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Penix Is Back in the Fold, But What About Others With UW Eligibility Left?

Seven Husky undergrads likely have decisions to make on whether to return.
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Working behind the scenes, Michael Penix Jr. apparently re-upped the lease on his rental unit, registered for Winter Quarter classes and purchased some serious rain gear, all without anyone knowing this.

As he announced on Sunday night at his team banquet, this talented University of Washington quarterback by way of Indiana and Tampa, Florida, isn't leaving town just yet, in fact not for another year.

He just can't pull himself away from Husky football and the chance to do something special, from making a concentrated run at the Heisman Trophy that won't be ignored, from a feel-good situation that totally consumes him. Penix, indeed, is that rare bird of a college football player.

With the rest of the FBS in a transient upheaval, with well over 1,000 players now in the transfer portal and plenty of others declaring early for the NFL draft, Penix isn't going anywhere until he's played six college seasons, with the last two in Montlake.

Which brings us to the rest of his UW teammates who have NFL potential and one or more years of college eligibility remaining in Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Devin Culp, Bralen Trice, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Edefuan Ulofoshio and Tuli Letuligasenoa, all undergrads all faced with their own decisions to make.

Pettis' decision certainly will make each of these seven players pause and consider whether to join him or not for yet another high-powered, fun-filled season, but who's to say what they'll do. Here's a synopsis of each of these Huskies and the options before them:

Rome Odunze 

This 6-foot-3, 201-pound sophomore is in his third year with the UW football team and he's enjoying a highly producitve season with 70 catches for 1,088 yards and 7 touchdowns. His size and exceptional hands could make him a middle first-round draft pick in some minds. Of all of his teammates, he stands as the Husky most likely to declare for the draft. "I'm right down the middle, just thinking about all the factors," said Odunze in one radio spot, before adding in another one that the Penix decision might bring him back.

Jalen McMillan

Two inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Odunze, McMillan has shown himself to be an adept possession receiver in his third Husky season. Entering the Alamo Bowl, he has 71 catches for 1,040 yards and 8 touchdowns. If he declares for the draft, he's probably a middle-round selection. He doesn't rate as high with the NFL as Odunze does and he got snubbed in the All-Pac-12 selections, relegated to honorable mention. While he could win people over at the combine, he might just have to return and up his stock. 

Devin Culp

A fifth-year junior, Culp has NFL tight-end size at 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, has become a reliable blocker and has shown high-level athleticism with game-day plays that include leaping over defender in the open field and making a one-handed catch. Yet he sometimes has trouble with drops. For all of his positive attributes, that drawback might require that he come back for a sixth season just to prove he can be more sure-handed. Yet he's undecided. "I've been thinking about it," Culp said. "Obviously, I'm a fifth year, as well. ... You know, we're playing a lot of ball and been in the program for a long time."

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Bralen Trice

The 6-foot-4, 259-pound sophomore is in his fourth college season and arguably has made himself the Huskies' top defensive player and a star in the making. He was named first-team All-Pac-12 after collecting 33 tackles, 11 of which were tackles for loss and 8 that went for sacks. He could become the highest-drafted player on this team, but that wouldn't surprise anyone. Wasn't it former UW edge-rusher coach Ikaika Malloe who said Trice would be better than Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who was a first-round draft pick and now a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It's still possible.

Zion Tupuola-Fetui

Two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, ZTF looked ready for the NFL after terrorizing everyone in four Husky games. Since then, he's ruptured an Achilles tendon and had surgery, cut weight from 280 to as low as 240 and played at 249 this season as he come off the bench rather than start. He's still effective, but as a passing-down specialist, with 27 tackles, 5.5 for TFLs and 4.5 for sacks. He probably needs to return for a sixth UW season, put weight back and show he's an every-down player so he can earn a decent draft slot. At midseason, he seemed to indicate anything was possible: a UW return or an NFL jump. "If I want it, we'll see how it goes," said ZTF, who wasn't prepared for a reserve role. "You guys all know that wasn't the plan coming into the year. We'll see how it goes."

Edefuan Ulofoshio

Ulofoshio is in a similar position as ZTF, with the linebacker likely needing a sixth Husky season to show that's he back as a playmaker coming arm and knee injuries that required surgery. He's appeared in just four games for this team this fall after missing 14 consecutive UW outings over two seasons. Yet the clock is ticking on him for reasons other than football. He's a pre-med student who wants to be a doctor some day. "We're definitely [considering] those things," Ulofoshio said of his football future. "We'll see. .. I've been in college a long time." 

Tuli Letuligasenoa 

On a defense that's been porous at times, the 6-foot-1, 307-pound Letuligasenoa has had productive season up front for the Huskies. He's a gap-filler and immovable at times, collecting 30 tackles, including 4.5 TFLs and 4 pass deflections. He easily could declare for the draft. "If that's what it says, I have this and next year," he said. "I'm not really thinking about that. That's kind of later on down the road."

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