Washington Football: A chat with Christian Caple

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Athletic is probably the biggest up and coming source for online journalism, and we got a chance to sit down with the Washington football beat writer, formerly of The News Tribune in Tacoma, Christian Caple!

After the commitment of Mark Redman, excluding Sav’ell Smalls (because he’s on a whole different level of important) who are the top 5 must-have recruits on the 2020 cycle for Washington football?

In no particular order, these are the five that come to mind, behind Smalls:

4-star Ferndale (Wash.) High OG Geirean Hatchett: Washington is joined in Hatchett’s top five by Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford. A professional handicapper would likely install UW as the favorite to land him, given Ferndale’s proximity to Seattle and the amount of time Hatchett has spent on UW’s campus.

4-star Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic RB Sam Adams II: The son of the former NFL defensive tackle by the same name, Adams is another local prospect with offers from all over the country. He’s also the kind of playmaker the Huskies could really use at running back, and one of several important in-state targets in 2020.

5-star Calabasas (Calif.) High WR Johnny Wilson: The Huskies made the top five for the composite national top-30 prospect — who, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, would obviously add an element of size and skill that doesn’t currently exist on UW’s roster.

4-star Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial WR Jalen McMillan: Like Wilson, McMillan is a coveted California receiver prospect with offers from some of college football’s most storied programs. He has UW in his top-10. Signing one or the other should be considered a victory for new receivers coach Junior Adams. Signing two of California’s three highest-rated receivers in the same class would be a major coup.

5-star Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro CB Kelee Ringo: He would be Jimmy Lake’s biggest get yet, and is proving just how athletic he truly is with some impressive showings this track season. He’s semi-local, too, having attended Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep for a year before moving to Arizona. But the Huskies are battling every major program in the country for him, including Texas, which seems to be making a strong impression.

And just for kicks, here is a sixth: 4-star Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic DB Ayden Hector: Jimmy Lake has mostly gone out of state to find UW’s next generation of DBs, with Kyler Gordon the only in-state signee in the last three classes. Hector could be the next. He has ties to USC — his dad played there in the early 1990s — but my guess is that UW’s recent success, particularly when it comes to putting DBs in the NFL, will give Hector ample reason to consider the Huskies.

If you had to put a number on it, what would you consider realistic expectations for Jacob Eason this season? What about the best/worst case scenarios?

Realistically, Eason gives them a chance to be more explosive and dynamic, considering the wide range of throws he is able to make. But there is a lot more to playing quarterback than just standing in the pocket and slinging the ball. Chris Petersen and Bush Hamdan want a quarterback who will get the team into the right plays, pre-snap, and make smart decisions with the ball and limit turnovers. All that said: if he stays healthy and starts every game, etc., I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to throw for 3,000-plus yards, with 25 or so touchdowns. He had a 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio as a true freshman at Georgia, so it’s probably fair to expect a ratio at least in that neighborhood, if not a little better. Best-case scenario: he seizes the starting job in the fall, shows clear understanding of the offense from game one, runs the offense like a veteran and helps UW improve upon its explosiveness and effectiveness in the red zone. Worst case: he struggles with decision-making and turns the ball over too much. But, as always, there are many additional factors (such as o-line and receiver play, playcalling, etc.) that will dictate the success of the quarterback.

Who are you looking forward to watching most on the defensive side of the ball this year and why?

I’m interested to see what Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor can do as full-time starters (whether that means Molden plays corner, nickel or safety). They were really solid as the sixth and seventh DBs on last year’s team, and could be all-conference caliber players as juniors.

Who do you think will lead the team in touchdown receptions this season?

Hunter Bryant. The reliability of UW’s receivers will be one of the major storylines going into the season, but their best pass-catcher right now is a tight end. And now that he’s fully healthy, Bryant should be one of the team’s most important offensive weapons, especially in the red zone.

If everything goes right this season, what do you see as the ceiling for this team?

Hmm. If we’re assuming “everything goes right,” then I guess there’s no reason to think the Huskies can’t win every game on their schedule. I wouldn’t predict that to happen — I think they will compete for the conference title while also experiencing some growing pains — but their schedule sets up pretty favorably, with a trip to Stanford serving as their toughest road test, and home games against Oregon, Utah, USC and Washington State. I think it’s fair to believe this team can win 10 games again, and it wouldn’t shock me if they end up the betting favorite in nearly every game.

Out of all the true freshman, who do you think will be the first one to see the field and why?

Based on what we’ve seen so far in spring, I’d say safety Cameron Williams. He really seems to be picking things up quickly, he plays fast, and he’s getting all of the second-team safety reps alongside Alex Cook. More competition will arrive in the fall (namely Asa Turner), but Williams certainly has put himself on a fast track to early playing time.

Who do you think will lead the team in carries by the end of the season?

Assuming everyone stays healthy, etc., I don’t see why it wouldn’t be Salvon Ahmed, though my guess is that running backs coach Keith Bhonapha will divide carries a little more evenly now that Myles Gaskin is gone.