An Early Look At Utes’ 2023 Football Opponents: Washington Huskies
Jul 9, 2023, 3:48 PM
SALT LAKE CITY – The summer months are winding down as we begin wrapping up taking an early look at Utah football’s 2023 opponents in anticipation of the impeding season. This week we will focus on the Washington Huskies.
This week is likely a big one, not only for Utah and UW, but for the entire Pac-12 Conference as USC and Oregon will also face off in what many believe will be a weekend that determines who goes to the conference title game in December. The Utes will be on the road to Seattle after hosting Arizona State at home in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In 2021 Washington was in a very low spot and ultimately cut ties with head coach Jimmy Lake after a dismal 4-8 record despite having talent to work with. This beckoned in the Kalen DeBoer era for the Huskies and while improvement for the purple and gold didn’t seem too outlandish to think about in 2022, DeBoer and his crew outdid themselves with an 11-2 record. The biggest blemish for UW last season? Missing out on the Pac-12 Championship Game.
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The When And Where Of Utah Football Vs. Washington
When: Saturday, November 11
Where: Huskey Stadium, Seattle Washington
What We Know About The Huskies Heading Into 2023
Much like Utah, Oregon, and USC, the Huskies will be returning a lot of the same talent that got them an impressive 11-2 record the season before. DeBoer will also be more established in year two as the man in-charge and it’s not unreasonable to believe UW has a bad taste in their mouth not representing the Pac-12 in the Championship Game despite having one of the better records in the conference last season.
Outside of being in year two with DeBoer and his staff, Washington will also enjoy the return of one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Michael Penix Jr. Provided both are still healthy and able to go in mid-November, there is a lot to like about a Penix/Rising showdown with potential Pac-12 Championship aspirations on the line.
In fact, KSL’s own Jeremiah Jensen argued earlier in the offseason that people may be sleeping on the importance of this game against Washington and Utah and what it could mean for the final Pac-12 standings.
One team. One family. One Washington. pic.twitter.com/UEEBQ45QW6
— Washington Football (@UW_Football) June 21, 2023
Taking Inventory Of Key Players For UW
We already discussed the importance of Penix’s return for the Huskies, but who else will they be looking to in 2023 in an effort to bring a title home?
Offensively, Penix will have his top two receivers back in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan who both went for 1000 yards the year before. However, there is a bit of uncertainty at running back for Washington with top runner Wayne Taulapapa having moved on.
UW does have two other running backs with some experience returning in Cameron Davis and Richard Newton while also having hit the transfer portal for Dillon Johnson, formerly of Mississippi State and Daniyel Ngata who was at Arizona State.
It also appears Washington may have some questions at offensive line- particularly at the guard spots. UW will need to replace guards Jaxson Kirkland, Henry Bainivalu, and center Corey Luciano in 2023 who were responsible for keeping Penix clean the season before. The two tackle spots return their production from 2022 in Troy Fautanu and Roger Rosengarten.
The @UW_Football duo is back 🤝
These top #Pac12FB WRs will make it reign against their opponents this season.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) July 8, 2023
Defensively, there seems to be some confidence in the line’s ability to be good in 2023, but some questions about the linebackers behind them. Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Bralen Trice are expected to be a force off the line rushing the passer provided health is on their side.
Edefuan Ulofoshio is expected to be a big player for the linebackers (another case of if health cooperates for him) with USC transfer Ralen Goforth expected to battle it out with returners Alphonzo Tuputala and Carson Bruener for the other spot.
According to Athlon Sports, the biggest area the Huskies will look to improve upon from a season ago comes in the secondary. While Washington did rank third overall in defense last season in the Pac-12, their pass defense was suspect allowing 6 touchdown passes and 7.8 yards per attempt while only recording seven takeaways.
To address some departures and an overall need for improvement regardless, Washington hit the transfer portal and brought in Jabbar Muhammad from Oklahoma State and junior college transfer Thaddeus Dixon to give the defensive backfield a boost. The Huskies will also be hoping for some better health for some of their returning talent in Mishael Powell, and Julius Irvin.
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports
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