ZTF Out with Ruptured Achilles, May Miss Upcoming Season

The first-team All-Pac-12 outside linebacker will have surgery this week.

ZTF is no longer MIA.

He's out of action, or OOA.

Unfortunately, the player with the most endearing acronym for the University of Washington football team, starting outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, has been lost with a ruptured Achilles heel and will undergo surgery this week, coach Jimmy Lake said Wednesday.

One of the Huskies' leading talents, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Tupuola-Fetui faces a 6- to 10-month recovery and will miss part or all of next season.

Also, reserve junior offensive guard Will Pliska suffered a broken ankle and will be out at least six months, the coach said. 

Lake tried to be overly hopeful about regaining the services of ZTF, a marquee player who burst onto the scene as disruptive player last November and December, and earned first-team All-Pac-12 and third-team AP All-America honors.

"He's got a smile on his face and he said he's going to be back at some point in the 2021 season, and I believe he will with the way he's going to attack rehab," Lake said. 

Last Friday, ZTF came off the field limping badly on one foot from a non-contact drill and nearly knocked over a training table trying to land on it. After a brief exam by a trainer, he was taken off the field on a cart.

The junior from Pearl City, Hawaii, got his chance to play last season when Laiatu Latu suffered a career-ending neck injury and he made the most of it with 7 sacks in his four games, plus 3 forced fumbles, all nationally ranked numbers when averaged per game.

This spring, ZTF had been his usual high-energy self, showing up with bright orange hair and caught bouncing around practice like a bobblehead at times.

To replace him, the Huskies will turn to either redshirt freshman Sav'ell Smalls, who started one game last season; senior Jeremiah Martin, a transfer from Texas A&M who has made a good impression so far, or redshirt freshman Cooper McDonald, who played as a reserve last fall and expected to be a starter at some point.

"We have really quality players at that position and it's their time to take that opportunity and run with it," Lake said. "We'll see who those names are going to be."

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