Montlake musings: Jen Cohen’s remarks, UW Huskies recruiting, more
Jul 5, 2023, 3:53 PM
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
As college football enters that (relatively) quiet period between July 4 and conference media days, here are some thoughts and conjecture about the UW Huskies, the Pac-12, betting lines, recruiting and more.
• Hope you caught my Q-and-A with Huskies athletic director Jen Cohen on Friday. As some commenters noted, she chose her words carefully and was sure not to paint UW into a corner. The gist: she is “confident” in the strength of the Pac-12 going forward, and “optimistic” the league will secure a media-rights deal suitable for keeping the conference together.
While she didn’t say anything that crept into take-it-to-the-bank territory, my feeling is that Cohen wouldn’t have agreed to the interview at all, were UW not of the mind that resolution is on the horizon. Remember: the athletic directors don’t actually have a seat at the table. These decisions are voted on by the presidents and chancellors of the 10 remaining conference schools, so Cohen is reliant on whatever information UW president Ana Mari Cauce chooses to share with her. But UW always has skewed toward being more careful than not on these matters, and Cohen isn’t the type to speak out of turn or project an opinion out of alignment with campus leadership.
Nothing is certain until a deal is presented to the league’s board of directors, approved along with a grant-of-rights and announced publicly. The number of people who actually know what’s happening is extremely limited. But if we’re reading between the lines, the fact Cohen was willing to answer questions makes me think the Pac-12 at least believes it is moving toward a deal.
• As often as the Alston case is cited in NIL conversations, it’s worth remembering that the ruling itself was fairly narrow, and applied only to schools’ ability to provide education-related benefits. As a result, schools now may compensate athletes up to $5,980 per year for academic performance. All told, that expense came out to about $2 million for UW, with another new expense of roughly $1 million as a result of the NCAA eliminating volunteer coaches effective July 1.
• Interesting stuff here: as Brett McMurphy noted, Washington is one of five teams projected to be favored in every game this season, per The Action Network’s betting power rankings.
If you look at those rankings, the Huskies actually aren’t the top-rated team in the Pac-12 — that’s Oregon, at No. 5, with Utah at No. 6 and UW at No. 7 (though the Utes and Huskies are given the same score). Oregon’s rating is only a half-point higher than Washington’s, so I assume home-field advantage is what puts the Huskies over the top.
USC, surprisingly, ranks just 14th here, suggesting the Trojans should only be the betting favorites in eight games this season, and would be underdogs against Oregon, Utah, Washington and Notre Dame (at No. 16, the Irish rank one point below USC, but the game is at Notre Dame). That’s a tough schedule, no doubt, but count me among the folks who would eagerly bet on the Trojans being favored in at least one of those games, if not more.
Of course, this is merely a preseason ranking, and will change dramatically once the season starts. But it does speak at least some to the expectations surrounding the Huskies, and maybe hints that UW’s schedule isn’t quite as treacherous as it might seem.
• Washington used its big June visit weekend to build its 2024 recruiting class from one commitment to 12. The most recent was four-star edge rusher Dominic Kirks from Cleveland.
Who could be next? The easy answer is three-star offensive lineman Ikinasio Tupou from Palo Alto (Calif.) High. The Huskies have one O-lineman committed already — four-star Paki Finau from Hesperia (Calif.) Oak Hills — and the assumption seems to be that Tupou will eventually join him. Both visited during Washington’s big weekend in June, and Tupou also took trips to Arizona, Utah and BYU.
There is only one offensive lineman on UW’s roster whose eligibility expires this season — senior center Matteo Mele — but left tackle Troy Fautanu is widely expected to turn pro, and right tackle Roger Rosengarten could be in position to explore the NFL, too.
Assuming Tupou commits, he and Finau both sign, and UW loses only Mele and Fautanu, the Huskies’ o-line scholarship count for 2024 would be 16 — or where it is right now for 2023, with the addition of Kansas State transfer Jalen Klemm.
• It appears four-star Long Beach (Calif.) Poly linebacker Dylan Williams could be planning a Friday announcement, with Oregon the presumed favorite (per a Steve Wiltfong “crystal ball” prediction). The Huskies did get Williams to visit the weekend of June 16, and I’m curious to what extent UW might continue to recruit him, even if he does commit soon to the Ducks. UW has one linebacker on board (Khmori House from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco) and needs at least one more, either via the 2024 class or the portal, to replace outgoing seniors Edefuan Ulofoshio and Ralen Goforth. The Huskies also hosted four-star Kamar Mothudi (also crystal-balled to Oregon) and three-star Ashtin Kekahuna-Lopes in June.
• (Coincidentally enough, it was actually a year ago today that four-star Rainier Beach cornerback Caleb Presley announced his commitment to Oregon. He eventually flipped to UW in December.)
• I’m interested, too, to see where four-star O’Dea running back Jason Brown might end up. His only June official visit was to Michigan State, and he told 247Sports recently that he plans to make unofficial visits to Oregon and Washington in late July before potentially deciding in August. Not sure the Huskies are in all that strong of a position to land Brown at present, but it’s unclear where else they might turn at running back. The recruitment of four-star Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei back Nate Frazier seems to have moved on without the Huskies, and while four-star Darrion Dupree from Chicago Mount Carmel included UW in his final five, he hasn’t visited campus and is announcing his decision Friday.
• Maybe this raises the question of just how essential it is to take a running back in every class, given the availability at that position in the portal. It’s sort of like picking a running back high in the NFL Draft. If he’s a generational talent, it might be worth the draft capital … but there always are potential 1,000-yard types in the later rounds. Similarly, if you miss on your top tailback targets in a given recruiting class, there always is a chance you can fill that hole via the transfer portal. That can’t be done at every position — the offensive and defensive lines remain essential in high-school recruiting — but there’s a reason the Huskies have been able to take five transfer running backs in the last two offseasons.
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.