With a unique and shortened 2020 season in the books there is a lot to look forward to in 2021 for the Huskies, who will most likely open the season as the Pac-12 favorites.
In a year where it seemed near impossible for a football season to be played, the Pac-12 ended up following the rest of college football and scheduled a shortened season for its teams. What followed was a number of cancellations where only five teams played at least six games and a season that hurt the conference’s reputation as a whole.
The Huskies were able to play four of their scheduled six games this season and finished with a record of three wins and one loss. Coming into the season, this seemed like a bit of an in-between year for UW as they were starting a new quarterback while having suffered the loss of significant pieces on offense as well as defense from the year prior.
After a four man quarterback competition that stayed a mystery until the first snap of the season, Graham, WA native Dylan Morris won the starting job. Morris showed that he is more than capable of running the offense and has the potential to be great after finishing the season with 897 yards through the air and four touchdowns.
What stood out to me the most with Morris was his ability to fight through adversity and make big plays when it mattered most. UW was down 21-3 at halftime versus Utah where Morris threw three interceptions throughout the game but the QB brought them back to win 24-21, including leading an 88 yard drive to score the game winning touchdown with 36 seconds left.
Two other bright spots on the Husky offense was tight end Cade Otton along with the rest of the offensive line. Otton earned second team Pac-12 honors by hauling in 18 receptions for 258 yards and three touchdowns. It was clear he was Morris’s favorite and best target from the first game. Otton was projected as a third round draft pick but announced he will be staying at UW — a huge relief for Husky offense.
The offensive line was also dominantly led by center Luke Wattenburg, who also announced he would be returning next season. As a whole, the o-line only allowed one sack all season and also helped the backs run for 176 yards per game. UW will be returning all five starters on the offensive line.
On the defensive side, we saw the emergence of two star linebackers, Edefuan Ulofoshio and Zion Tupuola-Fetui. The middle linebacker position was one the team struggled with last season but thankfully Ulofoshio has done everything to solidify that spot. He led the team with 47 total tackles and earned all Pac-12 second team honors.
Tupuola-Fetui, or “ZTF,” gave the defensive line much needed production after its top two returners opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL draft. ZTF stepped up immensely in posting seven sacks and three forced fumbles in only four games. This earned him all Pac-12 first team honors as well as receiving a spot on the AP all-American third team. He also had the opportunity to enter the NFL draft after a breakout season but decided to return to the Huskies in 2021.
The team will be returning 20 of its 22 starters for the 2021 season and will be the most experienced team in the conference making them the likely favorite to win the conference. However, the rest of the conference will be fielding talented teams where Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona State will also be returning many key players.
Jimmy Lake’s first season as head coach can be seen as a success. If it wasn’t for a late season COVID outbreak on the team they would have played USC in the conference championship for a shot of playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, the season ended prematurely but there is a lot to look forward to for Husky fans in 2021 and beyond.
The key to this team being successful in 2021 is to come out of the locker room with more fire at the beginning of games. There were two separate games in which they were down by 21 points at halftime. They managed to make the comeback against Utah but fell short against Stanford losing by five. If the team can keep the same second half intensity throughout the whole game, then they can be very dangerous.