Washington transfer portal priorities: What are the Huskies’ most pressing roster needs?

SEATTLE — The start of college football’s transfer window brought the expected chaos, with 780 players entering the portal on Monday alone, per the athlete‘s Max Olson, of whom 483 left FBS programs.

Only two are from Washington so far: Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kuao Peihopa, who was suspended for most of the season, and safety Cam Williams, who chose Redshirt this season to maintain eligibility. The window is open through Jan. 18, so there could be more attrition after the Huskies’ bowl game, if not sometime in between.

However, the most important personnel issues concern players who may or may not transfer to the NFL. Those decisions — like those quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has already made to return in 2023 — will go a long way in shaping Washington’s roster and shaping the Huskies’ strategy as they explore the portal to meet needs and talent to improve.

What positions could use an influx of experienced talent or additional depth? We’re going position by position to determine what the Huskies’ priority level for strengthening their roster for 2023 via the portal might be.

quarterback

Had Penix gone to the NFL, the Huskies likely would have explored portal options, whether for a scholarship contest or their 2023 starter. Instead, Penix dropped a bombshell Sunday night by announcing he would be returning to Washington for his final year of eligibility , so the Huskies can’t really win anything via the portal at this time, with Dylan Morris and Sam Huard still on the roster. Morris will be a fifth-year junior next season and Huard a third-year sophomore. The Huskies also still have a 2023 signing of Lincoln Kienholz, although Ohio State is also chasing. Wear and tear could always change plans here. If the squad stays pat, the huskies are set. If someone leaves – or if Kienholz falls over – they might want to look around.

Portal Priority: Low

Back race

Lead rusher Wayne Taulapapa moves on, but every other scholarship backlog still has a place. That includes Cam Davis, UW’s leader in rushing touchdowns, who could line up for lead-back duty in 2023 as a fifth-year junior; Richard Newton, who played sparingly after returning from an ACL injury; Contributors Will Nixon and Sam Adams II; Jay’Veon Sunday, who played sparingly in 2021; and New Mexico is transferring Aaron Dumas, who didn’t see the field. Washington also has a signing of three-star prospect Tybo Rogers from Bakersfield, Calif. High. A space this crowded could always bring attrition, however, and it’s possible offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb is still trying to adjust the position to suit his schematic preferences. Assuming a player or two moves on – and after the starting job has become available – I reckon the Huskies will try to upgrade here.

Portal Priority: High

recipient

With two players each posting 1,000-yard receiving seasons, it’s fair to ask whether one (or both) could go to the NFL. In fact, Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan have played well enough this season to be considering the next level. Right now I’d be surprised if at least McMillan wasn’t back in 2023. Odunze told KJR 93.3 FM that he’s “in the middle” as he weighs his options, but that was before Penix announced its decision to return. Could this affect Odunze’s thinking? It probably depends on what kind of feedback he gets from the College Advisory Committee Board, assuming he requested it. For now, it’s at least possible that Washington could pair its top two receivers with Penix for a final round in 2023.

Every other grantee – including key contributors Ja’Lynn Polk, Taj Davis and Giles Jackson – is also still eligible, with younger players like Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander and Denzel Boston also showing promise, not to mention 2023’s Rashid Williams and Keith Reynolds. This could be a stacked space again, but the Huskies had the kind of offensive season that should make them attractive to experienced, talented receivers. If Odunze declares himself for the draft, Washington could be in the market for another high-profile wideout, starring alongside McMillan and Polk.

Portal Priority: Moderate

Close end

The Huskies weathered the 2022 season with relatively little depth at the tight end, all things considered. They had a solid 1-2 with Devin Culp and Jack Westover, and Quentin Moore filled in when needed. But the only other tight ends of the scholarship on the list are 2021 signee Caden Jumper and Ryan Otton, who wore a redshirt. They also haven’t signed anyone in their 2023 class. Culp and Westover each have one season left. Assuming both would come back, I could see the Huskies targeting a younger player in the portal, someone who could compete for an entry-level job in a year or two. You need a body either way. We’re aware of one offer so far: Josh Cuevas, a redshirt freshman at Cal Poly this season, catching 57 passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns.

Portal Priority: High

offensive line

Would the Huskies take a potentially dominant interior designer if he was available and interested? Maybe, and the calculus could change if someone like left tackle Troy Fautanu went to the draft. But the Huskies should be good with bodies here — with relatively experienced starting fives, even if Jaxson Kirkland, Henry Bainivalu and Corey Luciano are ineligible — and they’re close to signing five O-Line prospects in their 2023 class. Assuming no further attrition occurs, Washington currently has 18 scholarships for O-Linemen in 2023.

Portal Priority: Low

line of defense

Tuli Letuligasenoa is among the Huskies’ fifth-year juniors who could decide to turn pro and Washington has already lost Peihopa to the transfer portal. They have two inner D-linemen committed in their Class of 2023 — four-star prospect Anthony James II and three-star prospect Elinneus Davis — and could return seven other scholarship D-linemen alongside Letuligasenoa. Some of them – Faatui Tuitele, Voi Tunuufi, Ulumoo Ale, Jacob Bandes, Jayvon Parker – either started or contributed in 2022. A notable defensive tackle with a connection to the program would always spark interest, but this is the second most competitive position on the portal behind quarterback, and the Huskies don’t seem to have bad enough need to invest much time here.

Portal Priority: Moderate to low

Edge rusher

Jeremiah Martin and Bralen Trice were a consistently productive duo in 2022, averaging 16.5 sacks combined to lead a pass rush that helped offset some of Washington’s coverage woes. However, Martin is ineligible to play, and Trice is considered a potential NFL draft pick should he declare himself. The Huskies could also lose Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who had 4.5 sacks and appeared to have hit back in August as this was his final collegiate season. Should Washington lose two of those three players — and maybe even just one — they’ll need reinforcements, even if players like Sav’ell Smalls and Maurice Heims earn rotation snaps this year. Perhaps they will find the next Martin, a veteran player who has benefited greatly from a change of scenery over the past two seasons.

Portal Priority: High

linebacker

Washington has largely relied on a four-player rotation here in 2022 — starters Cam Bright and Alphonzo Tuputala, and Kris Moll and Carson Bruener — and both Bright and Moll are ineligible to play. The Huskies recently regained the services of Edefuan Ulofoshio, perhaps their most talented linebacker if healthy, and Tuputala and Bruener each have two years left of the game. They’ve also apparently committed to filling that position with high school prospects, accepting acceptances from two three-star recruits, Deven Bryant and Jordan Whitney. The Huskies also have a scholarship for junior Demario King – and sophomore Daniel Heimuli, though he’s currently suspended for violating the ICA Code of Conduct. The top of the rotation might be fine between Ulofoshio, Tuputala and Bruener, but it might be worth checking some depth options here. It would change the picture if either Bryant or Whitney were willing to contribute as freshmen.

Portal Priority: Moderate

defensive back

Cornerback is the biggest need for position on the roster as the 2022 season showed exactly what happens when two experienced starters with no experience go down. Jordan Perryman, a healthy all-down player, is ineligible and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if the Huskies seek another veteran transfer to replace him. There are younger opportunities to pair up with returning starter Mishael Powell – Elijah Jackson,Davon Banks, Jaivion Green – but there’s no reason not to try and sell a proven veteran when he’s up for a potentially top-10 Joins the preseason team that needs a defense upgrade or two.

The need for security may not be as great as Alex Cook is not eligible to play, however Asa Turner could return for another year and the coaches appear to be banking on younger players such as Vincent Nunley, Makell Esteen and Tristan Dunn. The Huskies are close to signing at least four defenders in their 2023 class, so they’re also looking to build for the future. But the portal also offers the opportunity to get better now.

Portal Priority: Very high

(Photo by Kalen DeBoer: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)



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