CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: Looking back at recruitment of UW Huskies’ 13 combine invitees

Mar 8, 2024, 9:55 AM

UW Huskies Rome Odunze...

Rome Odunze of Washington at the NFL Combine on March 2, 2024. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies’ school record for players selected in a single (seven-round) NFL Draft is 10, set in 1998. Seven of those players signed in Don James’ final, 1993 recruiting class, redshirting the ‘93 season and staying all five years at UW.

Bruce Feldman ‘a believer’ in UW Huskies’ Michael Penix Jr. as NFL quarterback

It remains to be seen whether the UW Huskies will break that 10-player record in 2024, though they did already establish a new program high with 13 players invited to the NFL Combine. And while those 13 players are spread relatively evenly over three different recruiting classes, it might resemble the 1998 crew in the sense that most (though not all) of them spent at least four years at Washington.

Interestingly, the group includes only four blue-chip recruits, plus two former walk-ons. Three of the 13 came to UW as transfers; the other 10 committed to coach Chris Petersen in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes, each ranked among the nation’s top 16, per the 247Sports Composite.

Breakdown: The returning UW Huskies with the most experience

In order of Composite ranking, here is a look back at the recruitment of each of UW’s 13 Combine invitees — six who signed in 2018, two from UW’s 2019 class, and another five who entered college during the 2020 pandemic season.

WR Jalen McMillan

Class: 2020
Rating: 4-star, No. 67

Background: Among Petersen’s biggest career recruiting victories, McMillan was an ultra-productive, fringe five-star prospect out of Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial who also starred as a baseball player and sprinter on the track team. He chose the Huskies over significant interest from USC, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, and built a friendship with UW signee Sam Huard, a five-star prospect in the 2021 class with whom McMillan played 7-on-7.

OL Roger Rosengarten

Class: 2020
Rating: 4-star, No. 171

Background: It came down to Washington and Oregon for the blue-chipper from Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian, and there was a time when it appeared Rosengarten might be leaning toward the Ducks. In the end, his relationship with former UW o-line coach Scott Huff won out. He also appreciated Petersen’s selective approach to offering scholarships. “If they offer one out of every five kids, and another program offers four out of every five kids, I feel more valued with UW,” Rosengarten said.

WR Rome Odunze

Class: 2020
Rating: 4-star, No. 225

Background: Odunze’s recruitment picked up after a big junior season at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, where he was eventually named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. Considering his size, athletic profile and prowess as a state-champion sprinter, some at UW were surprised Odunze didn’t receive more recruiting attention, even if he was already a four-star prospect with 30-plus reported offers. He committed to UW in August 2019 over Miami and Duke. Paired with McMillan, Odunze’s commitment secured an elite duo for former receivers coach Junior Adams.

OL Troy Fautanu

Class: 2019
Rating: 4-star, No. 367

Background: Maybe Fautanu’s volleyball background explains his seemingly effortless footwork, evidenced during his wave drill at the Combine. As a lean tackle at Henderson (Nev.) Liberty, Fautanu selected a top-eight of Washington, Oregon, Utah, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame, California and Duke, and took unofficial visits to each. His last trip was to UW, and he committed to the Huskies in September of his senior year. Once a defensive lineman, Fautanu was reluctant to play o-line, but quickly fell in love with the position after switching in high school. “Being able to put guys on their backs was the thing I wanted to do,” he once said.

The one UW Huskies player Seahawks shouldn’t pass on in draft

RB Dillon Johnson

Class: 2020 (Mississippi State)
Rating: 3-star, No. 430

Background: Teaming with Florida State’s Trey Benson in the backfield, Johnson helped Greenville (Miss.) St. Joseph win three state championships, playing both quarterback and running back while rushing for more than 3,300 yards between his junior and senior seasons. He committed to play for coach Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, but instead wound up playing in Mike Leach’s pass-heavy Air Raid system after Moorhead’s firing. Johnson transferred to Washington after three college seasons, and became the Huskies’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Salvon Ahmed.

EDGE Bralen Trice

Class: 2019
Rating: 3-star, No. 447

Background: He might not have been a blue-chip recruit, but Trice had plenty of significant interest from major programs, nevertheless. Ahead of his commitment date, it was no sure thing Trice would pick the Huskies over finalists Notre Dame and Oregon. He also reported offers from Alabama and USC, among others, as a star at Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

WR Ja’Lynn Polk

Class: 2020 (Texas Tech)
Rating: 3-star, No. 461

Background: A productive wideout at Lufkin (Texas) High (131 catches, 2,412 yards, 24 touchdowns), Polk chose the Red Raiders over Arkansas, Baylor and Arizona. He saw the field as a true freshman in 2020, but entered the transfer portal and eventually chose to play for coach Jimmy Lake at UW, effectively joining McMillan and Odunze in the 2020 class. It helped that a Lufkin teammate, running back Caleb Berry, had committed to UW in the 2021 cycle.

TE Devin Culp

Class: 2018
Rating: 3-star, No. 476

Background: A versatile athlete who carried the ball and also caught passes as a receiver at Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, Culp originally committed to Oregon before decommitting — in January 2017, not long after Washington’s College Football Playoff appearance — and joining the Huskies as a tight end.

QB Michael Penix Jr.

Class: 2018 (Indiana)
Rating: 3-star, No. 548

Background: The Tampa Bay Tech product committed to Tennessee in April 2017, before he even played his junior season. After Butch Jones was fired, though, the new coaching staff informed Penix he no longer had a spot in Knoxville, and he wound up instead at Indiana, where Nick Sheridan — who had helped recruit Penix as an analyst at Tennessee — had just taken a job coaching quarterbacks. It was in Bloomington that Penix connected with Kalen DeBoer, who spent the 2019 season as the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator, and that connection helped DeBoer bring Penix with him to Washington in 2022.

EDGE Zion Tupuola-Fetui

Class: 2018
Rating: 3-star, No. 811

Background: A student recruiting assistant named Benny Feinsilber was watching film of a high-school game in Hawaii, cutting clips of a different prospect, when he couldn’t help but notice Tupuola-Fetui was making play after play. At the time, ZTF didn’t even have a recruiting profile. UW’s early evaluation eventually yielded a signature over offers from California and Vanderbilt.

S Dominique Hampton

Class: 2018
Rating: 3-star, No. 855

Background: Though he signed in the same class as four-star DB prospects Julius Irvin and Kyler Gordon, Hampton’s arrival generated similar excitement among those who watched his first fall camp. Originally a cornerback, Hampton was listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds on his recruiting profile. He also excelled as a sprinter at Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial, where as a senior he finished third in the 200 meters and fourth in the 100 at the state championships. Hampton chose UW over finalists Colorado and Oregon.

LB Edefuan Ulofoshio

Class: 2018
Rating: N/A

Background: Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Ulofoshio moved with his family to the Las Vegas area before his junior year of high school. He enrolled at national power Bishop Gorman, where he put up huge numbers (100 tackles, 15.5 TFLs and five sacks as a senior) but only received scholarship offers from FCS schools. Jordan Paopao, then UW’s tight ends coach and Las Vegas area recruiter, offered Ulofoshio a spot as a preferred walk-on. A high-achieving student who planned a career in medicine, Ulofoshio chose Washington over a scholarship, though he earned one after his first two college seasons.

TE Jack Westover

Class: 2018
Rating: N/A

Background: Westover didn’t really have a recruitment. He played basketball, but didn’t pick football back up until his senior year, after transferring from O’Dea to Mt. Si High School, and a broken collarbone limited him to two games. Paopao kept tabs on Westover and invited him to join the program as a walk-on. Like Ulofoshio, Westover was put on scholarship before this third college season.

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

2-minute warning is (probably) coming to college football — but why?

Christian Caple

UW Huskies football transfer portal Peny Boone...

Christian Caple

UW Huskies Football: Transfer portal targets to watch

The UW Huskies have needs at several positions, and they're recruiting the spring transfer portal accordingly. Christian Caple looks at some potential targets.

6 hours ago

UW Huskies spring practice update...

Christian Caple

Up-and-coming UW Huskies making moves this spring

A look at up-and-coming UW Huskies who are making their case for playing time at the one-third mark of spring practices.

6 days ago

UW Huskies 2024 spring practice...

Christian Caple

UW Huskies Spring Practice, Day 5: A look at Valdez, D-line and more

UW Huskies insider Christian Caple of On Montlake breaks down all the news and notes from spring football practice for Jedd Fisch's team.

7 days ago

UW Huskies Carson Bruener...

Christian Caple

UW Huskies Practice Notebook: Why 2 veteran players stayed

Christian Caple has details on two defenders staying at Washington and more notes from Saturday's UW Huskies practice.

12 days ago

UW Huskies football...

Christian Caple

Caple: Young UW Huskies players to watch as spring progresses

Early UW Huskies spring practices have provided a glimpse of several young players who are already taking reps with the No. 1 or No. 2 units.

14 days ago

UW Huskies transfer Arizona Jonah Coleman...

Christian Caple

Caple: The 3 big UW Huskies questions ahead of spring ball

WIth the UW Huskies set to start spring practices soon, Christian Caple dives into three important questions the team faces.

21 days ago

Caple: Looking back at recruitment of UW Huskies’ 13 combine invitees