Five Takeaways from Washington’s First Depth Chart

Washington released their first depth chart of the season on Monday, complete with a handful of surprises, prior to their season opener against Boise State.

Washington released their first depth chart of the season on Monday in preparation for their season opener against Boise State on Saturday. While there certainly are some nationally-known commodities, the biggest takeaways from their first depth chart are below.

What We Figured Out About the Huskies With Washington’s Depth Chart

The Huskies return many of their impact players from a season ago on offense. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. should be a Heisman candidate, especially with standout receivers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan returning. Both offensive tackles – Troy Fautanu on the left and Roger Rosengarten on the right are back with NFL buzz building.

On defense, Washington gets linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio back after an injury-riddled 2022 season. Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui make up one of the best pass-rushing duos in the country. Questions abound in the secondary, but Asa Turner and Dominique Hampton return to hold down the fort at safety.

MORE: Washington Huskies 2023 Depth Chart

Let’s dive a little deeper, now that we know what the two-deep looks like.

Parker Brailsford wins a guard spot

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was redshirt freshman Parker Brailsford, listed as the unquestioned starter at right guard. More experienced players Nate Kalepo (317 career snaps) and Julius Buelow (383 career snaps) are listed as co-starters at left guard.

Buelow entered fall camp as the favorite to start on the right side, with fourth-year junior Geirean Hatchett expected to be the one to push for a starting role.

But as practice continued, the development of the 275-pounder was simply undeniable. The only Husky freshman to not see any game action a season ago, Brailsford drew comparisons in the fall to former Husky and current Cleveland Browns center Nick Harris.

Offensive line coach Scott Huff, when asked about the Arizona native, said, “he’s really athletic, he’s really strong, and he plays with really good technique. And it’s a really good combination.”

If the three-star recruit pans out as a plus starter, it’ll be a massive boost for the Huskies, who replace all three interior line starters from last season.

Who Steps Up in the Absence of Cameron Davis?

Kalen DeBoer announced a week before the release of the depth chart that fifth-year running back Cameron Davis would miss the entirety of the 2023 season with a lower-body injury. Davis, who took RB2 reps behind the now-departed Wayne Taulapapa, was poised to be the lead back in what otherwise profiled as an indecipherable rotation.

With Davis out, that rotation will need to uncloud itself for Washington to be productive on the ground.

Against Boise State, it appears as though that will start with Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson, who’s listed as the starter above Will Nixon, who transferred in from Nebraska prior to last season. Both are prolific receiving backs – Johnson comes from the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense, while Nixon has also worked at slot receiver at times.

Behind Johnson and Nixon are sixth-year senior Richard Newton and Arizona State transfer Daniyel Ngata. Newton is a violent, downhill runner who’s had his own struggles with injuries during his six-year tenure on Montlake. Ngata is cut more from the receiving back cloth and was once the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country as a high school recruit.

Third Pass Rusher Needed

We touched on Trice and Tupuola-Fetui in the introduction, and it’s no surprise that those two are the starters on the edge for the Huskies against Boise State. Beyond them, however, Washington needs someone to step up.

Listed on the second team are Sekai Asoau-Afoa and Voi Tunuufi, who have 17 snaps on the edge on Montlake combined. In fairness, Tunuufi has 561 career snaps as a Husky, but those have all come on the interior, where he played until this offseason. Asoau-Afoa, meanwhile, has had stops at Central Washington and the College of San Mateo before landing at Washington in 2022.

The Huskies are still waiting for an eligibility waiver decision for Sioux Falls transfer Zach Durfee, who’s likely the easiest man to tab as the third pass rusher behind Trice and Tupuola-Fetui. Durfee remains in limbo as a second-time transfer prior to graduation; he was a non-athlete at North Dakota State before transferring to play football at Sioux Falls.

If Durfee is ruled ineligible, the Huskies will need some sort of development from their stable of pass rushers further down the depth chart. Maybe that comes in the form of Tunuufi, playing a more natural position. Maybe Asoau-Afoa can play a rotational role. Maybe one or both of Maurice Heims and Lance Holtzclaw take a step forward and crack the two-deep by midseason.

New Blood at Corner

Washington added six new corners this offseason – two transfers, one junior college signee, and three freshmen. One of those transfers, Jabbar Muhammad, is listed as one starter on the boundary after arriving from Oklahoma State. Thaddeus Dixon, signed out of Long Beach City College, is his backup.

On the other side are the last two recruits of the Chris Petersen/Jimmy Lake era – starter Elijah Jackson and backup Davon Banks. Jackson played in 101 snaps across seven games last season after missing the first three contests due to injury. Banks, an unranked 2020 recruit discovered at an offseason camp, missed the entire spring with an injury.

Muhammad entered the fall as an unquestioned starter with 21 games of Power Five experience, but Jackson’s road to the starting job was much more circuitous. Both will need to outplay 2022 starters Jordan Perryman, now with the Las Vegas Raiders, and Mishael Powell, now at Washington’s HUSKY nickel position, if the Huskies are going to take a step forward in 2023.

Grady Gross Wins the Kicking Battle

Peyton Henry ran out of eligibility following last season, leaving a void at kicker on Montlake for the first time since 2018. Henry was a career 80.6% kicker who finished his Husky career as Washington’s all-time leading scorer and one of only four Pac-12 players to score at least 400 points.

With that production missing, Washington will turn to Arizona native Grady Gross, last season’s kickoff specialist. The true sophomore handled those duties in 12 games in 2022, giving Henry the freedom to focus just on field goals and extra points.

That split of duties will continue in 2023, according to special teams coordinator Eric Schmidt: Gross will handle field goals and extra points while fourth-year junior Addison Shrock handles kickoffs.

It’s a leap of faith for the Huskies – neither Gross nor Shrock has ever attempted a collegiate field goal, and Shrock owns the lone extra point attempt between the two. Washington has their sights set on a Pac-12 championship and beyond, but we’ve seen college kickers sink seasons before.

The Huskies took a similar leap of faith when Henry won the job as a true freshman in 2018, and only time will tell if Gross can fill those shoes.