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Sports >  UW football

Ten UW Huskies who have improved their stock most in preseason camp

Aug. 17, 2022 Updated Thu., Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:37 p.m.

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Preseason practices present opportunities.

Opportunities to impress a new coaching staff. Opportunities to showcase a diverse skill set. Opportunities to win position competitions and methodically scale a steep depth chart.

But which Huskies have seen their stock skyrocket the most?

Discounting returning starters whose positions appear essentially secured, here are 10 Huskies who have improved their stock in preseason camp.

CB Jordan Perryman, sr., 6-0, 202, Hanford, Calif.

When FCS All-American and UC Davis corner Perryman announced a graduate transfer to UW this off-season, it was largely assumed that the physical defensive back would seize a spot vacated by Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon. Through the spring and summer, he has done that and more.

Last week, co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell said “Jordan Perryman is playing as good as anyone on our squad right now, and it’s impressive watching him play day in and day out.”

The 6-foot, 202-pound corner won the bulk of battles against equally physical wide receiver Rome Odunze in the six practices open to the media this month. While there was always an expectation that Perryman could play, he’s looking like a legitimate all-conference candidate.

WR Giles Jackson, jr., 5-9, 185, Antioch, Calif.

In his first season in Seattle after transferring from Michigan, Jackson produced 87 receiving yards, 45 rushing yards, 442 kick return yards, 81 punt return yards and zero touchdowns. It was not a dazzling debut.

And yet, the versatile receiver and return specialist has earned rave reviews from UW coach Kalen DeBoer and his staff. While Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk are the established starters at wide receiver, UW’s staff seems determined to get Jackson on the field.

“From day one, Giles has done a great job,” DeBoer said. “He’s much more consistent. He’s made the explosive plays. … He had a diving catch along the sideline for a 20- to 25-yard gain. He’s gaining confidence, and the quarterbacks are gaining confidence in him.”

LB Alphonzo Tuputala, soph., 6-2, 238, Federal Way

When sixth-year seniors Cam Bright and Kristopher Moll transferred to UW this off-season, it was understandably assumed that they – along with sophomore Carson Bruener – would be the most likely starters at linebacker.

And yet, Bright and Tuputala have earned the majority of first-team reps this month.

One reason why?

“The physicality,” co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach William Inge said of Tuputala. “He can be a goon at the point of attack.”

DL Ulumoo Ale, jr., 6-6, 333, Tacoma

When Ale – a 10-game starter at left guard in 2020 and 2021 – switched to the defensive line this winter, it was unclear how quickly the massive athlete could develop into an impact player for UW’s defense.

We may have our answer.

Ale was immediately placed as a starter beside junior Tuli Letuligasenoa in preseason camp, and if he can stay healthy – a legitimate question, considering the left leg injury that has kept him out the last week – he should help improve a unit that ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in opponent yards per carry (4.76) and 11th in rushing defense (194 yards allowed per game) last fall.

RT Roger Rosengarten, rs. fr., 6-6, 303, Highlands Ranch, Colo.

UW’s offensive line is in flux this fall, with sixth-year seniors Jaxson Kirkland and Henry Bainivalu returning and Troy Fautanu and Corey Luciano stepping into first-time starting roles.

But Rosengarten has made the largest leap.

After appearing in five games across his first two seasons, the former four-star recruit looks poised to start at right tackle.

“He’s so into it. He’s super aggressive. He’s passionate about football,” UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said of Rosengarten. “He’s got to clean up some technique. Sometimes he just tries to do a little bit too much and just needs to be a little bit more fundamentally sound. Coach (Scott) Huff will get him squared away on some of that stuff. But he’s a great kid. He’s got fantastic feet and agility.”

RB Wayne Taulapapa, grad student, 5-11, 207, Honolulu

With three transfer running backs arriving (Taulapapa, Will Nixon and Aaron Dumas) and two more exiting (Caleb Berry and Emeka Megwa) this off-season, that position’s depth chart has doubled as a massive question mark.

But Taulapapa – a former captain at Virginia – has had the bulk of starting reps in preseason camp. He and Nixon, as well as returners Cameron Davis and Richard Newton, could all realistically contribute.

“I thought Wayne ran the ball really well consistently,” DeBoer said after UW’s first fall scrimmage. “He finds the hole. He’s not hesitant. He just was productive consistently.”

Edge Sav’ell Smalls, soph., 6-3, 259, Seattle

Is it finally time for Smalls to record his first career sack?

One would think so. Though Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin are entrenched on the edge, Smalls looked confident and explosive in preseason camp and should earn opportunities in a reserve role.

“In high school you line up at end and you just go. That’s all defensive end is. Keep the edge, keep contain, that’s all it is,” Smalls said. “Now we’ve got calls we can make. We’ve got to talk to the (weakside) backer. We’ve got to talk to the (middle) backer. Sometimes we talk to the corners, talk to the safeties. We’re just adding more skills to the toolbox, and it’s making me more versatile. It’s making me understand the game more as a whole.”

CB Davon Banks, rs. fr., 5-11, 185, San Jacinto, Calif.

Perryman and sophomore Mishael Powell seem set to start at cornerback, but Banks led the team in interceptions through the first half of preseason camp. The relatively unheralded redshirt freshman carried spring momentum into the summer … thanks, in part, to an impressive burst (as evidenced by his high school 10.78-second 100-meter dash).

Whether as a corner or a kick returner, it may be hard to keep Banks’ speed and ball skills off the field.

RB Will Nixon, rs. fr., 5-11, 192, Waco, Texas

DeBoer and Grubb have both emphasized that Nixon – a Nebraska transfer who is listed as a hybrid running back/wide receiver, but has practiced exclusively as the former in preseason camp – will find the field in some capacity this fall.

“In this offense, that’s what the running backs do,” Grubb said of Nixon’s pass-catching prowess. “They’re going to be utilized in the pass game. So his ability to get out there on the edge and get mismatches with the WILL (linebacker), safeties, we really feel like we can get him in the game with that.”

S Vince Nunley, rs. fr., 6-1, 188, Oakland, Calif.

Though veterans Alex Cook and Asa Turner are expected to start at safety, Nunley – who did not play as a true freshman last fall – has crept into the second-team rotation alongside returning contributors Cameron Williams and Julius Irvin and is trending toward an expanded role.

“We’re really pushing on Vince Nunley right now,” Morrell said this week. “He’s a young guy that hasn’t been on the field yet, but it’s time. He’s been in the program for a couple years. We need to get him on the field.”

Honorable mentions: OL Troy Fautanu, OL Geirean Hatchett, edge Sekai Afoa-Asoau, OL Nate Kalepo, WR Denzel Boston

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