Trey Adams, Tevis Bartlett, Jake Browning, Ben Burr-Kirven, Myles Gaskin, Chico McClatcher, Jordan Miller and Isaiah Renfro all burned their redshirts in 2015 to play as true freshmen. If that trend holds, that means nearly half the 2016 recruiting class will play their first year.
That’s a lot.
So who are the most likely to play? We’ll get to that last. Right now we’ll start with our guesses for least likely to play.
18. Jacob Kizer - The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Kizer sat out much of 2015 due to a back issue that required surgery. He’s still not 100 percent, though he should be by the time he enrolls in the summer. There’s no reason to rush him, as they have six tight ends available for spring football; David Ajamu, Darrell Daniels, Connor Griffin, Derek Hunter, Michael Neal, and Drew Sample.
17. Nick Harris - This is also another easy pick, simply because the numbers at offensive line now suggest they shouldn’t have to play any more true freshmen. They did that last year with Trey Adams, so that time has passed. There will be 15 offensive linemen in fall camp if you include Harris and Luke Wattenberg, good enough for three full offensive lines. Of course only 7-8 really play in a rotation during the season, and all of Washington’s offensive linemen starters should be in at least their third year in the program (minus Adams, of course). Depth is building, so that will afford both true freshmen the luxury of redshirting.
16. Luke Wattenberg - The same that was said for Harris can be said for Wattenberg, although it’s obviously a little tougher to keep a U.S. Army All-American on the shelf. But sitting Wattenberg is a no-brainer, especially if he is penciled in at an interior position. He’ll need to get bigger and stronger his first year on campus to be able to hit the ground running in 2017. It’s not ideal to play redshirt freshmen on a line, but UW OL Coach Chris Strausser has shown he’ll play the best guys available regardless of class.
15. Daniel Bridge-Gadd - For the time being, I’m going to assume all the quarterbacks currently on the roster will be available for spring football. If you include Bridge-Gadd in that mix, who was Arizona’s Gatorade State Player of the Year but now on campus, it’ll be six quarterbacks; Anthony Berg, Jake Browning, K.J. Carta-Samuels, Jeff Lindquist, and Tony Rodriguez join Bridge-Gadd. That’s a ton of quarterbacks, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if at least one of them left after spring ball. With Skyline’s Blake Gregory accepting a preferred walk-on spot for the fall, that might spell the end of Berg’s time with the Huskies, for instance. But that’s just speculation at this point. But it doesn’t matter if there’s four or five scholarship quarterbacks available in 2016 - there’s no reason Bridge-Gadd should have to even suit up, let alone play. Browning has two experienced, capable backups should the Huskies ever have to go there.
14. Jordan Chin - I’ve kind of gone back and forth on this one, but ultimately the fact that swayed my decision toward redshirting for Chin was his weight. He just can’t expect to contribute in a meaningful way at 151 pounds, or at least in a way that justifies burning his redshirt. And there’s eight returning scholarship receivers that should be able to pick up the slack within a group crying out for playmakers; Andre Baccellia, Brayden Lenius, Nik Little, Chico McClatcher, Dante Pettis, Quinten Pounds, Isaiah Renfro, and John Ross. If Pounds and Ross come back 100 percent, this is a serviceable unit - which means Chin can spend the next year getting bigger, faster, and stronger. He has to.
13. Myles Rice - Suffered an ACL tear during his senior season in 2014, so the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Rice spent the last 14 months rehabbing and getting his knee strong for this coming fall. He has the benefit of already being on campus, so that gives him a bit of a leg up on the rest of the 2016 class in terms of contributing early on special teams, for instance. But there’s nine other defensive linemen currently on the roster - John Clark, Will Dissly (could be seeing time at TE as well), Jaylen Johnson, Joe Mathis, Benning Potoa’e, Jared Pulu, Jason Scrempos, Bryce Sterk, and Damion Turpin - that are capable of getting the job done in spring while he gets his leg completely back to health. Then the coaches can re-evaluate after spring to see if it’s worth burning his redshirt.