CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: Young UW Huskies players to watch as spring progresses

Apr 5, 2024, 1:54 PM

UW Huskies football...

The UW Huskies offense huddles during a football game at USC on Nov. 4, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies have practiced twice this spring, both times without pads, and have mostly focused on basic fundamentals during early drills.

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But those two initial workouts nevertheless offered a glimpse of several young players who are already taking reps with the No. 1 or No. 2 units on either side of the ball.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, here are five names to watch through the rest of spring practice.

QB Demond Williams Jr.

The four-star recruit from Chandler (Ariz.) Basha is one of a handful of players who originally signed with Arizona and chose to follow coach Jedd Fisch to Washington.

Williams, listed at 5 foot 11 and 185 pounds, is an elite athlete with a big arm, and he should get plenty of reps this spring, considering he is one of three scholarship quarterbacks on UW’s roster (and one of them, Dermaricus Davis, is also a true freshman).

Senior Mississippi State transfer Will Rogers has, predictably, received the No. 1 reps at quarterback so far, but Williams has made some impressive plays with the No. 2 offense and looks good throwing the ball during drills.

WR Rashid Williams

The departures of NFL-bound receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk — and the transfer of Germie Bernard to Alabama — have created ample opportunity for UW’s younger receivers to fill out the depth chart. Seniors Giles Jackson and Jeremiah Hunter are important players, and so is third-year sophomore Denzel Boston.

Williams, though, is already making his mark as a redshirt freshman, lining up often with the No. 1 offense and catching several passes from Rogers during Thursday’s practice. Williams’ 2023 classmate, receiver Keith Reynolds, is also very much in the mix.

OL Paki Finau

Typically, a true freshman might not receive many reps during spring practice … or even be enrolled for spring practice. But Washington’s O-line room is anything but typical, considering its top six players from last season left the program, and two of its nine available scholarship players are out with injuries.

That has left Finau, a four-star recruit in the 2024 class, to rep regularly at guard. UW will dip into the transfer portal for O-line reinforcements later this spring, but for now, players like Finau are getting a long look — and Fisch has said he’s not shy about playing freshmen, even at the most physically demanding position in the sport.

Another true freshman, Michael Levelle Watkins, also is getting first-team reps at times.

Really, Washington’s entire offensive line could be listed here, as only one of the 10 healthy linemen available this spring — counting three walk-ons — is older than a redshirt freshman.

CB Leroy Bryant

Now a redshirt freshman, Bryant appeared in seven games last season — four in the regular season and three in the postseason — and appeared the closest of UW’s 2023 cornerback signees to becoming a regular contributor. That’s still the case, as Bryant is among several players rotating at cornerback during 11-on-11 periods. Ephesians Prysock, Thaddeus Dixon, Elijah Jackson and Jordan Shaw (and Davon Banks, when fully healthy) present stiff competition, but Bryant might already be good enough to appear on the depth chart.

Shaw could be his own entry, too. He played in four games while redshirting at Indiana last season, and is also seeing

S Peyton Waters

The Huskies have a need at safety, where both of last season’s starters, Dominique Hampton and Asa Turner, have moved on. Sixth-year senior Kam Fabiculanan, fifth-year junior Makell Esteen and third-year sophomore Tristan Dunn could be a solid top trio, but Waters has taken snaps with the No. 2 defense through the first two days. The Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham athlete was the highest-rated prospect in UW’s 2024 class, per the 247Sports Composite, and was among those who entered the transfer portal before choosing to stay.

UW might need some safety help via the portal before August, but Waters’ athleticism gives him a chance to play right away.

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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