There is no question true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is going to play, and is going to play well. His choice to enter school early for spring football assured that, but he in noticeably more fit and better balanced already in camp. He is going to be a really good player, and along with Michael Hartvigson will make up one of the best two tight end tandems since Mark Bruener and Ernie Conwell. Only thing is, they are both bigger.
Along with fellow redshirt tight end Evan Hudson, who, like the other two, is also 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, they give the Husky offense a totally different dimension. It is conceivable that all three will play at the same time, but I can't imagine them not being in two tight end sets a lot of the time because they are just such big targets, but mostly because they also have Chris Polk.
Speaking of Polk, he looks marvelously fit and ready to go. They just need to get him to the dance. I think he too looks leaner than last year. He is a War Daddy, and he will be there on game day with some 25-30 carry games.
He has two proven back ups in Jesse Callier and Johri Fogerson, but the surprise of camp so far is true freshman Bishop Sankey. To me, it also looks like he will also play as a true freshman. He has been really impressive at the second level in making his cuts and also shows good hands. He has to play because he is an obvious playmaker.
Kasen Williams has struggled in early camp but once he settles down and gets into the flow he will also play and play well his first year. What is really positive however is that the other freshmen wide receivers, Jamaal Jones and Josh Perkins, are also really smooth looking and rangy kids and will both end up being good players.
Three newcomers have not practiced because of clearinghouse or credit issues, so there's 19 scholarship and eight first time walk-ons at camp. Of those kids, I think the coaches will try to redshirt as many as they can, but injuries often dictate your depth and such decisions.
Besides the offensive skill kids, it is apparent that Danny Shelton will play. He looks to be on a mission due to a personal tragedy, and has played early like it. He will be in the interior rotation and will be a contributor this year for sure. In the secondary, I think they will really consider playing James Sample, and/or Marcus Peters, but there are so many rangy kids that catch your eye and show great promise for the future. Travis Feeney and Evan Zeger both have lots of room for development, but with Washington having good depth at safety it may be hard for any of them to bust into the two-deeps.
As an old linebacker coach, I watched that group closely and the new kids on the block are swimming mentally, but it is really a position where there are good looking prospects but nobody has played much. Scott Lawyer has really good feet and Matt Lyons only needs 20 pounds and he'll be a contributor. Although listed as a linebacker, Corey Waller has his hand on the ground, and it will stay there. He will help but like Lawyer, Lyons, Zeger, and Feeney, Waller could really use a year with UW Strength Coach Ivan Lewis to become even an better player.
Once you play a kid in and after the fourth game of the season you blow his redshirt, and one of the most obvious things that jumped out at me is that it was indeed a crime that Cody Bruns had to play as a freshman. Hugh Millen was adamant about that when it happened, and he was right. If you want to do it right and build your depth properly, then save for the future.
Like Shelton, Bruns too suffered a personal tragedy over the summer, and I think he has made some wonderful catches in group periods. Bruns is the best example of wasting a kid's redshirt year and not having much to show for it.
Unfortunately, Washington has had to waste too many years of eligibility because they didn't have a choice. How good would Victor Aiyewa be this year if they hadn't played him as a true freshman?
Last year they signed seven offensive linemen and redshirted five of them. That's what I'm talking about. That's how you get better, and when you can redshirt two-thirds of your classes, you know you are playing more 21 and 22-year olds and fewer 18 year olds.
This is still a very young team, with only 32 seniors and juniors out of the 105-man fall roster. The positive thing is that those guys are now entering their third-straight year in the exact same system.
That was the most important observation I made watching the first few days of practice. Their practice efficiency and tempo is so much better because these kids now understand the system. It's the same coaches, same terminology, same reads, and the older kids can now help the younger kids. They are getting a lot more reps, and a lot more done because of it. They still run everywhere, including out of the huddle to the line of scrimmage. Everything has been click, click, click, but of course that is because everyone has fresh legs the first few days of camp.
All in all it was a great start to camp, with lots of enthusiasm and at a great tempo, and I can't wait to see what happens when the full pads are put on. I think this team continues to grow and that the quality of their recruiting definitely shows in these newcomers.
Coach's Corner - Observations Before Pads
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