University of Washington

5 players to watch during Huskies fall camp

Rain is seen on the helmet of Ariel Ngata (52) during the Spring Game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
Rain is seen on the helmet of Ariel Ngata (52) during the Spring Game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Washington will open fall camp on Friday, beginning a month of preparation before the season opener against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31.

As the Huskies return to the field, here are five players — none of them named Jacob Eason — worth keeping an eye on. Some of them will be hoping to make an impact for the first time. Others will be attempting to take another step forward.

Cameron Williams, DB

Williams, a true freshman defensive back, earned high praise throughout spring practice from head coach Chris Petersen and defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake. During Pac-12 media day, Petersen reiterated how well Williams performed. Even from Williams’ earliest days with the team, Petersen said, Williams was prepared. He never seemed overwhelmed.

Still, the Huskies are loaded with talented defensive backs. It remains to be seen how much — if at all — Williams will see the field this season. That picture should become more clear over the course of fall camp.

Williams, who had at least a pair of interceptions during the spring, spent most of his time with the second-team defense but did see some time with the No. 1 safeties. But there were some players who weren’t on the field with UW this spring, including the next player to watch.

Julius Irvin, DB

Irvin was limited during spring practice with an injury. Assuming he’s healthy and will be back on the field for fall camp, he’ll be an important player to keep an eye on. Irvin played in four games last season and Lake continually praised both him and fellow redshirt freshmen Dominique Hampton and Kyler Gordon for their performances in practice.

The Huskies’ safety competition will be crowded as Irvin, Williams, Brandon McKinney and Alex Cook vie for a spot. Myles Bryant practiced at safety during the spring, too. So did Isaiah Gilchrist. It’s also worth keeping four-star freshman Asa Turner in mind.

Irvin, a four-star recruit considered the No. 12 safety in his class, has an opportunity to breakout during fall camp. He’s capable of playing multiple positions and is more than talented enough to earn a starting role.

Ariel Ngata, OLB

UW had just 24 sacks in 14 games last season and ranked 100th nationally in sacks per game (1.71). Of the areas where the Huskies need to improve, the pass rush might be the biggest.

If Ngata’s spring practice performance is any indication, he’ll play a key role in making that happen. One of the spring MVPs, Ngata, who practiced at both inside and outside linebacker, had two sacks during the scrimmage period of the spring preview.

Ngata’s speed makes him dangerous off the edge, and the Huskies will be looking for him to take another step forward after a promising redshirt freshman season and an even more promising spring.

Aaron Fuller, WR

Fuller is no secret.

UW’s leading returning receiver, he earned preseason All-Pac-12 honorable mention after catching 58 passes for 874 yards and four touchdowns last season. But he missed all of spring practice after undergoing what Petersen coined a minor procedure. He’s expected to be at full speed from the start of fall camp.

The Huskies need more from their wide receivers this season, and that will start with Fuller. He didn’t get to work with UW’s offense during spring practice, which means he wasn’t catching any passes from Jacob Eason and Jake Haener. Fuller will be one to watch for those connections alone.

Also worth noting: Petersen said Ty Jones and Quinten Pounds should also be back after missing spring practice. Jones spent most of the spring with a cast on his arm. While he’s been working on full speed, Petersen said he’s still getting his hand strength back. Pounds, recovering from a major knee surgery, likely won’t be at full speed for a few weeks.

Puka Nacua, WR

Speaking of wide receivers, here is another one that wasn’t on the field during the spring. Nacua, a four-star true freshman, was a big get for the Huskies in the Class of 2019. But he didn’t enroll early, so fall camp will provide the first glimpse of him working with the Huskies.

UW returns every wide receiver from last season and had a few — like Terrell Bynum and Marquis Spiker — stood out during spring practice. But Nacua is explosive enough and athletic enough to work his way into the rotation.

The Huskies didn’t get enough big yardage plays last season. That’s something both Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan discussed both during the season and after it. Nacua could be capable of changing that trend.

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