Cooper McDonald, who's from Texas, put up a meaty hand against Arizona and nearly intercepted a pass for Washington, knocking it down. Leaving the field, this transcontinental true freshman outside linebacker acted like he belonged just about anywhere.
Jimmy Lake took note of the newcomer's confident play in the heat of the battle, finding confirmation in this for why he and his coaching staff recruited this kid from the Dallas metroplex.
"He came to the sideline and you could just tell from his demeanor that this game is not too big for him," the Husky coach said. "As a true freshman, as soon as I saw his demeanor after that play, I knew we had a good player on our hands."
McDonald appeared in three of the Huskies' four games last season and will help solidify a position area in constant flux since he arrived on campus.
First, junior linebacker Joe Tryon opted out because of the pandemic, choosing to prepare for the NFL draft, which proved to be a wise decision on his part when he went in the first round to the Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Laiatu Latu, a sophomore, next missed all of last season with a neck injury that would prove to be a career-ending malady.
Finally, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Latu's replacement and another sophomore, ruptured his Achilles heel during spring practice and likely will miss the upcoming season.
The sturdy, yearling McDonald remains a strong candidate to earn a starting job, even as he repeats his true freshman season by using the NCAA's eligibility freebie granted because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I'm really excited about Coop because he's out there making plays," Lake said.
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.
McDonald wears No. 41, a number he has all to himself on this team and it fits him snugly. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, and one of the UW's strongest players in the front squat, he's physically shown himself ready to handle anything thrown at him. Just look at the featured photo of him here in the weight room to see his determination.
He arrived in the Northwest from Haslet, a suburban community located west of Dallas and north of Fort Worth, as a 3-star recruit. He basically chose the Huskies over Baylor and Utah.
Throughout the recent spring football drills, McDonald moved on and off the field with the body language of a battle-tested upperclassman. He came up with a pair of tackles in the spring game.
For the right to start opposite sixth-year senior Ryan Bowman, he'll compete with Jeremiah Martin, Bralen Trice, Jordan Lolohea and Sav'ell Smalls for the other spot. He expects nothing less.
No, the game is not too big for McDonald.
McDonald's 2021 Outlook: Outside linebacker starting candidate
UW Service Time: Played in 3 games
Stats: 2 tackles, 1 pass defend
Individual Honors: Not yet
Pro prospects: 2025 NFL second-day draft pick
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