CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: What to expect from UW Huskies’ seniors in 2024

Mar 23, 2024, 10:00 AM

UW Huskies WIll Rogers...

Will Rogers the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Oct. 8, 2022. (Justin Ford/Getty Images)

(Justin Ford/Getty Images)

New UW Huskies coach Jedd Fisch has made clear that he likes to play freshmen, as he did the past three seasons at Arizona. And, indeed, there are multiple positions where UW could rely on first- or second-year players as they construct their 2024 depth chart.

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But it’s also true that many of UW’s 16 scholarship seniors — whether career Huskies or new transfers — will play critical roles this season.

Here is a review of those veterans, as UW prepares to begin spring practices April 2.

QB Will Rogers

The Mississippi State transfer briefly entered the portal again following coach Kalen DeBoer’s departure to Alabama, but Fisch sold Rogers and his family on a vision for how they would use him in his final college season, and that was enough for him to stay in Seattle. The previous staff targeted him specifically for his experience and production — more than 12,000 passing yards in the SEC — and now Fisch’s staff will rely on Rogers to bring that veteran presence to a completely overhauled offense.

RBs Cam Davis and Daniyel Ngata

The Huskies added junior transfer Jonah Coleman from Arizona, and he should be one of the team’s most exciting offensive players this season. But don’t forget about Davis, a sixth-year player who missed last season due to an August injury but would have contributed significantly, had he been healthy. It remains to be seen if he might participate at all this spring, but if he’s ready to go by preseason camp, Davis could really bolster the Huskies’ backfield.

Ngata couldn’t crack the rotation at tailback after transferring from Arizona State last season, but he did establish as the team’s primary kick returner, and should compete for reps at that spot.

WRs Jeremiah Hunter and Giles Jackson

Another incoming transfer, Hunter was California’s top receiver in each of the past two seasons, and keeping him committed to UW — like Rogers, Hunter originally chose the Huskies when DeBoer was still coach — was among Fisch’s biggest early victories. Hunter should immediately slot as UW’s No. 1 wideout, and gives Rogers an experienced weapon to help implement Fisch’s pro-style passing scheme.

Jackson played in only four regular-season games last season amid injuries, making him eligible to return in 2024. He’s a reliable option in the slot when healthy, and also has plenty of experience returning kickoffs and punts. With UW’s top four wideouts from 2023 moving on, Jackson has a chance to compete for a starting job.

TE Quentin Moore

He made a huge touchdown catch to help beat Oregon in last year’s Pac-12 championship game, and now enters the spring as the team’s top tight end. Moore might not be the receiving target that Jack Westover or Devin Culp were, but he does bring a veteran presence to a position that otherwise completely lacks any college experience.

DLs Sebastian Valdez, Voi Tunuufi and Jacob Bandes

Another one-year solution at a position of need, Valdez also decided to stick with the Huskies after DeBoer’s departure. A former All-Big Sky selection at Montana State, the 6-foot-4, 291-pound transfer will help account for the loss of d-line regulars Tuli Letuligasenoa, Ulumoo Ale and Faatui Tuitele. Bandes, too, saw his reps increase the past two seasons, and should factor into the rotation. UW’s roster also includes some younger players who could fill out the rotation at d-line, but Valdez’s college experience makes him a particularly important addition.

Tunuufi has played both edge rusher and the interior d-line, and his undersized, speed-based game has helped him accumulate 10 career sacks — more than anyone on the 2024 roster.

EDGE Zach Durfee

The former University of Sioux Falls transfer is listed on the roster as a senior, though his eligibility saga suggests he might be able to get another year, were he to request it. He drew rave reviews from teammates behind the scenes while sitting out last season, and with no established starters returning on the edge, Durfee should have every chance to earn either a starting job or an important role in the rotation. He had a big spring in 2023, the previous staff was sky-high on his potential, and he moves well at his listed size of 6-5 and 255 pounds.

LBs Alphonzo Tuputala, Carson Bruener, Bryun Parham and Drew Fowler

Tuputala and Bruener have played a ton of football on Montlake, while Parhum transferred from San Jose State for his final college season. Only two can start, but all three should play significantly, and Bruener, in particular, is coming off an impressive finish to the 2023 season. Fowler, a former walk-on, led the team in special-teams snaps the past two seasons and should again be a key contributor in that phase.

DBs Kam Fabiculanan and Thaddeus Dixon

When healthy, Fabiculanan was one of the Huskies’ most productive defensive backs last season, and made a handful of crucial plays in some of UW’s biggest games. The Huskies’ safety depth is thin, so Fabiculanan, a versatile DB who has also played nickel, should help hold things together on the back end, and could be a candidate to be a defensive captain. Dixon played more than 300 snaps last season and was UW’s first cornerback off the bench. He will face stiff competition at that position this year, but his aggressive style and ball skills should help him see the field some.

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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