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Pac-12 preview: ‘Team to beat’? Huskies should be a tough out in 2021

With a defense that is loaded and three quality QBs vying for starting duties, Pac-12 teams may not want to sleep on UW

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Washington quarterback Dylan Morris celebrates with tight end Cade Otton after an Otton touchdown reception against Utah.

Washington quarterback Dylan Morris (9) celebrates with tight end Cade Otton, right, after an Otton touchdown reception against Utah in the final minute of a game Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Seattle. Washington won 24-21. Otton, who is considered one of the best tight ends in the country, will be back for more in Seattle in 2021.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

Editor’s note: Eleventh in a series of stories examining the 12 football programs in the Pac-12.

Last November, Washington rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to beat Utah 24-21. The Huskies went on to win the Pac-12 North and clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

But due to COVID-19 cases within the program, Washington couldn’t play for the title.

In coach Jimmy Lake’s second season at the helm, the Huskies are expected to contend for a North Division title again. 

Washington signed the No. 1 quarterback in the class of 2021, Sam Huard, son of former UW star quarterback Damon. He’s battling Dylan Morris for the starting job. As a freshman in 2020, Morris threw for 900 yards. 

Colorado State transfer Patrick O’Brien is also in the mix for the starting QB job. 

Washington must replace star running back Myles Gaskin but it does return Sean McGrew, Kamari Pleasant and Richard Newton. The Huskies also boast one of the nation’s top tight ends in Cade Otton. 

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski left Seattle to take the DC job at Texas, now led by former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian

Lake promoted Bob Gregory as the new defensive coordinator and he’ll look to continue to build a defense that allowed 25 points per game. 

Linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui recorded seven sacks last season in four games. Freshman defensive tackle Voi Tunuufi, who hails from East High, is expected to make an early impact.

Word on the street

“Washington’s first season with former secondary coach and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake at the helm had its share of highs and lows. The Huskies finished the pandemic-shortened campaign with the best win percentage in the Pac-12 North, but COVID-19 protocols denied them both a rivalry matchup with Oregon and, more importantly, a shot at the conference title.

With that unfortunate turn looming over it, Washington has plenty of reason to play with a chip on its shoulder in 2021. That could be a serious problem for the rest of the Pac-12. The Huskies are loaded on defense and will continue to employ the physical brand of football that buoyed the program during Chris Petersen’s tenure. If the offense comes together, this might be the conference’s team to beat in 2021.”

— Kyle Kensing, writing for Athlon Sports

By the numbers

2020 record: 3-1 (3-1 Pac-12)

Returning starters: Offense: 7, defense: 8

Local ties

LB Jordan Lolohea (East HS)

LB MJ Tafisi (Alta HS)

DL Voi Tunuufi

DL Sam Taimani (East HS)

2021 schedule

Sept. 4 Montana

Sept. 11 @ Michigan

Sept. 18 Arkansas State

Sept. 25 California

Oct. 2 @ Oregon State

Oct. 16 UCLA

Oct. 22 @ Arizona

Oct. 30 @ Stanford

Nov. 6 Oregon

Nov. 13 Arizona State

Nov. 20 @ Colorado

Nov. 26 Washington State