The offensively challenged Huskies opened the 2021 season with a lone touchdown in a loss to FCS Montana, an ominous sign for the future. In the constant battle for points on the board, they couldn’t beat anyone convincingly, and losses piled up. UW fired run-first offensive coordinator John Donovan after eight games, and head coach Jimmy Lake let go a week later.
Enter Kalen DeBoer to clean up this mess.
Few teams were more confusing than the 2021 Huskies, who finished 20th nationally to start the season with an experienced roster and then went on to faceplant 4-8.
DeBoer comes to Seattle after his offense averaged 464.8 yards and 33.4 points per game at Fresno State, dwarfing UW’s tepid numbers of 323.4 and 21.5. He has promised to flaunt a high-octane offense, mostly by passing football, and reloading rather than going through a complete rebuild.
Also see: College Football Top 25 by Athlon Sports for 2022
Preview of Washington’s offensive for 2022
One of the first things DeBoer did was pick a quarterback that matched what he inherited. He added Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. to go with two-year UW starter Dylan Morris and one-time five-star recruit Sam Huard. Penix and Huard are left-handed. All three started at college level. Penix, 12-5 as the Hoosiers’ starter, could have the advantage of understanding the new spread offense because he managed it for DeBoer, who was offensive coordinator at the Big Ten school in 2019.
This team’s strength could be a receiver corps that brings back three talented players in Rome Odunze (41 receptions), Jalen McMillan (39) and one-time Texas Tech transfer Ja’Lynn Polk. They are joined by Taj Davis (26 receptions, 12.7 years), Giles Jackson, who arrived from Michigan last year, and Lonyatta Alexander Jr., transfer from Arizona State “fiercely athletic.”
DeBoer’s staff had heard that the Huskies’ offensive line was severely underperforming, but he was pleasantly surprised to find a surplus of young, capable linemen. Leading that group is two-time All-Pac-12 offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland, who is back for a sixth season to improve his NFL draft stock. Victor Curne and Henry Bainivalu are two-year starters, with Curne switching from tackle to guard. The new team is excited about redshirt rookies Roger Rosengarten, Geirean Hatchett and Myles Murao, any of whom could be potential starters right away.
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Running back should have been well-stocked with seven grantees, including four from Texas, but only two — New Mexico transfer Aaron Dumas and holdover Jay’Veon Sunday — were available during a stretch of spring training. DeBoer brought in Dumas after watching him rush for 143 yards against Fresno State. The Huskies still haven’t revealed Texas’ Emeka Megwa, who picked the UW over Alabama, passed his senior year of high school and arrived with an injury.
Preview of Washington’s Defense for 2022
Playmakers for the UW Stop unit abound, but the trick is to get them all back to health. That means edge-rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui returns to 2020 form, when he was one of the nation’s most disruptive forces (7.0 sacks, three forced fumbles) and a second-team All-American. He started the 2021 season late and then had to deal with an Achilles tendon injury and a concussion. A healthy ZTF makes the defense fearsome.
For two seasons, the undersized defensive line has been a problem and was largely responsible for the 193.6 rushing yards allowed per game in 2021. DeBoer and his staff got creative here, moving the space-eating Ulumoo Ale, a 6’6″, 344-pounder, to defense from offensive guard, where he appeared in all 12 games from six starts in 2021. He’s five Inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than returning starter Tuli Letuligasenoa.
Another strong defender, linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, stays out. He missed half of last season with an arm injury and a torn knee in winter conditioning and is not expected back until mid-season. DeBoer still has high-profile linebackers with Pittsburgh transfer Cam Bright, a 20-game ACC starter, and Carson Bruener, who replaced Ulofoshio last season and was a sensation.
The secondary needs a lot of work. Both starting cornerbacks went to the NFL Draft, and seven different players started to safety. Safety Alex Cook is back for a third season as a starter and will be the leader of this group, while Asa Turner returns for a fourth season as a part-time starter. DeBoer brought in All-Big Sky pick Jordan Perryman from UC Davis to shore up the corner points.
See also: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2022
Preview of Washington’s Specialists for 2022
The Huskies are seeded with senior Peyton Henry, who has made 52 of 66 field goal attempts in four seasons, and Kevin Ryan, traded from Idaho State, who averaged 45.6 yards fifth in the FCS was on punter.
DeBoer will find out soon enough how far his rebuilding project needs to go when Michigan State, a Big Ten heavyweight, visits Seattle in its third game. He has 41 players who were starters at UW or elsewhere. He needs to boost offense, which is his specialty. The Huskies should be good enough to double their overall winnings and become bowl eligible again.