UW football notes: Kalen DeBoer on Pac-12’s future, a new QB and key position switch

By Mike Vorel
Seattle Times staff reporter
When asked Wednesday — following Washington’s first preseason football practice at Husky Stadium — whether his long-term goals revolve around conference or national championships, coach Kalen DeBoer replied: “It’s going to take a conference championship, in my mind, to make the next goal.”
But which conference, and when?
Roughly an hour earlier, Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel reported that the Big Ten had begun exploratory discussions about adding either two (Washington and Oregon) or four (UW, Oregon, Stanford, Cal) Pac-12 programs in 2024. Wetzel added that, following Colorado’s Big 12 departure last week, those four programs “renewed their push” for Big Ten membership.
Still, the report cautioned — per sources — that “no decision, including on whether to expand or stay put at 16 teams, has been made or is considered imminent.”
Meanwhile, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff presented conference presidents and athletic directors Tuesday with a proposed media-rights package that — according to ESPN — primarily partners with subscription streaming service Apple TV+. Yahoo indicated that revenue estimates were as low as $20 million annually per school, with additional revenue tied to subscription incentives.
That number falls behind figures attached to recent deals struck by a pair of supposed Pac-12 peers — the Big Ten ($50 to $70 million annually per school) and Big 12 ($31.7 million per school).
Which brings us to Arizona, Arizona State and Utah — all of whom are reportedly considering following Colorado to the Big 12 (and securing some semblance of stability).
If all three exit the Pac-12, the Big Ten may be inclined to add a West Coast wing (UW, Oregon, Stanford, Cal) to join 2024 additions USC and UCLA (likely at a discounted rate). Or perhaps the Pac-12’s remaining programs will band together, secure a deal and consider immediate expansion.
Regardless, DeBoer won’t be the one making any final decisions.
“Obviously it impacts me. It impacts our program,” UW’s second-year coach said of Colorado’s departure and Pac-12 uncertainty. “There’s a part where there’s really nothing I can do at this point, so I stay in my lane. There’s really not even a lot of information I’m given at the head-coach level.
“[I’m] curious, obviously, just like all of you are. So I’m asking here and there. But there’s really not a lot of information, other than being informed on what happens day to day. You never take it for granted, but I always rest assured that we have a great place at UW that people are going to want if things would ever fall through with the Pac-12.”
The answers should arrive, one way or another, in the coming weeks. The Pac-12’s presidents and athletic directors could ultimately be swayed by the lack of a legitimate linear television element in a prospective Apple+ streaming deal. Last week, Colorado athletic director Rick George cited those issues in explaining his program’s return to its former home.
“The national exposure, through linear television and streaming, combined with the Big 12 Conference’s footprint across three time zones, will not only make CU more accessible to alumni and fans nationwide, but introduce the Buffs to countless new potential students and fans,” George said.
The Big Ten (ESPN, FOX and NBC) and Big 12 (ESPN and FOX) have sided with traditional linear partners.
Granted, those media companies may all transition solely to streaming in the coming years.
But for now the lack of national exposure and accessibility associated with a streaming service garners hesitation.
“I think [streaming] is certainly going to be a way of the future more and more as we go through these years,” DeBoer said. “Getting used to that … I’m probably a little more old school, too. I like to turn on the TV and know what channel the game is going to be on. But I also see it even through my own kids, what they’re watching and the apps we’re watching different shows and sports through.
“I think we have to be open to that. But being all in on that … there’s certainly reason for concern, because I don’t think the entire country and those that want to watch — no matter what conference, no matter what sport — are probably ready to be all in on streaming.”
Four days after announcing a transfer to Washington, William Haskell completed his first Husky practice Wednesday. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore quarterback played sparingly in six games across two seasons at San Diego State — completing 7 of 14 passes for 59 yards and a rushing touchdown. He left the Aztecs program last September.
When he signed with SDSU, Haskell — a Glendale, Ariz., product — was ranked as a three-star recruit, the No. 15 player in Arizona and the No. 57 quarterback in the 2021 class by 247Sports. He threw for 4,193 yards and 44 touchdowns and rushed for 1,902 yards and 26 scores in a sparkling high-school career at Ironwood High School, being named Arizona Class 5A Player of the Year in 2019.
In Seattle, Haskell joins a quarterback room also consisting of senior standout Michael Penix Jr., junior Dylan Morris and freshman Austin Mack.
“You think beyond even this year, and he’s a guy we see can compete and brings not just the ability to throw the ball, but he’s an athlete,” said DeBoer, who added he was aware of Haskell from his time at Fresno State. “We just thought it was a good addition to our program.
“We had a scholarship left for a lot of positions, but certainly at quarterback. As the spring went along we built a relationship with him and asked him to do a few things, when it came to steps before we’d have him here in the program. He’s met all those steps, and it was exciting to see him step on to campus just a day ago and join our team.”
With standouts Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui occupying UW’s starting edge spots but little depth to speak of, junior Voi Tunuufi has permanently shifted outside.
Tunuufi — a 6-1, 260-pound prospect — compiled 28 tackles and eight sacks in his first two seasons on the interior of UW’s defensive line. On Wednesday he worked as a second-team edge, opposite redshirt freshman Lance Holtzclaw.
“We’re feeling better and better with our depth at D-tackle. I think that’s a part of it,” DeBoer said of the position shift. “[Tunuufi] has taken way more reps at the interior spots than he has on the edge. So getting those reps in a normal down and distance I think is really good.
“We know we have Bralen and ZTF, and then after that it’s a matter of, ‘Who are the next guys?’ We know he’s a playmaker. He’s kind of a tweener when you think about size and ability and strength and speed, and we want to take advantage of that and use him in multiple ways. We’ll probably get him a lot more reps. He has been in the edge room all summer, just learning the defense from that perspective. He’s an edge right now, but he’s a flex guy that can be there for us [at either spot] throughout the year.”

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