Five Observations From UW’s Spring Game

Kalen DeBoer kept it simple Saturday afternoon while leaving enough meat on the bone for Husky fans to enjoy.

UW held its annual scrimmage to conclude spring camp with most of the first and second-team starters participating. Albeit in a limited fashion, both sides showed flashes of what’s in store this fall.

1 – Protection on Point. Throughout spring offensive line coach Scott Huff has maintained a consistent starting five – Troy Fautanu | Julius Buelow | Matteo Mele | Nate Kalepo | Roger Rosengarten – and that remained the case in the final scrimmage.

Behind them are several underclassmen who are poised to take another step heading into the 2023 season.

Parker Brailsford, a redshirt freshman, has all but solidified himself as the backup center behind sixth-year senior Matteo Mele. Fourth-year sophomore Geirean Hatchett, who has played three different positions over the 15 spring practices, is expected to be the backup right tackle behind second-year starter Roger Rosengarten.

Hatchett, a former four-star offensive lineman from Ferndale, Washington, has also played at right guard and left guard at times this spring. Brailsford has taken snaps at left tackle, too, to add to the number of versatile offensive linemen at Scott Huff’s disposal.

“I think we’re further ahead,” DeBoer said, when asked about the line’s performance this spring.

“I think last year in spring ball we took a lot of sacks. A lot of sacks. One of those things that just take time. I think the protection checks now we’re further ahead just because it’s the second year in the system. But I think those guys are doing a good job in protection.”

2 – Running through the backs. UW was without Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson who did not suit for the game but was on the sideline. Johnson, along with senior tight end Jack Westover and redshirt freshman edge rusher Lance Holtzclaw were among the group of players not participating in the scrimmage due to precautionary reasons.

Junior Cameron Davis, who was the second back behind starter Wayne Taulapapa in 2022, took the majority of the first-team reps Saturday and scored the first offensive touchdown of the day, a 1-yard punch-in on the fourth series for the first-string offense.

Davis combined for six carries and 35 yards on the drive, the longest of the day, with sophomore Will Nixon, who DeBoer noted after the scrimmage put on significant and important weight during the offseason.

“I think CD’s been consistent,” DeBoer said of Davis. “It’s been good to see him have a spring, unlike last year. And knowing what he did in the fall and how he was coming on string in the end. You really are counting on him.”

Several other running backs, including Sam Adams II and true freshman Tybo Rogers, also got a decent amount of reps in the scrimmage.

3 – Change the line. One unique change on defense last season was how Chuck Morrell, UW’s defensive play caller, used the assortment of defensive linemen. That has carried over to this spring and Saturday’s scrimmage featured another twist.

Zach Durfee, a sophomore transfer from Sioux Falls, played both inside and outside on the line while junior Jacob Bandes became a fifth body in the defensive front. One part is to find a new or different path to get to opposing quarterbacks while there is always an importance placed on stopping the run.

Voi Tunuufi and Ralen Goforth split a sack as did Edefuan Ulofoshio and Tuli Letuligasenoa early on in the scrimmage. Junior edge rusher Bralen Trice almost got home for a sack but did manage to create a number of quarterback pressures.

 4 – Secondary no longer airy. Last season UW’s secondary was a MASH unit. This spring, despite a few players being limited early in camp, the unit came out of spring not only healthy but vastly improved from a year ago.

Sophomore Jaivion Green didn’t wait long to record the first turnover of the afternoon. Green picked off a pass from Dylan Morris intended for redshirt freshman Denzel Boston and returned it about 10 yards before being touched down.

Four plays later redshirt sophomore cornerback Elijah Jackson picked off Michael Penix Jr. to put a stamp on what has been his best camp to date as a Husky.

“I can’t be the kid in the room anymore,” Jackson said after the spring scrimmage.

“I have to step up and really take a leadership role and that means I have to know the playbook inside and out to help the young kids. I have to take that leadership. I have to tell the younger guys ‘don’t do this’, practice like a pro, and I feel like that has helped me a lot.”

5 – Keeping it tight. With spring ball in the books next up for the staff is to hold ‘exit meetings’ before the team begins a five-week training period. From now to the start of fall in early August a handful of players can make a move up the depth chart.

Sophomore tight end Josh Cuevas joined the program this offseason from Cal Poly and has shown why Nick Sheridan and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb brought him in. With Jack Westover dinged up this spring and fellow classmate Devin Culp both entering their final year of eligibility the next two up are redshirt freshman Ryan Otton and Cuevas.

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