Suburban Kodak’s Game Notes: ( Scrimmage #1 )
I drove up to Seattle and back without drinking any alcohol all day in order to get these observations for you, the people. I even dressed up as a writer ready to take on the psychedelic experience that was watching Skinny and all the talent in Husky Stadium on a beautiful August day.
This scrimmage carries a little more weight than the spring preview as we are two weeks away from kicking off vs. Eastern Washington, but it’s still just a practice. So no, Fatu Sua-Godinet and Jordan Chin may not finish as the leading pass catchers in the NCAA, but it may serve as the only time Jake Haener gets to be swarmed by adoring fans seeking autographs as if he was Burt Reynolds or something.
The great thing about my reporting style is that I saw everything, even things that may have existed only in my imagination, but the bad thing is is that I cannot fit every funny memory into this one post. So make sure you come back and check for follow-ups..
Glaring Takeaways I Could Not Stop Smiling About on the Drive Home
Maybe I’m a little biased, but without Levi Onwuzurike taking a snap (held out for precautionary reasons only) the Husky Defensive Line looks to be continuing D-LO Dominance, with Benning looking great as a 5-tech/Weakside 3-tech. Plus the combination of Tuli and Taki stepping into Greg Gaines Nose Tackle role is just gross (editor’s note: he means in a good way). Josiah Bronson looks to have improved his ability to be more stout in the run game, just as he has every year at Washington.
The young guns impressed me as well as you have to continue to remind yourself how GIGANTIC these O-Lineman are when these guys are making the crossover from High School, to the best program on the west coast. Bandes is the most consistently polished and we’re glad to see him back from his Appendix removal in the spring. Tuitele, Paama and Latu are just three of the most athletically gifted DL (Latu will play mostly OLB) we have ever brought in.
Faatui ‘TUI’ Tuitele
Such an ALPHA, the kid just walks around with a presence. His feet are incredible and I think people are forgetting just how versatile he can be, just because he is carrying so much mass right now. Once he gets the cardio to have an elite gas tank and the technique to lock out every play, in order to minimize the chest area given up, he’s going to play from a ZERO head up on the Center, to a 5 just outside shade of the Tackle.
Ev Sama Paama
LOL. LOL. LOL. I see all these Vita comparisons and I just don’t get it because Paama has his own skillset. He just turned 17 and is not at all in the physical shape he needs to be in, yet he still looks like a Baby Bear who has a mini trampoline wherever he plants, steps, jumps to make a tackle, that you don’t see out of 330+ pound people unless they’re named Warren Sapp or Dontari Poe. This kid is soooooo fun to watch and just has the bouncy, quick energy about him even when he’s tired.
The kid’s legs are so huge you forget he’s 6’5″ tall. I was impressed with the competitiveness, durability, and hustle he showed. Usually you only see those qualities at the level he displayed in more mature players. Even with the step up in competition, he still jumped up after every play, ran back to the ball, and got eyes on the sideline as soon as possible. He played everywhere from outside the TE to just inside the Tackle, and had much better hand placement and leverage than I remember seeing in his highlight videos. This makes him a guy who may not be a slam dunk to redshirt because he could make some major noise backing up Joe Tryon.
DBU is Alive & Well
WHOA. These guys are terrifying. Every sack Eason took I wanted to jump up and scream about how he’s holding the ball too long and thinking too much, then I looked at who was covering his guys and shriveled back in my seat with a devilish smile only the Grinch could relate too.
Keith Taylor is KING ALPHA and I hope this team embodies his personality. He is my favorite LA Area HUSKY Spirit Animal since Keisahwn and Azeem. Myles Bryant looks to have found a home at safety. The questions are:
- Will he play more down in the box or more free high?
- And will he be able to stay away from those high point match-ups he’s covered pretty well, but hasn’t had that extra ‘IT Factor’ to make big plays on?
He was super impressive to me.
Elijah Molden can do it all but he really was the most consistent lockdown NICKEL last year and looks stronger this season, which will serve him well in run support, where Myles may have been slightly better than him last season. Even though Elijah is from West Linn (editor’s note: this is some kind of a Portland dis, I think), he is such a technical freak who could play anywhere.
That leaves the two 2018 class superstars, Dom Hampton and Kyler Gordon, as rotational guys, even though they would be starters at most elite programs. Dom Hampton was physically dominant. There were two busts to his side where he was the cloud/sitting/free-player Corner, where the safety didn’t get over fast enough or there was a miscommunication, but other than that it was sad watching Fuller or Baccellia line up against him. It was like watching a little kid going to get an inevitable whoopin’.
Kyler Gordon is just so physically talented that he got most of his reps at outside Corner, as well as some special package stuff, but he could also play some NICKEL. That prospect should be terrifying to any slot WR in the conference. I honestly think Kyler could be a 1st Team All-Conference player at every DB spot.
Trent McDuffie looked so comfortable at Corner and jumped a slant on a 1st and Goal play that would’ve been a TD, if Haener’s throw had been on time. Which it wasn’t. That kid is special because after a growth spurt took him from a Byron Murphy matching 5’10 1/2 up to just under 6’0, his legs are so thick he doesn’t even look very tall or long at all which would scare most people in this Long-Cornerback Era. Then you see how long his arms are and laugh at the play-making mismatch he is.
One of the things I have been looking at and worrying about all off-season has been depth at safety (I’m still not ready to talk about the recruiting misses of Isaiah Pola-Mao and Chaz Ah You in 2017, so don’t ask).
Alex Cook and Isaiah Gilchrist may have looked the least impressive (if people even say stuff like that?), but Alex looked great at Safety for anyone, let alone for someone who was just playing WR last season. And Gilchrist looks thicc (two Cs, a compliment), as a guy who may be able to play some nickel/weird hybrid LB who can guard RB’s/TE’s well.
Cam Williams is an obvious budding Superstar, but don’t sleep on Asa Turner being in the mix for some burn as he got some 1 and 2 reps with sub packages, where they want to utilize his length. Shoutout to Notre Dame for saying he’s a Linebacker; that’s why we’re better than them. Williams impressed me when he broke up a pass intended for Jack Westover, delivering a huge hit that jarred the ball loose and probably went on to steal Westover’s chain and maybe even his bike.
Lots of people have wondered whether Kamren Fabiculanan would be a Corner or a Safety. Yesterday he played entirely at safety and looks great at that size roaming back there.
Keith Bhonapha is finally legally allowed to use the word “stable”
Salvon Ahmed looks amazing and I am his biggest STAN after a year in which I saw some fans attack him for being too cute sometimes ( ok, fine ) when in reality he has been hampered the past two years with hamstring issues and last year’s film shows a lot of blame to go around. But honestly, after a very impressive second drive from the offense (after regrouping and maybe getting a kick in the ass) I didn’t see Salvon too much and that wasn’t a bad thing. McGrew, Pleasant, and Newton all got a lot of touches running into the teeth of the defense I was just raving about. McGrew is so fluid catching the ball out of the backfield and had a sick hesi to freeze Gilchrist on a swing pass to brace for impact and dive for the pylon to score on a great play. He is really outstanding at finding space on stretch plays more than ISO or inside zone. Kamari Pleasant ran like a bat out of hell, Jesus. He looked like he was on a mission to earn every carry he wanted by hitting people or taking contact and then putting his feet into overdrive more than even some great RB’s who keep their leg-drive going. I want to see Kamari take inside zone plays & counters, McGrew take stretch plays, late developing run plays and two-RB pass stuff that the NE Patriots do so well, and Salvon do a little bit of both. To the surprise of many except for Suburban Kodak who is his biggest fan, Richard “Dick” Newton looked great and got plenty of touches with the 2’s. Maybe that could explain the POP that Kamari had yesterday as competition brings the best out of the entire group. Newton looks like if Mike Tolbert went of an episode of The Survivor and cut his caloric intake in half and his body is like all Torso to Hamstring and our sources have yet to confirm if he was born without a neck. I say this as a huge compliment, of course, as his power was needed when blocking that superstar defense was hard to come by, and Newton definitely made the most of his opportunities.
Skinny is really good and we haven’t even seen him throw to Hunter Bryant and Ty Jones or even have those guys to open up things underneath for the great depth of weapons at RB, Slot WR, TE. I think that is the biggest Pro to having Skinny over Browning this year won’t be all the exciting explosive things fans want but rather spacing will become more efficient. Drew Sample had so many 3rd down plays where he was open and Browning did not have enough time or the correct spacing to trust that the window would remain open by the time he got to that read. That is not the problem anymore as Skinny’s success came when he looked Trey Lowe’s way (two bad drops by Trey were followed up by a 20 yard catch negated after he threw the ball in the defenders face, but it’s so obvious the incredible value of role of Trey and Chico that the coaches are prioritizing and scripting mismatches), when he targeted Andre or Pounds late over the middle, and when he found Cade Otton or Jack Westover on a secondary hitch/crosser read after DBU put the initial clamps on outside. I still want to see him have the time and the simplified reads to make decisions a little quicker but who better to practice pocket presence and an internal clock against than Joe “Genetics” Tryon, Ariel Ngata, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, and the DL he’ll practice against here at UDUB.
Question Marks Being Addressed
Scott Huff is a beautiful man who has his work cut out for him. Offensive line, along with Defensive Back, is the hardest position out there. Now imagine who they have to block every day at practice. So it is expected that it is the last unit to mesh and develop dominant chemistry. But after an underwhelming year caused by Strausser recruiting misses and amplified by injuries, Huff is getting after it to push every guy from their best to their youngest. He was all over guys whether it was at the start of the play as one last reminder, during the play so guys know right when they make a mistake, and after so they aren’t just on to the next play without fixing something. Jaxson Kirkland is the one to watch as he was so surprisingly good as a RS-FROSH with still so much room left to grow. Nick and Trey are amazing and deserve so much more credit for stabilizing any worry we have about this unit. Wattenberg, Hilbers, and Bain are the three Husky fans should be praying every night about, especially if they want to see Salvon maximized. As such an outstanding talent, I expected Bainivalu to push Hilbers for that RT spot more but I have yet to see him take 1 reps or dominate the 2’s like he’s capable of in order to force the coaches to think about rotating like Hilbers did for the majority of last year with Roberts. You can tell they think the world of Matteo Mele to have him play back-up Center with Luciano moving to TE and while Norgaard is out. He will probably move back to Tackle AND continue to develop as a backup Center (because you can never have enough backup Centers) once Murao gets here but, while a lot of people would be taking the position change as a negative, when I look at how hard Huff was focusing on coaching him up every single rep, I saw it as the highest compliment they could give him. Huff put his arm over Mele and spoke genuinely with him from the last play of the scrimmage and didn’t look up once until he was well underneath the tunnel looking just as sweaty and worn out as someone who just played. That’s what you love to see.
Peyton Henry looks (more) confident – I’m not going to dive into guys doing their job. Making kicks is the most important job. It was done yesterday. I am seen as a kicker apologist because I give them such little responsibility compared to fans who blame Henry for the Oregon loss. I stand up for kickers because a game is won or lost across EVERY play of the game. I am not going to put too much stock into the scrimmage, if any at all, but I’m glad to see him smiling, comfortable in his own skin, and looking competitive with a chip on his shoulder after a tough year mentally for a young Walk-On Redshirt-Freshman. Tim Horn looks like he’s trying to get the fundamentals and weight transfer down correctly before he starts speeding up and looks to need some time to convert his athletic frame into quick, decisive, and powerful kicks. He looks like a big strong guy learning how to hit a straight, short golf shot before learning how to really go after it.
Tight End/Inside Linebacker Depth – With everyone worried about Hunter Bryant’s health, it has gone under the radar that Jacob Kizer is still ailing over back problems that have followed him since high school. Never was the lack of recruiting at a position more glaring in a practice/scrimmage format than yesterday when the only TE’s, outside of the physically gifted Cade Otton and Dev Culp, were Corey Luciano and Jack Westover. Luciano is an amazing blocker but I just don’t know if he’s able to pass as anything more than a smaller, extra OL getting on the field. Westover caught quite a few passes and looked great but when you go through all the offers UDUB has whiffed on, you start to think how much better Josh Falu or Brevin Jordan would look as a pass catching TE, or if Devin Asiasi or even Jude Wolfe could push Dev Culp for that complete skillset/2nd-3rd TE spot. Culp looks amazing but still needs work blocking as this is only his second year at the position after terrifyingly playing WR/RB/KR in HS. Every TE, not just Hunter, HAS TO stay healthy this year to make up for being thin.
Manu took all the one reps but the filled out Jackson Sirmon was nursing a sprained ankle and if I had to bet money he will be the starter next to Wellington. Tafisi will probably back up Wellington as the WILL with his smaller but incredibly quick and physical frame, but he has the ability to either play MIKE or bump Wellington over to MIKE and play WILL. Manu is not the worst backup for Sirmon but that call still has to be made. The question becomes can Wellington and others staying healthy at such a high impact position? Losing Beavers is an example of this being difficult. The question after that is about the amazing 2019 class who was led by Alphonozo Tuputala, Danny Hammer at WILL, and the always slept-on Drew Fowler with Josh Calvert recovering from a knee injury and the most underrated of them all, Miki Ah You still not quite 100% after his knee injury last year. All these names make you think the position is deep but needing to Redshirt guys while backup ILB bodies are perfect for special teams, is always a hard decision making process where in years past we have burned Redshirts for Brandon Wellington and Ben Burr-Kirven just for them to play special teams. I have no guesses as to what they are going to do but not having a single body in the age gap between Wellington/Manu and Sirmon/Tafisi is a problem when it comes to who steps up in case of injury and preserving as many redshirts as possible.
The inability to get young WR’s on the field – The good news is that Puka Nacua was a beast who, every time he was on the field, QBs immediately looked for when a play or read would break down. Him and Cam Davis got every touch of the FROSH vs FROSH TD Drive. The bad news is outside of that it looked like he had a hard time getting in and out of formations. When people ask me if Nacua is going to play, I look at Bynum and Osborne looking GREAT but still with the two’s and lose all hope in humanity. Bynum-Osborne-Spiker-Lowe-Culp was by far and away the most explosive pass-catching unit but they were stuck behind Fuller-Baccellia-Pounds without Ty Jones playing. It was very hard to watch that first group labor so hard to get open and cause a lot of holding on to the ball from the mostly Skinny, just to see Haener get a couple big plays from the ball coming out quicker to primary targets. Osborne looks so much better on the outside running hitches, outs, digs and being strong enough to finish catches with contact coming which is great to build timing and confidence in your QB. That all goes down the drain when others play there and get manhandled by Keith, Dom, and Kyler. Chin looked like the best WR from the 2015-16 recruiting classes – by quite a significant margin. Spiker had a taped up hand and looked fine but, ever since he got on campus, he has been someone we want to see more out of physically. Osborne just looks so much thicker and more ready than Spiker does but the flashes you have seen from Spiker make you think about Tee Higgins from Clemson. I would like to see Bynum in the slot more. I think his openings for big plays have a better chance of coming there than on the outside. He is so much bigger than Andre and Aaron, who somehow play the majority of their snaps on the outside, so it only makes sense to dream about him making more explosive plays than the ones Fuller made on the outside last year. Pounds looked incredible catching passes from Skinny in the slot because of the defenses priority to take away deep throws from such a talented QB and letting big, physical corners dominate outside. As the Nacua’s, McMillan’s, and hopefully Franklin’s and Egbuka’s roll in as guys talented enough to play inside and outside, UDUB is going to have to find ways to get guys to embrace the slot role without being designated in the Trey/Chico position. I just feel like life would be so much easier on Fuller, Baccellia, Bynum, or someone like Egbuka to get on the field with scripted RPO’s and easier matchups as an inside guy while Ty, Osborne, Spiker step up on the outside.
Shame on you to all who laughed at Jake Haener for tripping and rolling his ankle. Brandon Wellington is a superstar and his athletic ability has him looking like a better BBK (yeah, I said it). Shoutout to Alphonzo Tuputala’s dad who sat behind me and looked good as a FedWay king watching his Hometown Hero son, make everyone proud.
Think I am full of it? Let me know in the scrimmage thread on our forum.