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Washington receivers Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze set for Oregon

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, right, beats Tulsa cornerback Tyree Carlisle for a 2-yard touchdown catch during the first quarter at Husky Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Seattle.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Washington needs its best players against Oregon.

It sounds like the Huskies will have them.

Junior wide receiver Jalen McMillan – who has missed UW’s past two games because of a leg injury sustained Sept. 16 against Michigan State – will return for Saturday’s undefeated top-10 matchup, offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said.

“You should have seen him yesterday (at practice),” Grubb said. “He looked great. He’ll be ready to roll.”

Grubb was asked for the status of fellow junior wideout Rome Odunze, who appeared to injure his midsection while recovering an onside kick to cement the road win over Arizona on Sept. 30.

“Same thing,” Grubb said. “Ready to go.”

Those are undeniably encouraging developments for UW, considering Odunze (five games, 32 catches, 608 receiving yards, four receiving TDs, one rush TD, one return TD) and McMillan (three games, 20 catches, 311 receiving yards, three receiving TDs, one rush TD) are both off to stellar starts. Each also contributed in last fall’s 37-34 upset of Oregon, as McMillan totaled eight catches for 122 yards and Odunze added six catches for 56.

Elsewhere, junior offensive guard Julius Buelow could return after missing two games. Though the 6-foot-8, 313-pound junior contributed at left guard in UW’s first three games (starting there against Michigan State), it sounds like he could split reps at right guard with sophomore Geirean Hatchett on Saturday.

“My experience has always been, on the O-line you want the least moving parts,” said Grubb, a longtime offensive line coach. “So that would more lean toward (Buelow) playing on the right side, potentially just keeping (left tackle Troy Fautanu and left guard Nate Kalepo) locked in. They’ve got a good relationship going there. Then you can think more about one spot.”

UW’s rotating offensive linemen – whoever they are – will have to play a cleaner game to down the rival Ducks. The Huskies rank 130th of 133 teams nationally in penalties per game (8.8) and last in penalty yards per game (94.2).

UW surrendered a holding call apiece in season-opening wins over Boise State and Tulsa. But after losing sixth-year senior center Matteo Mele for the season late in the Tulsa win, UW has committed eight holding penalties and four false starts in the three games since (including five holds against Arizona).

“It’s frustrating. It for sure is,” Grubb said of the penalty numbers. “Those are things I know (UW head coach Kalen DeBoer) addresses every week with the guys. There’s penalties that are definitely subjective by the refs – what they’re seeing, what they’re interpreting. You have to live with that if it’s not egregious and say it’s just part of the game.”

“But it’s the pre-snap penalties and things like that; those are the most frustrating. When you see those, it gets hard to watch. You can’t live with that.”

A returning Buelow should help the Huskies in that regard.

“Julius looked great out there yesterday [at practice]. He did a great job,” Grubb said. “He’s been obviously battling a high-ankle sprain. But yesterday was the first time he’d been out there and I think he took probably 50 percent of the reps. So that was really good to see, to get him back in the mix as well.”