BROCK AND SALK

Huard: UW Huskies getting a new ‘force’ on defense for CFP

Dec 6, 2023, 9:12 AM

UW Huskies...

Kalen DeBoer of the Washington Huskies looks on during the Pac-12 Championship on Dec. 1, 2023. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

(Ian Maule/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies are flying high after taking down rival Oregon to clinch a spot in this year’s College Football Playoff.

Pac-12 Networks’ Yogi Roth: UW Huskies ‘very capable’ of winning title

On top of going 13-0 and earning a semifinal matchup with 12-1 Texas in the Sugar Bowl, the No. 2-ranked Huskies are apparently set to get a boost on defense that UW fans have not seen so far.

According to OnMontlake’s Christian Caple, a contributor for Seattle Sports, defensive end Zach Durfee, who transferred to Washington last offseason but has not played in a game yet, will be eligible to play on Jan. 1 against Texas.

Former Huskies and NFL quarterback Brock Huard broke down the situation and what it means for UW against Texas during Wednesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

First off, why hasn’t Durfee played in 2023?

“Well, he’s been totally hosed by the NCAA,” Huard said. “He spent a couple years at the same school (head coach Kalen DeBoer) is from, Sioux Falls down there, and has transferred. And the NCAA, like they’ve done with some of these guys for whatever reason, just did not grant him immediate eligibility. He had to sit out this regular season.”

If you follow UW players on social media, you’ve likely seen some of them post #FreeDurf at some point in the hopes of getting their teammate on the field for gameday. That’s now set to happen.

Durfee spent two years at Sioux Falls at the NAIA level, redshirting in 2021 before playing 11 games last year, where he had 11 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as an all-conference first-team member.

Huard got a chance to see Durfee practice in person for the Huskies earlier this year, and simply said, “This dude is good now.”

“When I was out at practice before the Oregon game (in October) … and Kalen was so gracious to me as he is with everybody that goes out and watches practice, we’re walking around and we’re looking at this and we’re looking at that, and ultimately we go and I want to kind of see the defense,” Huard said.

Huard, like many, is very familiar with the starpower the Huskies boast on offense with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and star receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk. But Huard wanted to see young defenders to see what the future of Washington’s defense could look like. That’s when he was introduced to Durfee.

“And then (DeBoer) points this guy out to me, and he’s like, ‘This guy right here? Watch him,'” Huard. “He has had to play on the scout team. You can’t play with the ones. He’s going up against the (starters in practice). Troy Fautanu and (Roger) Rosengarten, ask those (starting offensive tackles) who this dude is. Ask them and they will tell you he’s one of the hardest guys on our team to block. He is just an absolute baller.”

Even though Durfee has yet to play for Washington, Huard expects the young edge rusher to make an immediate impact for the Huskies against Texas in a few weeks.

“This dude is gonna come in here — I am just telling you right now — as you watch the Texas game, you’re gonna watch the game and Husky fans are gonna say, ‘Who is this guy they just picked up off the street? Is this some freshmen? Is this some early enrollee? I didn’t think that happened until spring ball? Where did they get this guy?'” Huard said. “He is a powerful 260-pound explosive, explosive, explosive difference-maker.”

One of the strengths of Washington’s defense is the team’s top two edge rushers in Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui, and adding Durfee to the mix could give the Huskies a potent pass-rush rotation.

“He’s going to be a force in that semifinal,” Huard said of Durfee. “And Kalen DeBoer was hoping he would have been cleared seven eight or nine weeks ago, but he’s cleared it just the right time as they make their playoff push.”

More on the UW Huskies

• Heisman Trophy: UW Huskies’ Michael Penix Jr. among four finalists
• Damon Huard: Why No. 2 UW got the best path to national title in CFP
• Making the Heisman case for UW QB Michael Penix Jr.
• Here we go again: How are UW Huskies underdogs in Sugar Bowl?

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