Fifteen spring football practices at the University of Washington brought out new faces, a few Husky high-stepping head cases (if you were to believe the defense) and the occasional player in weird places.
Fully qualified for the latter was Jacob Bandes.
Oh, he spent every session manning a defensive-tackle slot, trading shoves with peers or opposing blockers.
Yet in the final Saturday scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 305-pound redshirt freshman from Pittsburg, California, took on a new assignment for one play.
Not punt blocker or punt blocker.
Not punt snapper.
Bandes was asked to catch a towering boot.
All he had to do was settle under the hovering ball and haul it in.
It would be sort of like a fair catch, only this would be a difficult catch.
Everything depended on him pulling off this difficult endeavor, challenging at least for a big, bulky lineman.
True freshman offensive tackle Roger Rosengarten and Bandes were selected to represent each side of the ball and do something that bordered on being a football fish out of water.
Catch a punt.
The losing side would have to run lines to end practice.
Rosengarten, a tall, lanky blocker representing the entire offense, showed off his athleticism by camping under the ball and somehow snagging it to considerable laughter.
Bandes was next up.
If Rosengarten provided the opening monologue, Bandes presented the full comedy bit.
The defensive rep looked like he was in big trouble while tracking the rain-making punt. At the last minute, Bandes dove for the ball and pulled it in while losing his helmet, all in one motion.
His humorous clutch catch, minus the style points, saved his guys from running.
He forced a tie, leaving the coaches to run sideline-to-sideline lines while everyone else watched.
Going down the roster in numerical order, this is another of our post-spring assessments of all of the Husky talent at hand, gleaned from a month of observations, as a way to keep everyone engaged during the offseason.
Bandes wears No. 96, a jersey number that's been a good fit for a lot of people in different Husky situations over seasons past. Edge rusher Al Kravitz put it to good use during the Sixkiller era. So did the late wide receiver Harrison Wood going deep in the 1960s. Even strong safety Kyle Heinrich, son of All-American quarterback Don Heinrich, pulled on these high digits that proved unusual for a defensive back as he helped the Huskies advance to the 1978 Rose Bowl.
In Bandes, the UW has a 4-star player who was rated as high as the nation's No. 3 defensive-tackle recruit and chose the Huskies over then-national champion Clemson, Florida, Mississippi and others.
"It's really hard for a West Coast kid to get a lot of SEC offers from like a really far away conference school," he said at the time. "It doesn't appear that much unless you're a really good player. I'm not saying I'm good, but you have to be really good to get those offers."
During spring practice, Bandes assumed a backup role up front while pushing on starters Tuli Letuligasenoa and Taki Taimani for more time. He plays with a proper attitude.
In one drill, he wound up and gave sixth-year senior center Luke Wattenberg an overly physical shove, leaving Wattenberg seemingly speechless by the other guy's actions as he lost his balance and tumbled.
As hones his game and prepares himself for a bigger role, Bandes has made himself one of the stronger guys on the team. In the Husky combine, he came up with a 435-pound front squat, third among all of his teammates.
With his football pedigree and dedicated effort, Bandes stands a good chance to join the long line of decorated Husky defensive tackles who've worked their way into NFL careers in due time.
He has all the skills except maybe catching punts on a regular basis.
Bandes' 2021 Outlook: Projected backup defensive tackle
UW Service Time: Played in 6 games
Stats: 2 tackles
Individual Honors: Not yet
Pro prospects: 2024 NFL third-day draft pick
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