If you disregard the lack of fans in the stands, or the fact that the players weren’t wearing pads, or the obvious absence of an actual opponent …
It felt like a fall Saturday inside Husky Stadium.
That’s because the first preseason practice of the Kalen DeBoer era was greeted with a sudden bout of Pacific Northwest weather, as rain spitted on the turf inside Husky Stadium Thursday. But that didn’t bother junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who took the vast majority of snaps with the starters and made a collection of impressive completions.
Penix — who enters August locked in a quarterback competition with sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard — dropped a rainbow into the waiting arms of redshirt freshman wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk for a 45-yard touchdown, despite cornerback Mishael Powell being draped on Polk’s back like a cape. The 6-foot-3, 213-pounder and Indiana transfer was certainly UW’s most consistent quarterback Thursday, adding a pair of 40-yard completions to wide receiver Rome Odunze as well.
Morris took the majority of second-team snaps and surrendered a pair of interceptions — an impressive pick that freshman safety Tristan Dunn leapt to snare in a one-on-one drill, followed by an underthrown deep ball that cornerback Davon Banks came down with in front of wide receiver Jabez Tinae along the sideline in a scrimmage session.
Huard — the 6-2, 193-pound second-year freshman and former five-star recruit — was the clear No. 3 in the quarterback pecking order, even working with the scout team on a separate field during some first- and second-team scrimmage drills. But DeBoer emphasized after Thursday’s practice that it remains a three-man race and each quarterback will share first-team reps at least through the first week, when the coaching staff may reassess if contenders start to separate themselves.
Here are some other observations from Thursday’s practice:
The primary starters on each side of the ball were as follows:
QB: Michael Penix Jr.
RB: Wayne Taulapapa
LT: Jaxson Kirkland
LG: Troy Fautanu
C: Corey Luciano
RG: Henry Bainivalu
RT: Roger Rosengarten
TE: Jack Westover
WR: Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk
DL: Tuli Letuligasenoa, Ulumoo Ale
Edge: Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin
LB: Cam Bright, Alphonzo Tuputala
CB: Mishael Powell, Jordan Perryman
Husky: Dominique Hampton
S: Alex Cook, Asa Turner
It’s worth noting that running back Cameron Davis and right guard Geirean Hatchett took a few snaps with the starters as well.
Meanwhile, UW’s second-team offense consisted of quarterback Dylan Morris, running back Will Nixon, wide receivers Taj Davis, Giles Jackson and Junior Alexander, tight ends Devin Culp and Quentin Moore, left tackle Julius Buelow, left guard Nate Kalepo, center Matteo Mele, right guard Geirean Hatchett and right tackle Victor Curne.
The second-team defense featured defensive linemen Voi Tunuufi and Kuao Peihopa, edges Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Sav’ell Smalls, linebackers Kristopher Moll and Carson Bruener, corners Elijah Jackson and Davon Banks, husky Kamren Fabiculanan and safeties Cameron Williams and Julius Irvin.
It’s certainly worth noting that UW’s first- and second-team running backs — Taulapapa and Nixon, respectively — were transfers participating in their first UW practice, although Richard Newton’s limited availability clouds that picture some. Newton wore a yellow “limited” jersey Thursday and DeBoer said that will remain the case for a week or two.
It will also be interesting to see if right tackle Roger Rosengarten, linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala and defensive lineman Ulumoo Ale take advantage of their starting opportunities. Moll will likely overtake Tuputala once the UAB transfer settles in at UW, while Ale will have to hold off Tunuufi, Peihopa, Faatui Tuitele and more.
It’s hard to discern why Tupuola-Fetui continues to take primarily second-team reps, something he also did for the majority of the spring. It could be that edge coach Eric Schmidt truly considers Trice and Martin to be more capable options, but time will tell.
— On the injury front, Newton is still limited after tearing his ACL last season, while New Mexico running back transfer Aaron Dumas didn’t appear to be a full participant either. Linebackers Edefuan Ulofoshio and Demaro King and defensive lineman Armon Parker did not participate on Thursday and are expected to miss fall camp. DeBoer noted that Ulofoshio in particular will miss at least the first half of the season with an injury sustained last winter.
— Wide receiver Giles Jackson made one of the plays of the day, ripping a would be interception out of cornerback Dyson McCutcheon’s hands on an ill-advised floater from Huard.
— Odunze, Jackson, McMillan, Nixon and walk-on wide receiver Brennan Holmes all returned punts Thursday.
— Edge Jeremiah Martin was credited with the first sack of fall camp, breaking through the line to corral Penix.
— Hampton — a 6-3, 221-pound husky — overwhelmed a block to swallow McMillan for a tackle for loss on a wide receiver screen. From a physical standpoint, few inside Husky Stadium are more impressive than Hampton.
— A scout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who have drafted Joe Tryon and Cade Otton in the previous two cycles — attended Thursday’s practice and stood on the sideline.