Sports News: Projecting UW’s offensive depth chart ahead of spring football

 By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

There’s a multitude of reasons why the Jimmy Lake Era at Washington didn’t work.

But here’s the easiest to understand:

UW didn’t score enough points.

Under second-year offensive coordinator John Donovan — who was fired nine games into an uninspiring 4-8 season — UW averaged just 21.5 points per game, ranking ninth in the Pac-12 and 107th in the nation. Fresno State, meanwhile, put up 33.4 points per contest (26th nationally) under second-year head coach Kalen DeBoer and former Husky signal-caller Jake Haener.

Now that DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb have traveled north, will they bring some extra offense with them?

Time will tell.

But before spring practice starts next Wednesday, let’s take a moment to assess UW’s offensive depth chart.

Quarterback

Michael Penix Jr., jr., 6-3, 218, Tampa, Fla. (Indiana)

Dylan Morris, soph., 6-0, 200, Puyallup OR

Sam Huard, rs. fr., 6-2, 190, Bellevue

Analysis: Would you like the good news or the bad news first

OK, here’s the good news: Penix has a history of success under Kalen DeBoer. In six games with DeBoer as his offensive coordinator at Indiana in 2019, the lefty and two-time captain completed 68.8% of his passes — a program record — and threw for 1,394 yards with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, before an injury ended his season early.

The bad news? Penix has never played in more than six games in a season — due to a sternoclavicular joint injury, a pair of ACL tears and (most recently) an AC joint shoulder issue.

If he’s healthy, Penix’s track record with DeBoer makes him the immediate favorite to start this fall.

If he’s healthy.

But Morris and Huard shouldn’t be discounted, either. Can Morris be more than what he showed in an offensive system that made it near-impossible for a quarterback to thrive? And will Huard make a legitimate leap in a more pass-friendly attack?

The answers may ultimately decide UW’s quarterback competition.

Running back

Cameron Davis, soph., 6-0, 205, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Aaron Dumas, soph., 5-11, 180, El Paso, Texas (New Mexico)

Richard Newton, jr., 6-0, 215, Lancaster, Calif.

Jay’Veon Sunday, rs. fr., 6-0, 195, Waco, Texas

Emeka Megwa, rs. fr., 6-0, 210, Fort Worth, Texas

Sam Adams II, rs. fr., 6-1, 200, Kirkland

Caleb Berry, rs. fr., 6-1, 225, Lufkin, Texas

Analysis: What we’ve got here is a stylistic conflict. Lake preferred to recruit 200-plus pound battering rams, running backs with body armor and pass-blocking acumen. DeBoer has historically utilized smaller, shiftier backs with an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

So, which UW running backs fit that bill?

Davis — a 6-0, 205-pound sophomore — may present the best of both worlds, after rushing for 308 yards last season in his most significant dose of playing time. New Mexico transfer Aaron Dumas — who led the Lobos with 658 rushing yards as a true freshman last fall — also appears primed to fill a role in 2022.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Huskies’ remaining running backs fit in. Can Richard Newton return to form after suffering a season-ending injury? Can Emeka Megwa make an impact in his first full fall on campus?

Regardless, expect a tailback or two to hit the transfer portal this summer.

Wide receiver

Jalen McMillan, soph., 6-1, 180, Fresno, Calif.

Taj Davis, soph., 6-1, 195, Upland, Calif.

Rome Odunze, soph., 6-3, 200, Las Vegas

Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander, rs. fr., 6-2, 200, Auburn (Arizona State)

Denzel Boston, fr., 6-3, 191, South Hill

Ja’Lynn Polk, rs. fr., 6-2, 190, Lufkin, Texas (Texas Tech)

Giles Jackson, jr., 5-9, 185, Antioch, Calif. (Michigan)

Jabez Tinae, rs. fr., 6-0, 205, Seattle

Analysis: If you’re looking for a position group that should benefit most from DeBoer’s addition, this might be it.

UW returns five contributing wide receivers in Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, Taj Davis and Giles Jackson in 2022. McMillan, Odunze and Davis are all expected to take another step forward under first-year position coach JaMarcus Shephard, and it’ll be interesting to gauge Polk’s production after the Texas Tech transfer missed the majority of the 2021 season after injuring his chest in the opener.

Alexander — an Arizona State transfer and former four-star recruit — is the wide receiver wild card. With only so many reps to go around, can the former Kennedy Catholic standout carve out a role this fall? It won’t be easy.

Tight en

Devin Culp, jr., 6-4, 250, Spokane

Jack Westover, jr., 6-3, 250, Bellevue

Quentin Moore, soph., 6-5, 250, Kenmore (Independence CC)

Mason West, rs. fr., 6-4, 230, Whittier, Calif.

Caden Jumper, rs. fr., 6-2, 265, Eatonville

Ryan Otton, fr., 6-6, 224, Tumwater

Analysis: Cade Otton and Hunter Bryant aren’t walking through that door.

After years of consistent production at the tight end position, UW is left with some intriguing talent that has yet to prove itself. After catching 20 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown last fall, it’s certainly time for Culp — a 6-4, 250-pound junior — to take the next step. It’ll also be interesting to see how Westover is utilized, after previously contributing in a hybrid fullback role that has since been expunged from the Husky offense.

The 6-5, 250-pound Moore has the athleticism to become a viable downfield passing threat, but he dealt with injuries last season that halted any potential progress. And, though there are certainly more experienced options, we could conceivably see four-star signee Ryan Otton (Cade’s younger brother) contribute as a true freshman as well.

In an offense that doesn’t lean so heavily on the tight end position, the competition should be fierce for available reps.

Left tackle

Troy Fautanu, soph., 6-4, 310, Henderson, Nev.

Roger Rosengarten, rs. fr., 6-6, 285, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Matteo Mele, jr., 6-5, 290, Tucson, Ariz.

Left guard

Nate Kalepo, soph., 6-6, 330, Renton

Julius Buelow, soph., 6-8, 330, Kapolei, Hawaii

Owen Prentice, rs. fr., 6-2, 310, Seattle

Center

Corey Luciano, sr., 6-4, 295, Danville, Calif. (Diablo Valley College)

Matteo Mele, jr., 6-5, 290, Tucson, Ariz.

Geirean Hatchett, rs. fr., 6-4, 290, Ferndale

Parker Brailsford, fr., 6-2, 255, Mesa, Ariz.

Right guard

Henry Bainivalu, sr., 6-6, 330, Sammamish

Myles Murao, rs. fr., 6-3, 320, Torrance, Calif.

Gaard Memmelaar, rs. fr., 6-4, 300, Caldwell, Idaho

Right tackle

Vitor Curne, jr., 6-3, 315, Houston

Samuel Peacock, rs. fr., 6-6, 285, Gig Harbor

Robert Wyrsch, rs. fr., 6-6, 275, Capitola, Calif.

Analysis: Scott Huff is the only holdover from Lake’s previous coaching staff.

Which may raise questions, considering UW’s offensive line massively underperformed in 2021.

So, can Huff produce improved results in a less predictable offensive system?

That’ll ultimately depend on multiple factors, including Jaxson Kirkland’s status in 2022. The two-time All-Pac-12 left tackle removed his name from the NFL Draft because of an ankle issue, but is waiting for NCAA permission to play a sixth and final season at UW this fall. Right guard Henry Bainivalu also somewhat unexpectedly returned for a sixth season.

But can Roger Rosengarten ascend to a starting tackle spot, whether on the right or left side? Is it finally time for Myles Murao to fulfill his four-star potential? And who will win the job at center?

Huff is going to have decisions to make.

Then, we’ll all see if he was retained for a reason.


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