CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: UW Huskies post-spring breakdown

May 10, 2024, 12:41 PM | Updated: 12:51 pm

UW Huskies LB Carson Bruener...

Carson Bruener of the UW Huskies during a 2024 game. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies’ spring practice schedule is over.

Spring game draws bigger crowd under new Huskies coach

New coach Jedd Fisch said he was “really excited about how we ended spring” after Friday night’s finale. But he’s also looking ahead.

“Now we’ve got a lot of work to do, when it comes down to this summer,” he said. “How close can we get as a team? How (many) strides can we make in the weight room? Strides we can make in nutrition, strides we can make in the meeting room? And then see how good we can be for camp.”

Fisch opened spring practices to the public, and those practices were instructive as the new coaching staff begins to implement its processes and systems. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what I saw over the last five weeks, including standouts and a position-by-position assessment.

Three storylines

1. The offensive line

The Huskies have so far added a net of two new offensive linemen this spring (more on that below) via the transfer portal, and likely aren’t done adding players, either. It was a strange spring for the O-line, given the numbers, and Fisch was clear about needing reinforcements. Regardless, third-year sophomore tackle Drew Azzopardi and redshirt freshman center/guard Zachary Henning seemed to make a particularly strong first impression on the coaching staff, and redshirt freshmen Soane Faasolo, Elishah Jackett and Kahlee Tafai got a ton of reps in. True freshmen Paki Finau and Michael Levelle Watkins played a lot in their first spring, too, and walk-ons Parker Cross, Aidan Anderson and Roice Cleeland saw plenty of work. At one point, UW was down to eight healthy linemen, counting walk-ons.

UW running back Jonah Coleman gave something of a defense of the O-line when asked about the group following Friday’s spring game.

“They’re all young guys, all freshmen. Just trusting the process,” Coleman said. “When you bring guys with you and you motivate them — ‘you’re doing good’ — you never know how much it means when you tell someone, ‘you’re doing good, just keep going, just keep pushing.’ You never know how far you can go. I’m so proud of those guys.

“Everyone talks about them. Everyone puts them down. The good thing about us and the brotherhood that we have in the locker room, we pick them up. Obviously, you see Twitter — ‘we need O-line, we need this, we need that.’ We don’t need nothin’. We’ve got us, and I’ve got their back with whoever. I don’t care what anyone says about them. My guys are being developed, and they got better, and the sky’s the limit for them.”

2. Famous visitors

Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jack Del Rio, John Lynch and even Steve Ballmer visited the Huskies this spring, with each of those men spending some time out at practice. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Mike Macdonald each spoke at UW’s coaches’ clinic, as did Belichick. After hiring Steve Belichick as defensive coordinator — with offensive coordinator and O-line coach Brennan Carroll following Fisch from Arizona — Fisch essentially guaranteed that Bill and Pete would be around at some point, too.

3. Freshmen get their shot

Were you to assemble a two-deep based only on spring-practice reps, it would be littered with true freshmen (QB Demond Williams Jr., RB Adam Mohammed, OL Paki Finau, OL Michael Levelle Watkins, TE Decker DeGraaf, S Peyton Waters) and redshirt freshmen (OL Soane Faasolo, OL Elishah Jackett, OL Kahlee Tafai, WR Rashid Williams, WR Keith Reynolds, DL Elinneus Davis, DB Jordan Shaw, CB Leroy Bryant). Portal additions will likely make for a more experienced roster than what UW showed this spring, but Fisch nevertheless got a good look at UW’s young talent.

Five standouts

A non-exhaustive list of some players of note:

WR Denzel Boston: Nobody had a better spring than Boston, who seems entrenched as the Huskies’ No. 1 receiver. I saw him drop one pass this spring.

LB Carson Bruener: The senior appears well-suited for the leadership role he seems to have assumed. Bruener always has made plays, but this spring he took over as a sure starter for the first time.

CB Ephesians Prysock: I was wondering recently who UW’s top 2025 NFL Draft prospect might be. Prysock certainly is a candidate. He appears to be a legit 6 foot 4. He uses his length to break up passes. And he recorded a couple big hits this spring, too. It’s fun to watch Prysock and Boston compete.

WR Jeremiah Hunter: He ran with the No. 2 offense for much of spring, though I’m not sure whether to read anything into that. The Cal transfer should be a deep threat and a major contributor this year, and eventually got his shot with the ones.

K Grady Gross: An integral part of UW’s CFP run last season, Gross, now a junior, looks the part of a steady veteran kicker. I’m not sure I saw him miss anything this spring.

Transfers out

Since the start of spring, based on publicly available information: QB Dermaricus Davis, CB Davon Banks, LB Jordan Whitney, DL Anthony James, S Diesel Gordon.

Transfers in

Also since the start of spring: RB Jordan Washington (Arizona), WR Kevin Green (Arizona), TE Keleki Latu (Nevada), OL Enokk Vimahi (Ohio State), OL D’Angalo Titialii (Portland State), EDGE Jayden Wayne (Miami), DL Logan Sagapolu (Miami), DB Justin Harrington (Oklahoma), LS Cameron Warchuck (Colorado)

And here’s a look at how each position looked this spring, with scholarship count in parentheses. At this very moment, I have the Huskies at 80 scholarships committed for 2024, based on publicly available information and a couple assumptions.

Quarterback (2)

Will Rogers took most of the No. 1 reps, Demond Williams Jr. took most of the No. 2 reps, Dermaricus Davis entered the transfer portal and the Huskies probably need to add another scholarship QB before the season starts. Rogers practices the way you’d expect a seasoned veteran to practice. He’s an accurate passer who doesn’t make many mistakes, and has actually shown better mobility than I was anticipating. Slant routes to Denzel Boston have been a staple.

Williams acquitted himself quite well as a true freshman early enrollee and seems to have a bright future. The former four-star prospect has a big arm and adds a different dimension with his scrambling ability. He throws a nice deep ball. Coaches rave about his character. They gave him reps ahead of Davis, who committed to coach Kalen DeBoer and decided to stay and play for the new staff long enough, apparently, to get a sense of where things were headed (he committed to UCLA on Monday). Teddy Purcell, a fourth-year junior walk-on, is the No. 3 quarterback at present, and he did take advantage of his reps in the spring game. It sounds like Fisch wants to add another one or two players here this summer, whether scholarship or walk-on.

Running back (7)

If there’s a pleasant surprise here for the Huskies, it’s that freshman Adam Mohammed looks ready to contribute, if needed, even though he just turned 18. Daniyel Ngata also got a lot of work this spring behind Arizona transfer Jonah Coleman, who looks like a key offensive piece. Cam Davis should be, too, once he’s healthy, and he has at least been able to participate in some drills. He expects to report to preseason camp full-go. Fifth-year junior Sam Adams II also was limited this spring by injury.

The Huskies did add a player here over the weekend, receiving a commitment from 2024 Arizona signee Jordan Washington, a four-star running back from Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan. He was a track star in high school, too, with a personal best of 10.24 seconds in the 100-meter dash; he ran a 10.30 to finish second at the California state championship meet.

(My scholarship accounting still includes Tybo Rogers, because he still appears on the roster.)

Receiver (9)

I thought the receivers, as a whole, had a good spring, especially in light of the talent they lost. Boston was often the best player on the field. Giles Jackson made a lot of tough catches and appears to be fully healthy. Jeremiah Hunter got better as the spring progressed, and proved adept at hauling in deep throws against tight coverage, something he did well during his three-year career at Cal. Coaches gave Rashid Williams a long look, too, and he showed playmaker ability. Fellow redshirt freshman Keith Reynolds showed a reliable pair of hands, and true freshman Audric Harris saw his rep load increase toward the end of spring. Walk-on Camden Sirmon saw some action, too, and Jason Robinson Jr. was starting to get a little more involved.

Kevin Green, a third-year sophomore transfer from Arizona, and 2024 signee Justice Williams will join the program this summer. Green announced his commitment on Sunday.

Tight end (5)

Quentin Moore should get every chance as a senior to prove that he can be more than just a blocker, and the Huskies added another experienced player to the room with the Sunday commitment of Nevada transfer and former Cal tight end Keleki Latu (Laiatu Latu’s younger brother). That takes at least some pressure off third-year sophomore Ryan Otton and true freshmen Decker DeGraaf and Charlie Crowell. I thought DeGraaf had a nice spring, showing the ability to get open and make catches downfield. Otton seemed limited by injury at times but finished the spring healthy enough to participate in the spring game. I wonder if UW won’t try to find another depth addition in the portal.

Offensive line (13)

As previously mentioned, UW’s o-line was just trying to piece things together this spring. Veteran additions will shake things up this summer. Titialii arrives with three years of starting experience at Portland State, where he most recently played center but has also played guard. UW did receive a commitment from Old Dominion transfer Chris Adams, but he announced a flip to Memphis on Monday … shortly before news broke that Enokk Vimahi, a sixth-year senior transfer from Ohio State, had committed to UW. Vimahi made two starts in his Buckeyes career, and played 100 snaps in five games at guard last season, per PFF.

Once Landen Hatchett and Gaard Memmelaar are healthy, the Huskies actually should have some competition for their three interior spots. Azzopardi should give them one reliable tackle, whether he plays left or right. Unless UW plans to move Vimahi to tackle, it seems they could still use one (or two) from the portal. Pass protection, in particular, was a challenge this spring.

Defensive line (8)

The Huskies came out of spring with a seemingly pretty established top five on the interior d-line — Sebastian Valdez, Jayvon Parker, Jacob Bandes, Elinneus Davis and Bryce Butler. That’s who saw most of the reps, anyway. Armon Parker is working back from injury, 2024 signee Omar Khan will arrive this summer, and Miami transfer Logan Sagapolu — listed last season at 6-2 and 340 pounds — will apparently switch from o-line to d-line when he arrives at UW.

It was encouraging to see Davis make some plays this spring, after his true freshman season was occupied by recovery from injury. He’s stout and appears to be in better shape. His future is likely as a run-stopper. Butler was disruptive at times, too. Valdez and Parker were often the starting duo with the No. 1 defense. I think UW could still use another proven veteran here.

Edge rusher (8)

The depth was thin here by the end of spring, because Zach Durfee, Isaiah Ward and Maurice Heims each missed various amounts of time due to injury. That allowed Voi Tunuufi, Lance Holtzclaw, Russell Davis II, Jacob Lane and even walk-on Milton Hopkins Jr. to take a lot of snaps. Tunuufi was in the backfield a lot this spring. Jayden Wayne is transferring in from Miami. I expect Durfee to assume his spot atop the depth chart once healthy, but there will be a lot of competition to fill out the rotation.

Linebacker (7)

Bruener and Alphonzo Tuputala should be the starting linebackers as long as each is healthy, with San Jose State transfer Bryun Parham and sixth-year senior Drew Fowler currently the backups. Linebackers coach Robert Bala said he liked the way freshman Khmori House was developing, and he hasn’t gotten a look yet at redshirt freshman Deven Bryant, who is nursing some kind of foot/lower leg injury.

Cornerback (9)

A top three emerged here, with Prysock a near-certain starter and Thaddeus Dixon and Elijah Jackson battling for the other starting job. Dixon had a strong spring while Jackson was limited at times due to injury. Leroy Bryant is coming along, too, and should play this year. Curley Reed also got his reps in. I figured the Huskies would likely lose a player from their most competitive position, and sure enough, Davon Banks entered the transfer portal. I’ll be curious to watch the competition between Dixon and Jackson play out in preseason camp.

Safety/nickel (10)

Kam Fabiculanan and Makell Esteen seemed pretty established as the top two safeties, though the addition of Oklahoma transfer Justin Harrington might shake up the competition some. It remains to be seen whether the staff sees him as a safety or nickel. Dyson McCutcheon has been the starter at nickel, with Jordan Shaw pushing him. Tristan Dunn wound up playing alongside true freshman Peyton Waters a bunch. Waters is one of a handful of young players I’d expect to see sooner rather than later. Vincent Holmes returned from his brief portal entry to make a couple of huge hits, including one in the spring game. Dunn hits hard, too.

Specialists (2)

Gross continues to do his thing. Jack McCallister is still handling the punting duties. It appears Boston will get a look at punt returner, and Ngata will get the chance to hold onto his kick-return duties. Giles Jackson could always step in at either position. And the Huskies received a commitment on Monday from Cameron Warchuck, Colorado’s starting long snapper in 2023. I’ll assume he is a scholarship player unless I hear otherwise.

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.

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