in 2021, but still. Wild days.
Although in hindsight, my sarcastic optimism arguing against Porter was... shockingly accurate beyond what we could’ve wished for:
Who could’ve known that “that world” was actually just cool reality.
And now that that’s out of the way...
To the nominees:
Alex Cook — S
Despite the secondary being a weakness last season and Alex Cook never being an elite playmaker, it's impossible to not see that his experience and commitment to this team did make him one of the heart and soul players, as cliche as that phrase is. Now, was his ceiling probably maxxed out? Yeah. Did he also provide a basic and relatively reliable floor on a DB unit that... couldn't say the same about everybody? Also yes, even if his limitations led to him being unable to singlehandedly save the secondary during many plays where having a more dynamic, elite athlete like Budda, Taylor Rapp, or Elijah Molden could've done just that.
Still though, between his experience as a player and his leadership on and off the field, I feel like he's somebody whose departure, in a lesser team culture, could have pretty big ramifications for when adversity hits.
Wayne Taulapapa — RB
In theory, Tauladaddy — yes that's his name and you will all address him as such — is the perfect candidate. He was pretty good at everything, elite at nothing, and just a solid dude to have in the backfield while being overshadowed by an explosive pass-first offense.
On one hand, Cam Davis has appeared to be maybe taking the reins to make this a smooth transition, Richard Newton is still solid, and there really is a decent stable of intriguing players in the room including the transfers Daniyel Ngata and Dillon Johnson (plus former transfer Will Nixon). On the other hand, Taulapapa’s well-roundedness was such a complement to the explosive passing game; losing someone with that consistent floor at everything should always make you hold your breath for a minute.
Jeremiah Martin — Edge
Martin is the defensive version of the case I just made fo Wayne Taulapapa, with the added uncertainty of more variable depth in this position group — particularly now that the NCAA has decided to be its usual worthless self that does nothing but nitpick students for things that don’t matter and make Zach Durfee’s eligibility go up in the air.
Luckily, there is some intriguing potential behind ZTF and Bralen Trice, but in the words of Jake Browning, “you don’t win games with potential.” Even if Durfee were to be ruled ineligible, players like Lance Holtzclaw and Maurice Heims are genuinely intriguing — plus Voi Tunuufi is officially an edge guy instead of interior lineman now.
Still, an edge room of ZTF, Bralen Trice, Martin, Durfee, Holtzclaw, Tunuufi, and Heims would have a super high floor and a killer ceiling; a rotation of ZTF, Bralen Trice, Holtzclaw and Heims and Tunuufi is one injury and three as-of-yet-unmet-potentials away from disaster. And requires the latter three to hit their stride now rather than later or else have massive dropoff when the starters have to rotate out. That’s not a recipe for closing out games in the fourth or stomping on opponents’ throats when you have them down.
If Durfee’s ruled eligible, Holtzclaw and Heims level up, and Tunuufi also takes that step while changing to this position, this will all seem moot in hindsight. If none of those happen, though... ruh-roh.
Peyton Henry — K
Now we’re cooking with gas. Everyone knows I'll go to war for the specialists, and Peyton Henry's 7824782478-year career here, Oregon redemption arc, and evolution into a stone cold killer means he automatically has a massive advantage, logical or otherwise.
Losing someone who you knew you could rely on for three points multiple times a game is... I don’t need to finish that sentence — it’s obvious. Even with this offense being as prolific as it is and finishing as many drives as they do, you’re not gonna score a touchdown evey time — and not being able to rely on getting the three points you can out of those drives can completely change not just single-game outcomes, but the whole offensive and defensive approaches. That’s pretty drastic for one dude’s left foot.
And the thing with #collegekickers is how comically unreliable like, 80% of them are. (And that’s probably a conservative estimate.) Sure, Kalen DeBoer says they’ve been trying to simulate pressure during scrimmages etc for Addison Shrock and Grady Gross and that they’ve been nailing it, but until they’re in the actual game moment, nobody really knows.
And if it comes down to it, oh how much we’d kill to have Peyton Henry back.
Jaxson Kirkland, Henry Bainivalu, and Corey Luciano — OL
Just like I included McGrew and Pleasant together last year under the running back umbrella, so will I do the same for these three.
Luckily, I have pretty decent faith in the depth, talent, plus sneakily good experience level of the pool of players who could fill these spots. Still though, losing three hyper-experienced linemen in an offense where you need to do a crapload of pass blocking in front of a quarterback who's absurdly awesome but has an equally absurd history of injuries... that's not nothing.
Any worries here are less about not trusting the guys who will fill their spots, but more about the reliability that they brought to such a foundational unit — particularly after Kirkland moved to guard, where he's (ironically, given his measurables) far better suited.
Luciano, meanwhile, might be the most Eldrenkamp-ian of them all, given that he was always so under-the-radar no matter how many snaps the guy took. Which was, officially, a crapload. I feel like he could have started at center for a decade for this team and he still would be overlooked.
Honorary mentions: Cam Bright — LB, Jordan Perryman — CB
Who is the preseason winner of the 2023 Jake Eldrenkamp award?
This poll is closed
Alex Cook, S
Wayne Taulapapa, RB
Jeremiah Martin, Edge
Peyton Henry, K
The trio of Kirkland, Bainivalu, and Luciano, OL
Jeremiah Martin — Edge
I went back and forth for... more hours than I care to admit on whether it should be Martin or Peyton Henry. I think the issue is that either of these could be completely the right answer or absolutely wrong. And we won’t know for a good few months. And we just have to... sit with that.
It could be that the edge rotation after ZTF and Bralen Trice ends up all great and dandy, Durfee isn’t prevented from playing by the tyrannical-but-useless NCAA, and they all live happily ever after. It could also be that neither of the replacement kickers for Henry can deliver under game pressure, and suddenly Washington finds themselves unable to depend on anywhere from 3 to 10+ points per game. If that happens then hoo boy will I look like someone who is wrong.
My thought process here though is that that could just as easily be flipped: Whichever kicker becames K1 ends up being great and the edge depth doesn’t have the floor to be relied upon. So, since we can’t really tell which of these two is most likely (in an ideal world both the new kicker and edge rotation will be awesome forever and there will be no dropoff, the end), I went with the idea that which of these scenarios would the team be better equipped to adapt and overcome?
Ultimately, my gut is that it would be harder for this team to overcome lesser edge depth performance behind ZTF and Trice than an unreliable kicker. Sure, a kicker could lose you a game last minute, but a porous edge could lose you a game for the first 59 minutes.
And when considering this team’s construction, strengths, and weaknesses, I feel like they’d be better equipped to overcome the bad kicker.
After all, they already go for it quite liberally on fourth down, what’s a little bit more going for it? Really this comes down to trusting the offense to take that hinderance (not being able to make field goals) and turning that into the “forced opportunity” of having to score six instead (although if we get to the point where those six aren’t guaranteed to be seven... yikes). Versus in the other scenario, this defense is... less well equipped to overcome this hypothetical lesser edge rush.
If the younger guys taking over Jeremiah Martin’s spot can’t up their game, it could have drastic butterfly effects on an already inconsistent defense and through extension force the offense into higher pressure situations where they probably don’t want to be settling for field goals anyway.
And for that reason, as close as Peyton Henry was to being my choice here, Jeremiah Martin is YOUR 2023 Jake Eldrenkamp Award winner.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.