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3 Players on Verge of a Husky Breakthrough But Not There Yet

One of the hardest things for the UW coaching staff is to keep great players from getting impatient.
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The cool football promo below shows Jacobe Covington running on to the field at Husky Stadium and disappearing into thick purple smoke, sirens blaring for Wednesday's scrimmage. 

The teaser question: Are you ready for Husky football?

With the season opener nine days away, Covington's answer would be an emphatic yes. However, the University of Washington coaching staff isn't quite ready to commit to him. 

No reflection on his ability at all. In fact, coach Jimmy Lake has stressed over and over that the 6-foot-2, 195-pound cornerback from Chandler, Arizona, has the size and speed to be another in the long line of exemplary defensive backs in Montlake. To play a lot and excel. 

Yet depth-chart circumstances have Covington still waiting in the wings, sort of like a snorting bucking bronco trying to kick the gate open and run around the rodeo infield, but going nowhere until someone decides to unhook the latch.

Covington is not alone. We have three very highly regarded UW football players seemingly ready to pull first-unit assignments who, providing others stay healthy, won't get their golden opportunity just yet. 

We'll see them on the field, though not in a featured role just yet. But their time is coming.

Jacobe Covington

Still just a true freshman in class standing because of pandemic eligibility allowances, Covington pencils in as a three-year Husky starter — beginning next season. Sophomores Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon are ahead of him, though McDuffie sat out Wednesday's closed scrimmage with some sort of health issue. With one hand encased in a cast, Covington earlier this fall made a dazzling interception with the other, showing off his skill set. Lake says he needs to play faster, which means he needs to better recognize what's being thrown at him. Bottom line, once he enters the starting lineup, he's not coming out. McDuffie will in the NFL next season, giving Covington his big chance. Projected starter: 2022 opener against Kent State

Sav'ell Smalls

This former 5-star recruit from Seattle, also deemed still a true freshman by the NCAA, started once at edge rusher and appeared in all four pandemic-season games in 2020, and he's been in the middle of the competition for Zion Tupuola-Fetui's vacant starting job while the latter recovers from his Achilles tendon injury. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Smalls easily could be the first-teamer opposite Ryan Bowman in a week's time against Montana, yet the most recent fall-practice rotations seemed to indicate that redshirt freshman Bralen Trice has all but won the job. It's one future NFL player against another. They could rotate as the starter all season. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Trice, however, seems to be the first man up. Projected starter: Midseason 2021

Mark Redman

Redman, still another true freshman because of the pandemic, burst on to the scene and played in four games in 2020. He was physically gifted and mature enough to contribute right away. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he's put on plenty of weight and strength over the offseason. Yet why does it seem like he's regressed a bit? Redman finds himself battling against All-America candidate Cade Otton and a pair of older guys, Devin Culp and Jack Westover, who have significantly raised the bar on their games. While Otton seems to be Dylan Morris' No. 1 receiving option, freshman quarterback Sam Huard goes to Culp more than anyone else. Westover is everybody's secret weapon. Redman is too good not to get on the field, but he needs Otton to graduate before he can entertain thoughts of starting. Next fall's competition, which will include another Otton (Ryan), should be loads of fun. Projected starter: 2022 opener against Kent State

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