Many talented newcomers are making their way to UW for the 2021 season with some even suiting up during spring practices. Here are some names you should know before the season starts.
The Husky football team is officially beginning their preparation for a (hopefully) normal college football season this upcoming fall. This begins with four weeks of spring ball where the coaches can get a good look of what they will have in store for them next season while also allowing time for early enrollees and transfers to learn the system. With some exciting new faces and nearly every starter from 2020 returning, it is an exciting time to be a Husky fan considering there will be a lot to look forward to.
Perhaps the most hyped recruit in the history of Husky football has been quarterback Sam Huard, who has finally made his way to Seattle and will begin spring ball with the team. With his dad Damon and his uncle Brock both having been quarterbacks for the Huskies in the mid to late 90s, Huard has purple and gold in his blood. It was almost a lock for Sam to follow in his family’s footsteps and play for the Dawgs and I have not seen a freshman get fans this excited before.
However, it is not promised that Huard will begin the season since the Huskies’ starting quarterback position is filled by redshirt sophomore Dylan Morris. Morris was solid in the four games last season where he threw 897 yards, four touchdowns and earned the All-Pac-12 honorable mention. After a year under new offensive coordinator John Donavan’s system, he has the experience and is expected to be let loose in the passing game more.
Although it is Morris’s job to lose, fans should still expect an open quarterback competition beginning in spring not only between Huard and Morris, but with graduate transfer from Colorado State Patrick O’Brien in the mix as well. If I had to make a guess now, I would expect Morris to begin the year as the starting quarterback with Huard redshirting for the season but will be ready to go in the case of injury or struggles from Morris.
Along with O’Brien, the Huskies picked up three other transfers who are expected to make big contributions to the team right away. This includes corner Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk and defensive end Jeremiah Martin.
The Huskies were also a victim to the transfer portal after losing four different wide receivers including starter Puka Nacua, meaning the addition of Ja’Lynn Polk was a great pickup for the offense. Polk caught 28 passes for 264 yards, two TDs as a freshman at Texas Tech and will have four years of eligibility remaining. Expect him to be in the mix for reps with the top three returning pass catchers in Tyrell Bynum, Jalen McMillen and Rome Odunze.
Another exciting addition for the Dawgs is Brendan Radley-Hiles from Oklahoma. Radley-Hiles adds depth to an already elite secondary returning to the defense where he has had three interceptions and 115 tackles over his career at Oklahoma. He will have two years of eligibility remaining and is expected to compete for the nickel cornerback spot with Trent Mcduffee and Kyler Gordon on the outside spots.
Jeremiah Martin joins the Huskies defensive line that only will be losing one significant contributor. Martin was a four star recruit out of high school but never really played up to his potential at Texas A&M, recording only 11 tackles and zero sacks. The Husky coaching staff hopes they can develop Martin into what he was expected to be.
Even without the additions of Radley-Hiles and Martin, the Husky defense was expected to be one of the top groups in the nation after only losing three significant contributors to the NFL draft. The defense will be led by junior linebackers Edefuan Ulofoshio and Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
Ulofoshio racked 47 total tackles and earned All-Pac-12 Second Team as well as All-America Honorable Mention. Tupuola-Fetui was the breakout star of 2020 with seven sacks in only four games. If he is able to keep up this pace for a full season then expect to see him get looks from NFL scouts.
Even with a recruiting class that most thought was disappointing, the Huskies are built this year to compete for a Pac-12 title returning every starter on offense and all but three on defense. However, it will be important that head coach Jimmy Lake can have a bounce back year in recruiting when COVID restrictions are lifted so he does not put himself in a hole that will be hard to get out of.
Overall, I like where the team sits currently, and it will be interesting to keep an eye on spring and early fall practices to see which players standout and who will be the next breakout star.