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Sports >  UW football

Observations from the UW Huskies’ fourth preseason practice

Aug. 7, 2022 Updated Sun., Aug. 7, 2022 at 6:30 p.m.

Mike Vorel Seattle Times

It’s been a mixed bag on Montlake.

Late in Washington’s fourth preseason practice on Sunday, redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Huard threw an errant pass that tipped off of wide receiver Taj Davis’ hand and into the waiting arms of cornerback Davon Banks — who promptly sprinted to the sideline, tossed the ball over his head and celebratorily coasted into the medical tent.

It was (momentarily) the second interception of the day for Huard, who earlier released a pop fly that safety Vince Nunley centered under in the end zone in front of wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk.

But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty wiped away the second interception — and Huard and Davis didn’t need long to connect. The redshirt freshman quarterback quickly found his sophomore wide receiver for a short completion, and Davis sprinted up the sideline for a 48-yard score.

Both sides of that connection have been inconsistent in UW’s first four August practices, as Huard has piled up big plays and big mistakes and Davis has recorded both drops and touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound wide receiver dropped a would-be 41-yard touchdown on a perfectly arcing pass from junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Sunday, though Penix then trotted 40 yards downfield to high-five and encourage his young pass-catcher.

One consistent contributor, however, has been Banks — who snared two more interceptions Sunday and has four in UW’s first four practices. The 5-11, 185-pound redshirt freshman also stepped in front of a crossing route to pick sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris, even as his helmet popped off in the process.

UW coach Kalen DeBoer said after Sunday’s practice that “it seems like the ball is either finding (Banks) or he’s finding the ball, however you want to look at it.” Though UC Davis transfer corner Jordan Perryman has also impressed this offseason, it’ll be interesting to see whether Banks (or fellow redshirt freshman Elijah Jackson) can possibly push Mishael Powell for a starting spot.

Though Powell has surrendered a few big plays this week, he appeared to bounce back Sunday — sticking his hand up to deflect a deep ball from Penix to Polk along the sideline.

On the quarterback front, Penix took the majority of first-team reps Sunday (as the three quarterbacks continue to split starting snaps) and appears to be the most consistent performer — though the stats may not always indicate it. Davis and wide receiver Giles Jackson both dropped deep ball touchdowns Sunday, and another long drive with Penix abruptly ended because UW has yet to install its red zone packages.

Despite that drop — perhaps his first of the week — Jackson responded by leaping to nab a Penix pass along the sideline for a 20-yard gain. DeBoer said Jackson “had another good day today,” and it’ll be interesting to see how the Michigan transfer and return ace fits into the rotation with wide receivers Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk earning heavy reps.

A Kirkland update

UW sixth-year left tackle and two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer Jaxson Kirkland walked off the practice field early on Saturday and didn’t return, though he hadn’t suffered any apparent injury. The 6-7, 340-pounder was limited on Sunday — participating fully in drill work but sitting out scrimmage sessions as the Huskies ease him back from offseason ankle surgery.

“His body’s not used to the grind with the physicality and things like that,” DeBoer said. “So we’re just easing into it and making sure we don’t do anything (dangerous). If he’s a little bit sore in an area, we’re going to make sure we take precaution and let him work through it.”

In Kirkland’s place, sophomore Julius Buelow worked alongside fellow starters left guard Troy Fautanu, center Corey Luciano, right guard Henry Bainivalu and right tackle Roger Rosengarten. Redshirt freshman Geirean Hatchett earned a few first-team snaps at right guard as well.

Extra points

• Outside linebackers Bralen Trice, Sav’ell Smalls and Jeremiah Martin, safeties Alex Cook and Cameron Williams and linebacker Drew Fowler all picked up sacks Sunday as UW’s defense installed more of its blitz packages.

• McMillan pulled in a nice one-handed grab in a tight window from Penix in a 7-on-7 drill, with Fowler in pursuit.

• Williams nearly handed Huard his third interception of the day, dropping a pass thrown directly at the junior safety.

• Redshirt freshman running back Jay’Veon Sunday earned his first scrimmage reps in four practices Sunday, working with the second team. DeBoer said the emphasis thus far has been giving reps to players they couldn’t see in the spring — like transfers Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon and previously injured returners Cameron Davis and Sam Adams II. We’ll see if Sunday and New Mexico transfer Aaron Dumas (who practiced heavily this spring) are featured more this week.

• DeBoer was effusive in his praise for junior pass-rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who has looked explosive in UW’s first four practices and is working more frequently with the starters (along with edges Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin). “He’s a problem,” DeBoer said. “You have to have an answer for him, I know for sure, if you’re going against him. You can’t just let the tackle block him one-on-one.”

• Wide receivers Giles Jackson, Jalen McMillan, Lonyatta Alexander Jr. and Brennan Holmes, plus running back Will Nixon caught punts Sunday. Jackson, McMillan, Nixon, husky Dominique Hampton and corner Davon Banks handled kickoff returns.

• True freshman tight end Ryan Otton sat out practice again Sunday with an undisclosed injury.

• NFL scouts from the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos attended Sunday’s practice.

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