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Sports >  UW football

UW notebook: Wide receiver Jalen McMillan announces return to Washington in 2023

Dec. 22, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 22, 2022 at 7:12 p.m.

Oregon State’s Jaydon Grant (3) tackles Jalen McMillan (11) as the No. 23 Beavers face the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Washington won 24-21.  (Tribune News Service)
Oregon State’s Jaydon Grant (3) tackles Jalen McMillan (11) as the No. 23 Beavers face the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. Washington won 24-21. (Tribune News Service)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – On New Year’s Day 2022, Washington wide receivers coach Junior Adams left to become the co-offensive coordinator at rival Oregon.

Five days later, Jalen McMillan decided to stay.

“I meant what I said on June 25th, 2019 (when I verbally committed to UW), and I’m going to stand on that,” UW’s sophomore wide receiver wrote on social media. “I’m excited about this team, offense, and coach (Kalen) DeBoer. Let’s ride.”

Eleven-plus months, 71 catches, 1,040 receiving yards and eight touchdowns later, McMillan is still standing.

He’s still staying, too.

After standout quarterback Michael Penix Jr., left tackle Troy Fautanu and edges Bralen Trice and Zion Tupuola-Fetui previously revealed they’ll return to UW for the 2023 season, McMillan announced the same decision Thursday.

“I’m coming back for next year. Go Huskies,” McMillan tweeted.

Fellow sophomore Rome Odunze remains undecided (publicly, at least) on his NFL future.

Together, McMillan (71 catches, 1,040 yards, 14.6 yards per catch, eight TDs) and Odunze (70 catches, 1,088 receiving yards, 15.5 yards per catch, eight TDs) became the first UW teammates to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Redshirt freshman Ja’Lynn Polk added 38 catches, 649 receiving yards and six scores.

With a prolific system and many trustworthy targets, Penix leads the nation in passing yards (4,354) and passing yards per game (362.8).

McMillan, of course, is a reason why.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder from Fresno, California, piled up Husky highlights – two touchdowns in the opener against Kent State, an 84-yard catch-and-run score against Portland State, a 47-yard reception on the opening drive against Michigan State, a 34-yard grab he ripped away from defensive back Christian Gonzalez against Oregon, a 27-yard double reverse screen score against Colorado, a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half against Washington State …

The list goes on.

McMillan – a former four-star recruit and top-40 prospect – had a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the 2020 All-American Bowl.

In the Alamo Bowl against No. 20 Texas on Thursday, he’ll return to the scene of the score.

But when it comes to Husky highlights, McMillan has room for more.

Oklahoma State starting cornerback Muhammad transfers to UWIn his early signing-day news conference Wednesday, DeBoer said, “I would anticipate at least probably one more (defensive back) joining the class at some point.”

Washington’s coach didn’t say how soon.

Jabbar Muhammad – a 5-foot-10, 175-pound corner, who has started the last 13 games at Oklahoma State – will transfer to Washington with two seasons of remaining eligibility, the program announced Thursday morning.

Muhammad adds to a group that includes 26 total prospects and six other defensive backs in the 2023 class – four-star corners Caleb Presley and Curley Reed, three-star corners Leroy Bryant and Thaddeus Dixon (JUCO), four-star safety Vincent Holmes and three-star safety Diesel Gordon.

“I couldn’t be more excited about what that group brings as a whole,” DeBoer said of UW’s defensive-backs class Wednesday.

The class doesn’t lack quantity.

Quality, too.

In 12 games this fall (10 starts at corner and two at safety), Muhammad – an All-Big-12 honorable-mention selection – led the Cowboys with 10 pass breakups and added 48 tackles with an interception and a forced fumble.

(UW “husky” nickel Dominique Hampton and defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa, by comparison, tied for the team lead with four pass breakups apiece.)

A former three-star recruit from DeSoto, Texas, Muhammad has produced 72 tackles with 13 passes defended, an interception, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss in three seasons and 31 career games. He signed with Oklahoma State over offers from Colorado, Houston, North Texas, Texas Tech and Tulsa in 2020.

UW struggled mightily in the secondary this fall – ranking fifth in the Pac-12 in pass defense (241.7 yards allowed per game), sixth in opponent completion percentage (62.5%), ninth in interceptions (seven) and 10th in pass touchdowns allowed (25), opponent pass efficiency rating (146.66) and opponent yards per pass attempt (7.8).

Those struggles were multiplied by mounting injuries to cornerbacks Jordan Perryman, Mishael Powell, Julius Irvin and Elijah Jackson, as well as safeties Asa Turner, Vince Nunley and Tristan Dunn. Starters Perryman and safety Alex Cook are out of eligibility this offseason, while reserve corner Zakhari Spears has transferred to Connecticut.

Some defensive backs are heading out.

Many more are coming in.

“That was the position where we were most significantly under this year, when it comes to the number of scholarships,” DeBoer said Wednesday. “We certainly have a lot to work with, and I would anticipate at least one more probably joining the class at some point.”

Muhammad immediately made good on DeBoer’s declaration


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