Caple: 13 thoughts on UW Huskies’ 13 summer enrollees

BY CHRISTIAN CAPLE UW Huskies Football Insider, Seattle Sports Each summer, the incoming UW Huskies freshmen athletes enroll in something called LEAP. That’s shorthand for the Learning + Experience + Achievement Program, which aims to help freshmen athletes acclimate to college life during the summer ahead of their first fall quarter. Are UW Huskies a playoff team in 2023? Huard’s take | Bruce Feldman’s take For the football program, last weekend marked the arrival of 13 new scholarship players. Specifically, 11 scholarship freshmen and two scholarship transfers — only the freshmen participate in LEAP, for what it’s worth — along with nine walk-ons. The Huskies had 10 early enrollees from their 2023 recruiting class already on campus: RB Tybo Rogers, OL Landen Hatchett, OL Zachary Henning, DL Elinneus Davis, EDGE Anthony James, LB Deven Bryant, LB Jordan Whitney, CB Thaddeus Dixon (JUCO), CB Caleb Presley, S Diesel Gordon. We’ll get our first glimpse at the other 13 newcomers when preseason camp begins in August. These are my thoughts on each. QB Austin Mack Originally a 2024 prospect, Mack graduated early from Folsom (Calif.) High and reclassified to join the Huskies this season. He was already a four-star recruit, but I would have been interested to see whether Mack, listed on his recruiting profile at 6-6 and 210 pounds, might have ascended even higher in the 2024 rankings. He didn’t play much high-school ball, though his 70.4 completion percentage and 40-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio as a junior did plenty to burnish his stock. Michael Penix Jr. and Dylan Morris occupy the top two spots on the depth chart, and walk-on JUCO transfer Alex Johnson showed some promise during spring as a potential No. 3 option. Mack should be able to use this season to learn from the veterans while waiting his turn to compete for the starting job in 2024, but I’m still interested to see what he does with any reps during camp. WR Taeshaun Lyons Lyons might have the most explosive senior highlights of anyone in UW’s 2023 class. He’s run the 100 meters in sub-11 seconds before, and it doesn’t take him long to reach top speed with the ball in his hands. His numbers tell that story: Lyons caught 47 passes for 1,007 yards and 10 touchdowns as a four-star senior at Hayward (Calif.) Tennyson, with another five touchdowns on the ground. It’s going to be a tough climb for any freshman receiver to earn playing time within UW’s crowded room, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m curious to see how Lyons’ athleticism translates to the college level in his first camp. WR Rashid Williams It’s sort of funny to press play on Williams’ receiver highlights and be reminded, “oh, right, Jaden Rashada was his high-school quarterback.” Rashada, the four-star prospect who wound up at Arizona State, wasn’t the only offensive star at Pittsburg (Calif.) High. Williams caught 76 passes for 1,087 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. He’s long and looks smooth with the ball in his hands, and his senior film shows some pretty impressive jump-ball catches at 6-2 and 185 pounds. Like Lyons, Williams was among the most impressive gets for the Huskies in 2023, but he, too, will likely have to wait until 2024 to see the field much, with six returning receivers established ahead of him. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still turn some heads at practice. WR Keith Reynolds Reynolds feels like Washington’s eventual replacement for senior Giles Jackson. They’re similar size — Jackson is 5-9, 176 and 247Sports lists Reynolds at 5-10, 160 — and my guess is coaches will deploy Reynolds similarly within the offense. He did a little bit of everything at Adelanto (Calif.) High, including taking 50 carries for 861 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior (for a team that finished 3-8). His top 100-meter dash time was 11.15 seconds. I expect to see him work out of the slot and, like Jackson, perhaps take a few handoffs once he gets his shot in practice. But I’d be surprised by anything other than a redshirt in 2023. OL Jalen Klemm (transfer from Kansas State) The Huskies went searching the portal for some tackle depth behind starters Troy Fautanu and Roger Rosengarten, and added Klemm, a 2022 signee with four seasons of eligibility remaining, earlier this month. His dad is Adrian Klemm, a longtime o-line coach who worked at UCLA and Oregon and now works for the New England Patriots. This spring, UW’s No. 2 duo often was left tackle RJ Wyrsch and right tackle Samuel Peacock, though Geirean Hatchett also saw time at right tackle (and No. 2 center Parker Brailsford took some reps at left tackle). Julius Buelow and Nate Kalepo, the likely starting guards, each have played some tackle, too, so the Huskies do have some options if they need to tap into their depth. Klemm, gives them another college-ready body to work with. OL Elishah Jackett We got a look at Jackett during the spring, when he stopped by practice while visiting campus. He looks every bit of his listed size of 6-6 and 280 pounds, and could easily pass for a basketball player (he played in high school). You know the drill with freshmen o-lineman: the ideal scenario is that none of them have to play in their first couple college seasons, and I don’t see why it would be any different for Jackett. O-line coach Scott Huff raved about Jackett’s athleticism for his size, so that will be something to watch for this camp. OL Soane Faasolo Like Jackett, Faasolo also played hoops, and must have been an intimidating presence on the court: his recruiting profile listed him at 6-8 and 280 pounds. As Huff put it on signing day: “At first sight, Soane blocks the sun.” He comes from a quality football program at Atherton (Calif.) Menlo-Atherton, though he received only five scholarship offers and chose the Huskies over Oregon State. Faasolo will need refining like every freshman o-lineman, but Huff praised him on signing day for his “abnormal knee bend” and lateral movement. Also like Jackett, he’ll be one to watch when the No. 3 offense gets its reps. OL Kahlee Tafai We’ll see where Tafai winds up. His size (6-6, 300) suggests he could play either tackle or guard, and Huff hasn’t been shy about moving taller players inside (see: Jaxson Kirkland, Buelow, Kalepo). Plus, Henning, Jackett and Faasolo might each be better-suited for tackle in this class, so Tafai’s best fit could be at guard. Either way, he’s another big, intriguing athlete in a signing class full of them. Tafai is the least experienced of UW’s five o-line signees, having played more on the defensive line at Bishop Alemany before transferring to Los Angeles Leuzinger. It could be a couple seasons before we get a good look at his progress. EDGE Jacob Lane The Huskies lack experience at edge rusher behind starters Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui, so it’s not as if Lane is buried on the depth chart, per se. Still, it’s going to be difficult for the Puyallup Emerald Ridge product (or Anthony James) to carve out much playing time, because UW does return several younger players (and added one transfer, Zach Durfee) who have put in a year or two in college. I do get the sense edges coach Eric Schmidt has an open mind when it comes to rounding out his preferred five-player rotation, so maybe the door is open just enough for Lane or James to earn some situational snaps with a strong fall camp. Like a number of other guys on this list, Lane was a multi-sport star in high school, winning the 4A state championship in the shot put while also qualifying for state in both discus and javelin. He also played basketball. And tight end. Listed at 6-5 and 230 as a recruit, coaches might want Lane to bulk up a little bit, but August will give us a good look at how well he moves on the football field. CB Darren Barkins (transfer from Oregon) Defensive tackle Taki Taimani broke ground last offseason as the first UW-to-Oregon transfer of the portal era, and Barkins, a 2021 signee, becomes the first to go from Eugene to Seattle. You might remember that former coach Jimmy Lake pursued him out of Chula Vista (Calif.) Mater Dei Catholic (not that Mater Dei, mind you), but Barkins, a three-star recruit, instead signed with the Ducks. He played some the past two years, mostly on special teams, and has three seasons of eligibility remaining. This was an interesting addition. The Huskies already added Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad and JUCO transfer Thaddeus Dixon during the winter, and signed three 2023 cornerbacks, too. Coaches must have wanted some more experienced depth behind presumed starters Muhammad and Elijah Jackson. My guess is Barkins will primarily compete against Dixon and Jaivion Green for a spot on the depth chart. He can really run, evidenced by a laser-timed 4.46-second 40-yard dash in December 2020. The Huskies could always use more speed in the secondary. CB Curley Reed If Reed develops into a star for the Huskies, a lot of people are going to be asking how the University of Washington pulled a four-star cornerback out of Louisiana. His only other official visit was to TCU. A torn ACL prior to his junior year of high school likely was a factor in his recruitment, though Reed did return to play his senior year at Lake Charles Prep. If he’s going to make an impact in Year 1 for the Huskies, he will have to beat out several more experienced players, plus Presley, who practiced in the spring. Mostly, I just want to see how Reed stacks up athletically. CB Leroy Bryant It feels like many UW fans have assigned honorary blue-chip status to Bryant, though he was a three-star prospect. He starred as a cornerback, receiver and returner at Fairfield (Calif.) Angelo Rodriguez, and his defensive film is stellar. I’m not sure how much opportunity there will be for players like Reed or Bryant to earn playing time this year, but Bryant is near the top of the list of incoming freshmen I’m most interested to see against college competition. S Vincent Holmes It’s not as if the Huskies have no safety depth, but there isn’t so much experience behind presumed starters Asa Turner and Dom Hampton that a talented freshman couldn’t play his way onto the depth chart. Can Holmes be that guy? He showed 10.85-second speed in the 100 meters as a senior at San Jacinto (Calif.) High, and was a four-star recruit as a two-way standout: in addition to 55 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back, Holmes also caught 59 passes for 1,169 yards and 13 touchdowns. UW recruited him as a safety. He should be among their best pure athletes at the position. We’ll see if he might push Kamren Fabiculanan, Makell Esteen, Vincent Nunley and others for reps this August.

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