Depth is obviously a consideration when projecting playing time for true freshmen. Eight true freshmen played enough in 2015 to burn their redshirts for that season: QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, OT Trey Adams, WR Chico McClatcher, WR Isaiah Renfro (no longer with team), LB Ben Burr-Kirven, LB Tevis Bartlett, and CB Jordan Miller.
So while it wouldn’t be unusual to see seven or eight true freshmen play in 2016, it’s doubtful. Washington isn’t looking to fill important needs at QB, OL and LB like they were last year. But the running back and receiver groups always need quality depth, as well as special teams - and that’s where some of the newest Huskies could make their biggest impact.
Here’s the list of who we think is most likely to play in 2016, from least likely to most likely. We’ll put out part two Friday.
Clinch, an interior offensive linemen, will simply learn the ropes as a true freshman. He will certainly aim toward work with the scout team while he gets bigger, faster and stronger.
Gregory’s short-term job will be learning everything current walk-on quarterback Anthony Berg knows so that long-term he’ll be able to do all that’s required of that spot moving forward.
Like Clinch, all the UW true freshman offensive linemen will have the luxury of not getting thrown totally in the fire like Trey Adams did last year. That means Harris will get to learn behind Coleman Shelton for a couple of years before battling for the center spot in 2018.
It’s going to be very important for Wattenberg to redshirt, as he’s lost weight and needs desperately to get back to where he was when he initially committed to UW. He’s got a couple years to do that, as well as absorb the playbook, before he’s asked to battle for a starting spot.
Bridge-Gadd definitely got better this past spring, but he’s in a fortunate position. Jake Browning will be Washington’s signal caller for at least the next couple of seasons, allowing Bridge-Gadd to comfortably push up the depth chart. In 2018 he should be fully ready to compete for the starting quarterback position if Browning is gone by then. If not, UW is in a great position because of the depth they’ve accumulated.
The Huskies lucked out big-time in getting the diminutive Bryant, a coveted scholarship cornerback. But their embarrassment of riches at the position means Bryant, as well as scholarship freshmen Kentrell Love and Isaiah Gilchrist, will be able to learn from veterans like Kevin King, Sidney Jones, and Darren Gardenhire.
There’s no question Washington is in need of impact receivers, especially with the loss of Isaiah Renfro, but it’s hard to see where Chin is physically ready to compete in the Pac-12. At 151 pounds, it just doesn’t seem feasible at this point. Stranger things have happened, but I would put Aaron Fuller’s chances at seeing playing time above those of Chin.
Again, with the sheer number of defensive backs returning for Washington - and assuming those hurt like Austin Joyner and Brandon Beaver are 100 percent ready to go for fall - freshmen like Gilchrist will be allowed the benefit to redshirt and acclimate smoothly to life in college. But Gilchrist is physically ready to play, has the size to compete, and could certainly find a spot on a special teams unit if he impresses early enough.
Bowman is an imposing defensive player for a true freshmen, but I expect him to take the same tack as another walk-on - John Clark. At 260 pounds, Bowman doesn’t need to get bigger, but he does need to inhale the playbook and show he can bring something to the field others cannot. If he can do that, he just might get a chance early with special teams.
Petroff is an interesting case. Despite being a walk-on, Petroff comes from a dynasty in Portland Jesuit, so he has a winning mindset. Secondly, he’s physically ready to go at 235 pounds. Third, he’s being brought in as a bigger offensive threat, which is something the Huskies just don’t have. That puts him in a niche of one, so could he see time in short yardage situations? The last fullback from Jesuit to do damage in the Pac-12? Stanford’s Owen Marecic, who ended up winning the Paul Hornung Award.
Soderberg could very well play in 2016, but not if Bob Gregory can help it. It’s taken longer to convert to a one-step drop as they had anticipated, so expect Tristan Vizcaino to do the punting this fall, while Cameron Van Winkle continues to placekick. Obviously if injury occurs, Soderberg will be forced into action without question, so he will have to continue to ramp up his progress so there’s no drop-off.
Like Gilchrist, Love could find himself simply at the end of the line of a very talented cornerback group. DB Coach Jimmy Lake is loving the fact that he can stick players like Love and Gilchrist in the weight room for a year ready to take off after King graduates and Sidney Jones surely jumps to the NFL after a monster 2016 season.