CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: The UW Huskies’ redshirt freshmen who could impact in 2024

Mar 10, 2024, 11:30 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

UW Huskies football Leroy Bryant...

Leroy Bryant of the UW Huskies football team takes the field before a 2023 game vs. ASU. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Considering their roster was stocked with NFL prospects and other experienced veterans, the UW Huskies had little need for contributions from their true freshmen during the 2023 football season.

Looking back at recruitment of UW Huskies’ 13 NFL combine invitees

Former coach Kalen DeBoer signed a 2023 recruiting class that ranked No. 26 nationally and included eight blue-chip prospects, but only three of the class’ 21 signees played enough last season to bypass redshirt status: running back Tybo Rogers, offensive lineman Landen Hatchett and edge rusher Jacob Lane.

While DeBoer’s departure for Alabama prompted many UW players to enter the transfer portal, the Huskies lost only two from their 2023 class: quarterback Austin Mack, who joined DeBoer at Alabama, and receiver Taeshaun Lyons, who entered the portal prior to DeBoer’s exit and landed at Utah.

Which of the returning 2023 signees have a chance to contribute under first-year coach Jedd Fisch after redshirting? Excluding Rogers, Hatchett and Lane, here are five to keep in mind.

OL Zachary Henning

The former three-star, interior O-line prospect from Aurora (Colo.) Grandview wasn’t too far from the field last season, when he appeared in two games and was only an injury or two away from seeing even more action. Coaches were high on Henning’s potential during his first spring practices as an early enrollee, and with UW’s O-line depth decimated by transfers, Henning will have every chance to prove himself to the new coaching staff this spring. Even if UW adds another three or four experienced linemen via the portal between now and September, Henning should still have some kind of role for the Huskies in 2024.

LB Deven Bryant

The 5-foot-11, 216-pound linebacker from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco might have burned his redshirt last season if the Huskies hadn’t been so deep at his position. They return much of that experience in 2024, so it won’t be easy for Bryant to crack the two-deep this year, either. But he impressed the previous coaching staff enough to appear in four games, and should at least contribute on special teams this year.

CB Leroy Bryant

Leroy Bryant is in a similar situation as Deven Bryant (no relation), in that he’s a promising young player at a position still stocked with veteran talent. Leroy wound up appearing in seven games mostly as a special-teamer last season — four in the regular season, then three in the postseason, which don’t count against redshirt limits. He should only increase his role in that phase of the game in 2024, and will compete with a handful of other young cornerbacks for a spot on the depth chart.

WR Rashid Williams

Williams, out of Pittsburg (Calif.) High, was one of two blue-chip receiver signees in this class (Lyons was the other). He played in only one game while redshirting, against California, but did catch two passes for 30 yards. With UW’s top four receivers moving on, the Huskies are going to need a young player or two to step up and be part of the rotation. There’s no reason that can’t be Williams, who at present has only three more experienced scholarship players ahead of him in the receiver room: seniors Jeremiah Hunter and Giles Jackson, plus third-year sophomore Denzel Boston. The same is true of redshirt freshman receiver Keith Reynolds. Fisch could always go out and get another playmaker in the transfer portal, but right now, Williams should like his chances of contributing.

OL Elishah Jackett

Admittedly, this one is more of a wild card, as the tall, lean tackle might still need to put on weight in order to hold up against Big Ten competition (the 2023 roster listed him at 6 foot 7 and 259 pounds). But Jackett was a blue-chip prospect for a reason, and his athleticism at least makes him an intriguing option as the Huskies continue to sort out their O-line situation. Assuming full health, the Orange (Calif.) El Modena product should get a long look this spring.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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