So Who's the Next Starting Left Tackle for UW?

Dan Raley

With offensive tackle Trey Adams and tight end Hunter Bryant passing up the Vegas Bowl to maintain a clean bill of health for the NFL draft, the Huskies have to find some replacements in a hurry.

Most pressing, Washington needs a new left tackle to step in for Adams against Boise State on Dec. 21.

"Trey will be the first to tell you that his body isn't what it used to be," said Greg Lewis, former UW running back and a game-day radio analyst. "These are good decisions. I agree with them."

While the obvious move would be to elevate the next man up on the depth chart, backup left tackle Henry Roberts, the coaching staff might feel more inclined to do something other than  promote a loyal senior. Like look to the future.

Don't be surprised if the Huskies insert one of their starting offensive guards into that lead-blocking role: junior Luke Wattenberg or sophomore Jaxson Kirkland.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Wattenberg is a 31-game starter in his UW career, which includes five game-opening assignments at left tackle in 2016--as a replacement for an injured Adams.

Kirkland has been trending upward all season, winning the coaches' award as Huskies' Lineman of the Year, in the process besting All-Pac-12 center Nick Harris and the well-decorated Adams for this team honor. Kirkland also was named second-team all-conference by Pro Football Focus, signifying he has much higher regard as a college player now.

A 6-7, 315-pounder from Portland, Kirkland has a more of a natural frame to play left tackle. He's been the starting right guard as a redshirt freshman and as a sophomore, 25 games in all. He appears ready for any challenge. He could be the Huskies' next O-line standout if not the anchor.

"At 6-7, with his movement skills, I would say he's a tackle," NFL analyst Rob Rang said. 

As for Roberts, the knock against him is he has no more eligibility after the Vegas Bowl. The 6-6, 295-pounder from Bellevue has played in 22 Huskies games, starting just one against California in 2018--at left tackle. This season, the Huskies often ran behind Roberts on goal-line plunges. Yet again, the Vegas Bowl will be his final outing for the UW.

Senior Jared Hilbers, currently the starter at right tackle, could be another option, as well. He has 11 career starts at left tackle, filling in for Adams. 

In the attached video following the Apple Cup, you can see the effect Adams had on his fellow UW offensive linemen, running the show, if just for a photo. But he's done playing his college ball. 

Tight end is not nearly as uncertain for the Boise State game because the Huskies generally use two at a time and have a long list of candidates in the wings.

Sophomore co-starter Cade Otton appears ready to assume more of a leadership role, if he hasn't done so already. Promising redshirt freshman Jack Westover has played in every game this season, to the point he caught a touchdown pass at Arizona and frequently lined up in the backfield on short-yardage blocking situations . 

Other available tight ends are junior Jacob Kizer and redshirt freshman Devin Culp. Kizer, who's played in 32 UW games and started three, missed half of this season with an undisclosed injury but he's back. He has 3 career receptions. Culp was targeted a few times but he's still awaiting his first college catch.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

I say look to the future. It’s too bad Roberts never reached his high expectations. He’s been a good, loyal Dawg.

SI Mike Martin
SI Mike Martin

He's been solid and has played many positions. I think he'll get a UDFA, at least, when all is said and done.