Husky Roster Review: Coutts Swaps Positions, Has Chance to Advance

The former walk-on wide receiver was urged to move to tight end in the spring.
Owen Coutts made the switch from wide receiver to tight end in spring ball.
Owen Coutts made the switch from wide receiver to tight end in spring ball. / Skylar Lin Visuals

Owen Coutts answers to those same five words that so aptly describe University of Washington football teammate Zach Durfee, with the latter player said to be a standout Big Ten edge rusher in the making because of it.

Big guy who can run.

Durfee has used his exemplary foot speed to go from Minnesota high school quarterback to Division II college tight end to supposedly a strong Husky defensive presence, still waiting to be fully unveiled on Saturdays.

Coutts?

For the fifth of 15 spring football practices, Jedd Fisch's coaching staff moved Coutts from wide receiver to tight end, this after the non-scholarship athlete had played some quarterback and cornerback for Seattle's Ballard High School a long time ago.

Big guy who can run.

Owen Coutts makes a sensational catch to finish up spring ball in 2023.
Owen Coutts makes a sensational catch to finish up spring ball in 2023. / Skylar Lin Visuals

This is one in a series of articles -- going from 0 to 99 on the Husky roster -- examining what each scholarship player and leading walk-on did this past spring and what to expect from them going forward.

After opening spring ball, the new coaching staff took a long, hard look at Coutts and saw a possible scholarship tight end, not a walk-on wideout, even with his 4.5-second speed over 40 yards. The new guys in charge pulled him aside and told the local player if he put a bunch of weight on his extended frame and took to this new position, they'd give him every chance to get on the field on game days and get paid for doing it.

Today, Coutts is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior, up 13 pounds since he made the position switch, highly motivated to make things happen.

"With his ability to run, we're very, very excited to see how he continues to grow," UW tight-ends coach Jordan Paopao said. "Obviously, for a big body with his natural pass-catching ability, it was too much mass for him not to be able to showcase his skill set and what he can do as a red-zone target and threat, and continue to get better. It's been very cool to see."

The pace stepped up for Coutts in a big way as he bounced between the No. 2 and 3 offensive rotations. In the sixth practice, he ran along the back of the end zone and made a difficult scoring catch of a ball thrown by quarterback Will Rogers, bringing all of the offensive players streaming onto the field to celebrate.

As spring ball wound down, he looked a little frustrated at times, in particular when a ball deflected off his hands and into those of wide receiver Keith Reynolds on a play that had the pass-catchers doing a crossing pattern and looked choreographed, like some sort of Statue of Liberty maneuver, yet was just a muff.

Moments later that same day, Coutts got behind the UW secondary and high-pointed a ball in a full sprint covering 40 yards to demonstrate the good things that he can do, especially that one trait in particular.

Big guy who can run.

Owens Coutts gets poked by a coach in a drill meant to enhance concentration on the catch.
Owens Coutts gets poked by a coach in a drill meant to enhance concentration on the catch. / Skylar Lin Visuals

OWEN COUTTS FILE

What he's done: Coutts didn't appear in a UW game over his first two seasons in Kalen DeBoer's program. In fact, he hasn't played in a regulation football game since 2017 when he was a sophomore at Ballard High -- he temporarily gave up the sport and focused on track after some sort of disagreement with the Beavers football coach. He had a moment of glory in the 2023 UW spring game by bringing it to a close with a sensational 30-yard touchdown catch as shown in the photo above.

Starter or not: Coutts first needs to get on the field before he can entertain any thoughts of grandeur. That would be a huge accomplishment for him. He's in a position group that is adding four scholarship tight ends by next season. It'll be tough for him, but he's got the physical capability to play on Saturdays, namely size and speed.

For the latest UW football and basketball news, go to si.com/college/washington


Published
Dan Raley

DAN RALEY

Dan Raley has worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, as well as for MSN.com and Boeing, the latter as a global aerospace writer. His sportswriting career spans four decades and he's covered University of Washington football and basketball during much of that time. In a working capacity, he's been to the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the MLB playoffs, the Masters, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and countless Final Fours and bowl games.