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Excitement abound as fall camp begins

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Excitement abound as fall camp begins

Dylan Morris attempts a pass during a drill at practice on Aug. 4 at Husky Stadium. Morris will battle for the starting quarterback position during fall camp, which began Thursday. 

As the Washington football team began its pre-season camp Thursday morning, a light rain sprinkled onto Husky Stadium’s turf. 

The typical Seattle weather, paired with the Huskies’ return to the gridiron, was a likely foreshadowing of the months to come as autumn (and the 2022 college football season) draws near. 

The changing of seasons is certainly embraced by Washington, as a new leaf is turned over following a dismal 4-8 season in 2021. And after an offseason surrounded by conference realignments, NIL, and other off-the-field affairs, the Huskies were eager to simply get back on the field with a fresh slate. 

For first-year head coach Kalen DeBoer, that excitement hasn’t been concealed. 

“I was walking upstairs in the hallway Tuesday, and one of the coaches saw me. I must have had a little extra pep in my step or something, but it felt different, getting ready for that first team meeting,” DeBoer said. “We love to coach, we love to be around the guys. This is the best time of the year, so it is refreshing to really dive in.” 

The players have felt a sense of giddiness as well, and DeBoer believes the development of team camaraderie stacks up favorably to his previous coaching stints. 

“I feel that we are much further along in terms of the connectivity of the team,” DeBoer said. “Just simply doing introductions where we had each position group come up in front of the team, like we did on Tuesday night, the energy around introductions alone and the hooting and hollering that these guys have, it’s just fun seeing their relationships and seeing them evolve as people.” 

In a roster that features an assortment of veterans with years of experience together, the offseason served to strengthen existing relationships, forge new ones, and emphasize team-building. 

“I think the support for each other is mutual, whether it’s offense to defense, seniors to freshmen, in all the different ways that you look at a football team,” DeBoer said. “Even last night, there was another team meeting we had, just some things we do in camp to keep it fun, keep it fresh … It’s really fun to be a part of, I can’t wait to see it grow.”

While the end of summer has brought forth a companionship within the roster, it doesn’t supersede the competition that looms — both on the depth chart and on the field. 

“There’s a fine line,” DeBoer said. “I want them to be super loose and I want us to be always loose, but when we have to flip the switch and get on the football field, we’re tough and we’re relentless and we’re competing at the highest level we possibly can.” 

Competition can instantly be found by looking no further than the quarterback position, where DeBoer is yet to name a starter between transfer junior Michael Penix Jr., sophomore incumbent starter Dylan Morris, and redshirt freshman Sam Huard. 

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“They all want it,” DeBoer said. “I don’t want them to press, I want them to enjoy it. I want them to push, be competitive, but I want them to go do what they do best and play their game.” 

DeBoer expressed the need to ensure the proper decision is made with optimal delicacy, while also acknowledging the benefits of naming a starter sooner rather than later. 

“When you have that clear starter going into fall camp, you do speed up the process,” Deboer said. “But we’re not at that point, we’re not in that situation and we need to do a good job of making sure we get the right guy out there.” 

Quarterback is just one of many positions oozing with competition as the regular season quickly approaches, including the running backs group which DeBoer admitted was an uncertain position in the spring. 

But DeBoer has a newfound confidence in the running backs entering fall camp, and embraces the competition that has been stoked. 

“I think we’ve upgraded a lot [at running back],” DeBoer said. “It’s obviously going to be a very competitive group, because there’s a lot of guys that want to step on the field.” 

While competition within the program is natural and healthy, rookie and veteran Huskies alike can rally around a common goal: rewriting the script after a dreadful 2021 campaign. 

“In the end, they’re not happy. They’re not proud of how they ended last year,” DeBoer said. “They feel like they can make it right this year.” 

With competitiveness, excitement, and team rapport at a high, the Huskies will continue their sprint through fall camp and toward the regular season. 

Practice Notes:

  • Transfer running backs Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon were seen in action for the first time at Washington. 
  • Michael Penix Jr. took first-team practice reps at quarterback, Dylan Morris took second-team reps. 
  • Sam Huard played with the scout team for a portion of practice. 
  • DeBoer views the offensive line as more solidified than it was in the spring, with the return of sixth-year left tackle Jaxson Kirkland. 
  • DeBoer mentioned ideally having a starting quarterback named for the final two weeks of the offseason in order to fit into the mold of a leader. 
  • Eddie Ulofoshio is expected to miss the first “half or more of the season,” per DeBoer. 

Reach Sports Editor Ethan Kilbreath at Twitter: @EthanArles

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