The UW football spring season is officially over and we are now counting down the days until fall camp begins. Here are my biggest takeaways from the game and spring practices.
Following the 2020 season that was canceled due to COVID-19, the Husky football team was able to play a full slate of spring practices as well as a full 60 minute spring game to wrap up the season. There is a lot to be excited about following the practices. Here are the top takeaways from the month of spring ball.
The defense was dominant
I was able to attend two days during spring, one being a normal practice and the other being the official spring game. Both days it was clear what the strong side of the ball will be for the Huskies: their defense.
While it was expected that the defense would be the strong point of this team after losing only three starters from 2020, this year’s defense may be even better than anticipated. Two cornerback positions will have to be replaced after Keith Taylor and Elijah Molden were picked in this year’s NFL draft, but juniors Trent Mcduffee and Kyler Gordon are set to hold down the outside corner spots. This will likely be Mcduffee’s final year in Seattle as he is already getting scouted as a first round pick in next year’s draft.
Replacing Elijah Molden, where he manned the nickel corner position for the last two seasons, was thought to be the toughest task of the three spots. But luckily for the Huskies, they were able to land a big transfer in Brendan Radley-Hiles from Oklahoma. Running the field and making plays similarly to Molden, Radley-Hiles stood out to me on both days. He should be a lock to win the nickel corner job once fall practice rolls around.
If you haven’t heard already, the defense lost 2020 breakout star Zion Tupuola-Fetui to an achilles injury, who is slated to be out of the game until November at the earliest. ZTF was the sack leader by a large margin in 2020, which caused concern for how the defensive line would look after his injury. But at least during the spring game, they looked just fine where eight different players tallied a sack and were causing pressure on the UW quarterbacks all day.
It’s Dylan Morris’s job to lose. But still expect a quarterback competition in the fall
Dylan Morris had a very solid freshman season. In the limited action we got to see from him, his plays landed him the all Pac-12 honorable mention. However, when a 5 star quarterback with the last name Huard makes his way to Seattle, then there will almost certainly be a quarterback competition.
Being the top quarterback recruit in the country coming out of Kennedy Catholic High School, Sam Huard is the most talked about recruit in UW history. However, it is clear that Huard will go through some growing pains and may not be ready to be the starter just yet.
It was Morris and graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien who took the majority of snaps in the spring game where Morris acquired 18-28 for 125 yards and a touchdown whereas O’Brien went 1 1-18 for 107 yards and threw the day’s lone interception. Huard split reps with O’Brien on the gold team and struggled, for the most part, going 7-12 for 74 yards while taking three sacks and fumbling during a crucial drive in the fourth quarter. But head coach Jimmy Lake is still confident in Huard and likes where his progress is.
“Here’s a quarterback coming from a system that does not go under center, doesn’t have multiple checks. He’s facing a defense that is throwing a lot at him that he’s never seen in high school,” Lake said. “He’s an early enrollee that could still be in high school right now, but now he’s thrust in there going against an NFL-style defense, with blitzes coming from all different directions and sticky coverages and different fronts … ”
Huard will have to have an amazing fall camp to take the starting spot away from Morris after ending spring ball still No. 3 on the depth chart. But he has the talent to do so and will continue to learn the system and how to read a division 1 defense.
Richard Newton will have a breakout season
Other than the defense, running back Richard Newton stood out to me the most. He was already one of the Huskies’ bigger running backs but looks as if he has continued to excel in the weightroom, which showed in a 15 yard touchdown run in the spring game where he broke multiple tackles. The way he runs reminds me a lot of Seahawks running back Chris Carson with power and no fear of contact.
It was a strange season for Newton in 2020 where he, despite being suited up and healthy, did not see any field action in the final two games. He showed a lot of promise in 2019 but there was clearly something off that made the coaches decide it was best not to play him. To begin the season this year, he will likely be splitting time with senior Sean Mcgrew, but I expect him to become the lead back sooner rather than later and Lake recognizes that as well.
“This could be his biggest year yet,” Lake said, “That was an excellent run. I had a close-up look at it. That’s the Rich Newton that we know and love. He still needs room for improvement, and he knows that. … He’s on track to have a huge year for us.”