Washington held its first scrimmage of spring camp Friday afternoon with a notable former cornerback in attendance.
Marcus Peters, a first-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs (No. 18 overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft who was dismissed two days before UW faced UCLA in early November 2014, made a return to the Dempsey Indoor for the first time in eight years.
Since Kalen DeBoer took over as head coach in December 2021 several ex-Husky players back have returned to either speak to the team or simply to be around the program again. Peters has been vocal during his time in the league about his affiliation to the university.
“I bet y’all would have never guessed I woulda showed up at the Dub, but we back. Shout out to coach DeBoer, man, for having your boy slide. Feel good to be back at the house, the Dawg Pound baby. Husky Nation, what’s up with it?” Peters said in a video released through UW’s social media after practice inside the Dempsey.
The former defensive back was one of several guests at the Huskies eighth practice of the spring, including four-star 2023 quarterback signee Austin Mack and 2024 four-star O’Dea High School (Seattle, Wash.) running back Jason Brown.
Friday was not one of the seven practices that are made available to the media in its entirety.
“Just finished our first scrimmage. Really pleased. There can be so many things we can learn from it,” DeBoer said after practice.
“From my perspective as a head coach you want give and take, and I thought we got that. Defense probably started out well and then the offense got in their grove a little bit. So, it was good both ways. Really, really happy.”
DeBoer indicated that there were no significant injuries from the scrimmage that should keep any players out for an extended period of time.
Defensive Depth Forming
DeBoer hovered in the background smiling as linebackers went through drills during the media viewing portion of practice.
It’s a much different feeling that he had going into last spring.
UW added graduate transfer Ralen Goforth this offseason with the intent to strength the depth at inside linebacker. Throughout the first seven practices the former St. John Bosco product has split time between the first and second-team defense, primarily next to junior Carson Bruener.
Sixth-year senior Edefuan Ulofoshio and junior Alphonzo Tuputala – a 13-game starter in 2022 – are expected to be the two starters heading into fall camp. The four have a combined 47 career starts making it one of the most experienced groups in the Pac-12 Conference heading into this fall.
With experience comes high expectations.
“The thing is, it’s hard to answer questions like that because you have expectations when you have so many guys return, DeBoer said, when asked which position groups have shown the most growth halfway through spring ball.
“So, naturally you to the spots where you see that greatest growth. I think our defensive backfield – I would say that, right? And linebacking core continuing to grow. I think the linebacking core, with Ede, and Zo, and Ralen and Carson, that group right now looks pretty good on paper and they’re performing on the field.
“I really like where we’re at with the growth of that group, compared to where we were at a year ago and even late in the season. Ede didn’t get back to us until November.”
Working with a hypothetical first-string defensive back unit of Jabbar Muhammad, Elijah Jackson, Mishael Powell, Asa Turner and Dominique Hampton, they’ve combined for 62 career starts, second most of any unit on defense.
UW’s defensive line – Bralen Trice, Faatui Tuitele, Tuli Letuligasenoa and Zion Tupuola-Fetui –
enter 2023 with a combined 65 starts.
A plethora of weapons
As expected, UW’s trio of returning wide receivers – Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk – have gone right back to work. With that said, senior Giles Jackson may have the best spring of anyone in the room.
DeBoer cited Jackson – a former four-star recruit who transferred from Michigan before the 2021 season – first when asked who stood out during the scrimmage.
“When he got the ball in his hands he was doing some things that was fun to see,” he said. “Giles type stuff that we like to see. Making guys miss and so forth.”
Another receiver, sophomore Denzel Boston, worked with the second-team offense and continued to show his growth in the offense.
“He started out fast kind of in spring ball,” DeBoer said, “and then as we install stuff the ball doesn’t always find you. Just because we don’t game plan and maybe those installs go to certain guys. He used his height in some ways to where he certainly sparked the offense at times.”
Other news and notes
Sophomore edge rusher Maurice Heims was back at practice and suited Friday in full pads for the eighth practice of spring ball. Heims was also at practice Wednesday, though not in pads.
DeBoer confirmed that redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Owen Prentice has decided to move on from playing football. Prentice, a former four-star recruit from O’Dea High School, signed with UW in the 2021 class over offers from LSU, Michigan and USC among others.
2024 Seattle (Wash.) Garfield quarterback EJ Caminong, a verbal commit to UW, will make an unofficial visit to Oregon State on Saturday. The three-star signal-caller has received offers from Texas A&M and California within the past three weeks after announcing his commitment back on Oct. 26, 2022.