UW football camp observations: Rome Odunze shines, QBs contintue to rotate

Rome Odunze had a day.

In UW’s fifth practice of preseason camp, the 6-foot-3, 201-pound wide receiver was unsurprisingly active — piling up chunk plays on passes from multiple quarterbacks. The highlight was a 27-yard touchdown that capped a 58-yard drive in a two-minute drill, in which junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. dropped a floating deep ball to Odunze — who had slipped past redshirt freshman cornerback Davon Banks.

The sophomore wide receiver from Las Vegas also contorted along the left sideline to haul in a pass from quarterback Sam Huard for a 30-yard gain, despite the tight coverage of corner Mishael Powell.

Though UW’s three-pronged quarterback competition unsurprisingly steals the spotlight, the Huskies remain quietly confident in their wide receiver corps — with Odunze, sophomore Jalen McMillan and redshirt freshman Ja’Lynn Polk the established starters. McMillan found a hole in the Husky secondary during a scrimmage drill Tuesday, and Penix eluded pressure to find the sophomore receiver for a catch-and-run 44-yard gain. Nebraska running back transfer Will Nixon then ended the drive with a four-yard touchdown plunge.

And considering Odunze, McMillan and Polk’s starting statuses, it’ll be interesting to see how junior Giles Jackson factors into the rotation this fall. The 5-9, 185-pound receiver and former Michigan Wolverine has made consistent plays in camp and did so again Tuesday, pushing for more than a special teams return role.

As for the aforementioned quarterbacks, Penix was the primary starter Tuesday — though he, Huard and Dylan Morris continue to rotate from practice to practice. Penix’s 27-yard strike to Odunze was the lone touchdown strike of Tuesday’s practice, and the quarterback trio failed to surrender an interception. The three scholarship signal callers should receive equal reps at least through the team’s first fall scrimmage on Saturday.

Here are some other observations from UW’s fifth practice of preseason camp.

Rotational notes

UW continues to rotate and experiment with its two-deeps at several critical positions. With sixth-year left tackle Jaxson Kirkland somewhat limited (he did take a few scrimmage snaps Tuesday), sophomore Julius Buelow got regular work with the starting offensive line. The Huskies also occasionally slid sophomore Troy Fautanu from left guard to left tackle and installed sophomore Nate Kalepo as the starting left guard.

It appears Kirkland is still shaking off the offseason rust, as the 340-pound senior sustained a false start penalty on a third-and-10 play — then exited the lineup as punishment.

It’ll be interesting to see how the depth chart shakes out at the edge position — where Bralen Trice, Jeremiah Martin and Zion Tupuola-Fetui have established themselves (in some order) as key contributors and junior JUCO transfer Sekai Afoa-Asoau, sophomore Sav’ell Smalls and redshirt freshman Maurice Heims compete for rotational reps. Afoa-Asoau earned some second-team reps Tuesday, while Smalls had his best practice in recent memory — blowing past Buelow for a scrimmage sack and swallowing running back Sam Adams II for a tackle for loss.

Expect four edge players to earn significant minutes. But who will be the fourth?

Redshirt freshman Davon Banks — who leads the team with four interceptions in five practices — also earned a few starting cornerback reps opposite of Jordan Perryman (and in Powell’s place). Perryman and Powell remain the assumed starters, but it’ll be interesting to see if Banks or redshirt freshman Elijah Jackson (who leaped to break up a Morris pass intended for wide receiver Lonyatta Alexander Jr. along the sideline Tuesday) can gain more ground.

While running backs Wayne Taulapapa, Will Nixon, Cameron Davis and Sam Adams II continue to take the majority of scrimmage snaps, New Mexico transfer Aaron Dumas earned his first action (with the second team) Tuesday. The coaching staff has repeatedly emphasized that the goal is to get players who didn’t participate in the spring as many reps as possible early in camp … but it’s still hard to dismiss Taulapapa, Nixon and Davis’ extended roles.

Don’t forget, either, that UW coach Kalen DeBoer recently said that it’s possible to utilize three running backs consistently … but a two-man rotation is more likely.

Will Dumas or Richard Newton (who continues to be limited while working back from an ACL injury) become regular contributors? Time will tell.

Extra points

  • Linebacker Cam Bright, edge Jeremiah Martin and defensive lineman Kuao Peihopa also earned sacks Tuesday. The 6-3, 304-pound Peihopa should carve out a regular role in his second season in Seattle.
  • Perryman jumped a crossing route from Penix to nearly pick off a pass intended for Odunze. The Perryman vs. Odunze match up — No. 1 on offense against No. 1 on defense — has been one of the highlights of camp thus far. Both have the potential to be All-Pac-12 performers.
  • UAB transfer linebacker Kristopher Moll laid out to break up a Huard pass intended for tight end Jack Westover. Playing largely with the second unit behind starters Bright and Alphonzo Tuputala, Moll hasn’t made a seismic impact thus far. But the 6-0, 217-pounder should settle in as he becomes comfortable with UW’s terminology and defensive system.
  • Sophomore tight end Quentin Moore earned a few starting snaps Tuesday, though Westover and junior Devin Culp remain the expected starters at that position.
  • Wide receivers Giles Jackson, Lonyatta Alexander Jr., Jalen McMillan and Brennan Holmes fielded punts Tuesday.
  • Sixth-year senior Peyton Henry is expected to earn the starting kicking duties yet again. He converted three of four field goals from 37 yards out Tuesday, while redshirt freshman Addison Shrock also went 3-4 and true freshman Grady Gross went 2-3.
  • Redshirt freshman defensive back Dyson McCutcheon is now listed as a husky nickelback, rather than a corner. McCutcheon practiced with the third team Tuesday, behind Dominique Hampton and Kamren Fabiculanan.
  • NFL scouts from the Bills, Jaguars, Dolphins, Steelers, Lions and Giants attended Tuesday’s practice. (But the Steelers scout — former UW tight end Mark Bruener, the father of current Husky linebacker Carson Bruener — may have been there in a not-so-professional capacity).
  • True freshman tight end Ryan Otton continues to sit out with an undisclosed injury.

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