CHRISTIAN CAPLE

UW Huskies’ ’22 recruiting class is intact — and seeing a ton of reps

Apr 12, 2023, 6:14 PM

UW Huskies Jaivion Green...

Oregon RB Bucky Irving is forced out of bounds by UW Huskies CB Jaivion Green. (Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Germie Bernard’s transfer from Michigan State to Washington this offseason didn’t just give the UW Huskies another promising young receiver. It also made their 2022 recruiting class whole again.

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The first group to sign with coach Kalen DeBoer — including Bernard, who asked out of his letter and instead enrolled at Michigan State — is wholly intact as the Huskies go through spring practices. It was a small class, consisting of just nine high-school players (plus two junior-college transfers).

The freshmen had little impact in Year 1, with only two of them playing enough to burn their redshirts (plus Bernard at Michigan State). But the group has been far more involved this spring, with many of them taking reps with either the No. 1 or No. 2 offense or defense.

Here is a look at how each of Washington’s 2022 signees are faring at spring practices in Year 2 (not counting last year’s JUCO signees, linebacker Demario King and edge rusher Sekai Asoau-Afoa).

Parker Brailsford, offensive line

After redshirting last season, Brailsford is probably the smart bet to enter the season as the backup center. He’ll be pushed at least some by 2023 signee and spring enrollee Landen Hatchett — who already is getting some snaps behind Brailsford with the No. 2 offensive line — but it’s largely been Brailsford in the middle with that group. (And for whatever it might be worth, I also saw Brailsford slide over to take some reps at left tackle during Monday’s practice).

Coaches are high on Hatchett’s potential as a true center, but Brailsford was recruited to play the position, too, and there is a lot to like about his tenacity and intelligence. I expect to see him on the depth chart this season, and to continue battling with Hatchett into the future.

Denzel Boston, receiver

Boston caught a touchdown pass during a red-zone period with the No. 2 offense on Monday, and DeBoer praised the way he high-pointed the ball for a couple of catches during the Huskies scrimmage last week. Boston says he plays with a mindset that matches his size — 6 foot 4, 185 pounds — in the sense that he tries to play aggressive and take advantage of his build to make big plays downfield.

The question is how many snaps might be available for someone like Boston, who currently is looking up at an experienced returning rotation of Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk, Giles Jackson and Taj Davis.

“I keep telling them, the cost of admittance has gone up,” receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “As prices rise, guess what? You better find a way to ante up, pony up. Find whatever it takes to get to the cost of admission. … It’s going to cost you more to be able to get in this game, so you’ve got to do more.”

Germie Bernard, receiver

Bernard appeared in 12 games as a true freshman at Michigan State and caught seven passes in 13 targets, per Pro Football Focus. Like Boston, he’s going to have to sort his way through all that depth ahead of him. Bernard certainly is being given every opportunity to prove he should be part of the rotation. His run-after-catch ability has been particularly impressive, especially in the quick/screen game.

Stacked as the Huskies are at receiver, it’s hard to believe Bernard won’t touch the ball some this season. Shephard says he doesn’t mind dipping deep into the bench.

“I think we did a decent job of it last year, showed that we’re capable of getting a lot of guys involved,” Shephard said. “That’s what we want. We don’t want there to be any situation where there’s a big fall off.”

Ryan Otton, tight end

I’ve seen Otton catch the ball a couple times, but his reps have been spare behind returning starters Jack Westover and Devin Culp, plus fifth-year junior Quentin Moore and Cal Poly transfer Josh Cuevas. The lone blue-chip recruit in this class, Otton will be an interesting athlete to watch once he gains some experience (and Culp and Westover move on).

Jayvon Parker, defensive line

Returning starters Tuli Letuligasenoa and Faatui Tuitele each working their way back from offseason surgeries has created the opportunity for Parker to take a bunch of reps with the No. 2 d-line, as Ulumoo Ale and Jacob Bandes often have formed the No. 1 unit. Parker was one of two true freshmen to not redshirt for the Huskies last season — three, counting walk-on kicker Grady Gross, who is competing for a starting job himself — and should be in the rotation again this year. If this spring is any indication, he could have a chance to play his way into at least a backup role on the depth chart.

Armon Parker, defensive line

After missing last season due to injury, Armon has taken plenty of snaps with the No. 2 defensive line this spring, often alongside his twin brother. He’s listed at 6-3 and 316 pounds, and coaches are high on his potential. UW had five interior defensive linemen play 175 or more snaps last season — and they’re all still on the roster — with Jayvon Parker checking in at No. 6 with his 99 snaps. He’s played a ton this spring, but is there room for Armon to eat into those reps once everyone is healthy? He might be battling his brother on that front.

It might depend on what happens with Voi Tunuufi, who played on the interior the past two seasons but has dropped to 249 pounds and could be used more often as an edge rusher. He’s been hurt and hasn’t practiced much, so it’s hard to know just yet.

Lance Holtzclaw, edge 

Edges coach Eric Schmidt pointed out that Holtzclaw was in some of Washington’s third-down packages as a true freshman last season, though he appeared in only one game on defense. He’s missed the last couple practices presumably due to injury, but prior to that, Holtzclaw was one of several players getting reps at edge rusher with the No. 2 defense.

His speed is his greatest asset right now, but Schmidt also says he’s powerful and “a strong puncher.” If Holtzclaw can get big enough — coaches want him to play in the 245-250 range, and he’s at about 230 presently — I could see him filling the void somewhere in the rotation at edge rusher behind starters Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui.

Tristan Dunn, husky/safety

If there’s one player from this class who could have a significantly larger role in Year 2, it might be Dunn. He has taken reps at both safety and husky this spring, occasionally working with the No. 1 defense. Mishael Powell does project as the likely starter at husky, but Dunn’s physical traits — 6-4, 189 pounds — would add a different dynamic at either spot. Coaches like his length and physical approach.

“We’re really working hard with him this spring to be able to have a full grasp and understanding of what he’s doing,” co-coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Morrell said. “And man, when he’s on, he does some great stuff for us.”

Jaivion Green, cornerback

None of UW’s 2022 signees played more than Green, who was pressed into regular reserve duty because of so many injuries in the secondary. He’s trying to parlay that experience into a regular role as a sophomore, battling with Jabbar Muhammad, Elijah Jackson and Thaddeus Dixon for a starting job. Those four have pretty consistently formed the No. 1 and No. 2 duos at cornerback, with each player seeing some time with the ones.

True freshman Caleb Presley also has seen some time with the No. 2s at cornerback, and two other 2023 signees are arriving this summer. Green’s task will be to hold off those younger players for a spot on the depth chart.

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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