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Mid-Spring Awards

We’ve only seen five practices, but as far as the media is concerned we’re already halfway through Washington’s spring football campaign. So who are leading the position groups? Who is breaking through?

Quarterback

MVP: Jake Browning

Easy call here. Jake isn’t being asked to do much, but his workload is getting a little heavier practice to practice. And the improvement in arm strength is already noticeable. Don’t know if Browning will do any actual live team work this spring, but he doesn’t need to. He’s repping everything nearly to the letter, which has kept him mentally in the game. 

Breakthrough Player: Daniel Bridge-Gadd

There isn’t that much separating the three backups to Browning - K.J. Carta-Samuels, Tony Rodriguez, and Daniel Bridge-Gadd. But the redshirt frosh from Arizona has the physical component that gives him a bit of an edge in the ‘splash’ department. Every time he tucks and runs, plays are made. 

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Running Back

MVP: Myles Gaskin

Another easy call, especially with Lavon Coleman out finishing up his degree. Gaskin will never be a flashy player during spring or fall ball, but man does he step up with the lights get turned on. 

Breakthrough Player: Sean McGrew

Plenty has already been said this spring about McGrew, his feet, and his vision. The way head coach Chris Petersen has described McGrew, the redshirt frosh sounds like Gaskin-in-waiting. Smaller, but faster. 

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Receiver

MVP: Dante Pettis

With John Ross gone, it’s up to Pettis to accept the mantle of leadership, and so far this spring he’s done that. He’s the most vocal when going up against the defensive backs, and he’s getting his work done at receiver and on special teams. 

Breakthrough Player: Andre Baccellia

One of the younger receivers is going to have to step up. That could be the true frosh Ty Jones, but more likely is one of the redshirt sophomores like Quinten Pounds or Andre Baccellia. He showed flashes last year, but this year he’s continued to ramp up his play and has been a consistent presence so far in spring. 

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Tight End

MVP: Drew Sample

Darrell Daniels has graduated, so it’s up to Sample to become UW’s main receiving threat at tight end. He caught nine passes last year but it’s nearly double the rest of the returning tight end group combined. So far through five practices he’s gotten his work in and looks more than capable of getting the job done. 

Breakthrough Player: David Ajamu

It’s hard to think of a senior as a breakthrough player, but Ajamu fits that description. It’s all about health for the former Shelton star, who has always promised plenty of potential with his physicality and athleticism. This spring he’s showing all of those things we saw two years ago before he went down with injury. 

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Offensive Line

MVP: Coleman Shelton

He’s not the most athletic lineman or the one that will go the highest in the NFL Draft, but with nearly 35 starts under his belt, Shelton is about to cap off an extraordinary career in the purple and gold. But he’s not quite ready to go and take a victory lap yet. Already a visitor to ‘Lover’s Lane’, Shelton continues to show bite and steel in his play from the center position, where he constantly leads by example. 

Breakthrough Player: Nick Harris

 

Harris, a true freshman last year, had to step up when those around him were apparently not ready to do the same. That means he’s got some experience under his belt heading into 2016, but now he’s nearly 20 pounds heavier and ready to leave no doubt he’s not just the right guard for now - he’s the right guard for potentially the next three years. 

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Defensive Line

MVP: Vita Vea

Arguably the biggest recruit for this year’s class, getting the big defensive lineman back from the clutches of the NFL Draft (Vea contends he was never serious about leaving) means the Huskies still have a huge presence inside when coupled with Greg Gaines. 

Breakthrough Player: Jaylen Johnson

Johnson got his first 2016 start on the biggest of stages - the Peach Bowl versus No. 1 Alabama. He finished with three tackles, including 1.5 for loss. This spring is the time for the junior to establish himself as a full-time starter, and so far he’s shown he’s more than ready to accept that responsibility. 

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Linebacker

MVP: Azeem Victor

It’s great to have Washington’s emotional leader back. When Victor went down against USC, you could see how big an impact it had on the outcome of that game. Having the senior-to-be back, along with players like Vea and Jojo McIntosh, means the spine of UW’s defense is back together and ready to wreak havoc. The best part of Victor’s work this spring? He hasn’t been limited. 

Breakthrough Player: Tevis Bartlett

Though he hasn’t started a game yet, Bartlett has played in 25 games so far in his UW career, so he’s more than ready to push forward and become a regular starter - especially since both outside linebacker spots are up for grabs. At 230 pounds, Bartlett is big enough to hold an edge, but also quick enough to be a menace in backfields. 

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Defensive Backs

MVP: JoJo McIntosh

McIntosh is the one returning starter from a UW defensive backfield that - at least until Sidney Jones injured his achilles during the Huskies’ recent Pro Day - had the potential of producing three first-round draft picks. It still could happen. That’s how good they are. With 13 starts and six more pounds under his belt (he’s up to 215 pounds now), Jojo is the unquestioned veteran of a secondary loaded with talent and potential. 

Breakthrough Player: Jordan Miller

The biggest question coming into this spring for the secondary was, who would replace all the lost talent, especially at cornerback? Miller has always been in the discussion, but never broke through last season because Jones and Kevin King were just that good. But Miller so far through five open practices has been a stalwart at one of those open corner spots. He’s physical, he’s aggressive, he’s tough, and he doesn’t back down. 

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Special Teams (Specialists)

MVP: Tristan Vizcaino

 

Arguably last year’s specialists MVP because of his willingness to step in to the full-time punting role, the senior is now being asked to go back to what he was originally asked to do - placekick. He may not have a monster leg, but if he can replicate Cameron Van Winkle’s make percentage (16-20 overall, 11-12 inside 40) from 2016, he will have done very well. 

Breakthrough Player: Race Porter

We expected to see incoming juco punter Joel Whitford to stand out because of his Aussie Rules background and ability to rugby kick to all spots on the field, but it’s been the former O’Dea player and redshirt frosh Porter who has literally come out of nowhere to challenge Whitford. His leg looks lively, especially in the traditional punting mode, as opposed to the rugby style. 

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