Depth chart primer: Can the Husky offense reach even greater heights?

By Mike Vorel
Seattle Times staff reporter
That’s the number UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb wrote on the board in his office last offseason, setting a lofty points-per-game goal. And, led by quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and wide receivers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, his Huskies nearly cleared that bar — ranking second in the Pac-12 and seventh in the nation with 39.7 points per game.
Fueled by returners Penix, Odunze and McMillan — plus many more — Grubb and Co. are reaching for even greater heights.
But before UW embarks on its first preseason practice next Wednesday, let’s refamiliarize ourselves with Washington’s offensive depth chart.
Michael Penix Jr., sr., 6-3, 213, Tampa, Fla. (Indiana)
Dylan Morris, jr., 6-0, 197, Puyallup
Austin Mack, fr., 6-6, 226, Folsom, Calif.
Alex Johnson, jr., 6-6, 214, Seattle
Analysis: The Michael Penix Jr. who set a school record with 4,641 passing yards, to go along with 35 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his debut season in Seattle?
That guy is gone.
UW coach Kalen DeBoer believes the current version of Penix is even better.
“He’s more vocal,” DeBoer told The Times this month. “That doesn’t mean he’s louder. But he will certainly say what he’s thinking more often.
“That doesn’t mean he’s out there yelling and leading that way, this ‘rah rah’ [guy]. But there’s pretty much no meeting that goes by anymore where he doesn’t have some level of input, with the unity council or an offensive meeting or a quarterback meeting. There’s another level of involvement that he’s taken on, knowing that he’s looked to and needs to be a leader in our program.”
Veteran backup Dylan Morris — who has started 15 games across four collegiate seasons — is a respected locker room leader as well. But it’ll be interesting to see who assumes the majority of No. 3 reps, between four-star freshman Austin Mack (who graduated a year early and reclassified into the 2023 class) and junior walk on Alex Johnson.
If Mack — a 6-6, 226-pound passer from Folsom, Calif. — makes moves in his first fall camp, he could project as Penix’s successor in 2024.
Running back
Cameron Davis, jr., 6-0, 212, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Dillon Johnson, jr., 6-0, 218, Greenville, Miss. (Mississippi State)
Daniyel Ngata, jr., 5-9, 192, Reno, Nev. (Arizona State)
Richard Newton, sr., 6-0, 223, Lancaster, Calif.
Tybo Rogers, fr., 5-11, 185, Bakersfield, Calif.
Will Nixon, soph., 5-11, 202, Waco, Texas (Nebraska)
Sam Adams II, soph., 6-2, 207, Kirkland
Analysis: Despite the departure of Wayne Taulapapa (1,112 total yards and 12 TD in 2022), the Huskies aren’t hurting for backfield options. Though junior Cameron Davis — whose 13 rushing touchdowns led the team — could be a more-than-serviceable starter, UW didn’t bring in Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson (an accomplished runner and pass-catcher) simply to sit.
But even beyond Johnson and Davis, the options are immense. DeBoer noted “Daniyel Ngata has had a good summer too. We know CD [Davis] is coming back and had a phenomenal second half of the year, and we can count on him. He’s really consistent. Rich [Newton] had a more consistent summer, which is really good to see. We’re hoping him being a veteran and having a lot of years under his belt can be impactful.
“I think Will Nixon took his focus and intensity to another level, put on some really good weight in the winter months, took great advantage of the reps he got in spring ball with Ngata and Johnson being out. I feel really good about his improvement as well.”
Even so, Washington’s wild card may be true freshman Tybo Rogers — who immediately impressed after enrolling early.
“Tybo had a great winter and spring,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got some good running backs, but he brings a little different element, too. So him being ready could be critical.”
Wide receiver
Rome Odunze, jr., 6-3, 215, Las Vegas
Denzel Boston, rs. fr., 6-4, 207, South Hill
Rashid Williams, fr., 6-1, 185, Brentwood, Calif.
Jalen McMillan, jr., 6-1, 192, Fresno, Calif.
Giles Jackson, sr., 5-9, 178, Antioch, Calif. (Michigan)
Keith Reynolds, fr., 5-9, 177, Adelanto, Calif.
Ja’Lynn Polk, soph., 6-2, 204, Lufkin, Texas (Texas Tech)
Germie Bernard, soph., 6-1, 203, Las Vegas (Michigan State)
Taeshaun Lyons, fr., 6-1, 170, Hayward, Calif.
Analysis: What more can be said about Washington’s wide receivers? Last fall, Odunze (75 catches, 1,145 yards, 7 TD) and McMillan (79, 1,098, 9) became UW’s first tandem to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Contributors Ja’Lynn Polk (41, 694, 6) and Giles Jackson (28, 328, 1) are also back, while sophomore Michigan State transfer Germie Bernard and redshirt freshman Denzel Boston hope to step into significant roles.
Which is all to say: Penix won’t lack tantalizing targets this fall … so much so that freshmen Rashid Williams, Taeshaun Lyons and Keith Reynolds appear ticketed for redshirt seasons.
Tight end
Jack Westover, sr., 6-3, 248, Bellevue
Devin Culp, sr., 6-4, 237, Spokane
Quentin Moore, jr., 6-4, 255, Kenmore
Josh Cuevas, soph., 6-3, 239, Los Angeles (Cal Poly)
Ryan Otton, rs. fr., 6-6, 243, Tumwater
Analysis: They won’t earn headlines, but UW’s pair of returning sixth-year senior tight ends — Jack Westover (31 catches, 342 yards, 1 TD in 2022) and Devin Culp (29, 266, 1) — provide Penix and Co. with the luxury of reliability. Beyond those two, junior Quentin Moore and sophomore Cal Poly transfer Josh Cuevas each earned praise last spring for becoming more well-rounded players.
Cuevas, in particular, compiled 57 receptions for 622 yards and six touchdowns at Cal Poly in 2022 … but showcased an impressive blocking proficiency last spring as well.
With four intriguing options vying for reps, redshirt freshman Ryan Otton (the little brother of former UW tight end Cade Otton) may struggle to crack the rotation for a second consecutive season.
Left tackle
Troy Fautanu, jr., 6-4, 317, Henderson, Nev.
Robert Wyrsch, soph., 6-7, 293, Capitola, Calif.
Elishah Jackett, fr., 6-7, 259, Orange, Calif.
Left guard
Julius Buelow, jr., 6-8, 313, Kapolei, Hawai’i
Gaard Memmelaar, soph., 6-4, 299, Caldwell, Idaho
Soane Faasolo, fr., 6-8, 290, East Palo Alto, Calif.
Matteo Mele, sr., 6-6, 298, Tucson, Ariz.
Parker Brailsford, rs. fr., 6-2, 275, Mesa, Ariz.
Landen Hatchett, fr., 6-2, 310, Ferndale
Right guard
Nate Kalepo, jr., 6-6, 327, Renton
Geirean Hatchett, soph., 6-4, 303, Ferndale
Kahlee Tafai, fr., 6-5, 327, Los Angeles
Right tackle
Roger Rosengarten, soph., 6-6, 300, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Jalen Klemm, rs. fr., 6-5, 281, Mars, Pa. (Kansas State)
Samuel Peacock, soph., 6-6, 296, Gig Harbor
Zachary Henning, fr., 6-5, 292, Centennial, Colo.
Analysis: Though UW lost three offensive line starters this offseason — guards Jaxson Kirkland and Henry Bainivalu and center Corey Luciano — the Huskies exited the spring with a relatively settled starting rotation. Barring injuries or upsets, it appears left guard Julius Buelow, right guard Nate Kalepo and center Matteo Mele will step into starting spots, alongside returning left tackle Troy Fautanu and right tackle Roger Rosengarten. Versatile guard Geirean Hatchett should earn super-sub duties as well.
But will Buelow rebound after struggling as a starter in 2021? Will Mele and Kalepo ascend after previously succeeding as rotational players? And where will Kansas State transfer Jalen Klemm fit into the mix?

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