2 UW Football Position Battles That Stand Out Above the Rest – Sports Illustrated

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Wide receiver Rome Odunze is back, which means the University of Washington football team will need to replace eight starters this spring. Four on each side of the ball. 
Three potential replacements seem fairly straightforward by inserting a pair of players who are former Husky starters and one-time All-Pac-12 selections, plus a full-fledged Oklahoma State starter moving in.
That would be linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, Edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui and cornerback Jabbar Muhammad.
Add to that a 13-touchdown scorer at running back in Cam Davis, providing he can hold off Mississippi State transfer Dillon Johnson.
Two other positions seem to have leaders in the clubhouse at the UW offensive guards, where the leading candidates are Nate Kalepo and Geirean Hatchett. 
Kalepo was a starter for nearly a third of last season while Hatchett was used a lot and has been groomed for his job, much like fellow 2020 classmate Roger Rosengarten was cultivated for offensive tackle entering last season.
While anything can happen in finalizing a Husky lineup, we see just two spots shrouded in mystery, one on each side of the ball, if not one up front and one all the way back — center and strong safety. 
Two and a half months until the Huskies emerge from the weight room and reconvene with 30 days of spring ball, here's a look at what boils down to be the best position battle on offense and defense:
Top candidates: Matteo Mele, Landon Hatchett.
Other options: Parker Brailsford, Owen Prentice.
Comment: Typically, the Huskies look for a long-term solution for this position, with past centers Coleman Shelton, Nick Harris and Luke Wattenberg starting at least two seasons each. However, Corey Luciano, the most recent first-teamer, was one-and-done. In Mele and Hatchett, this is what the UW coaching staff is faced with: choosing another stop gap or settling for a franchise player. A sixth-year senior, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Mele certainly deserves a long look at this position. At the same time, he's held the No. 1 job just once over 56 games while in the program. All indications are the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Hatchett won't take long to get on the field, similar to Harris, who started on the as a freshman while Shelton and Wattenberg became line starters as redshirt freshmen. 
Winner: Hatchett. UW coach Kalen DeBoer already has said this kid is going to be 'a real animal" as an interior lineman. He's athletic, confident and physically developed. Mele could be as reliable at Luciano was. Hatchett stands to be better than reliable.
Strong Safety
Top candidates: Tristan Dunn, Julius Irvin.
Other options: Vince Nunley, Vincent Holmes.
Comment: The Husky coaching staff really struggled to keep from using Dunn too much; in fact, he played in five games, but he didn't get charged for a season of eligibility because the NCAA made the bowl game a free pass for everyone. At 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds, Dunn has huge size for a defensive back, plays physical and saw time with games on the line. Irvin, a sixth-year senior, is a ready option, too. He's played in 30 UW games and started six, two at safety and last fall four at cornerback before he was lost to a season-ending injury. His coaches were impressed by his ability to play corner on the fly, especially against Michigan State, when he had an interception and a pass break-up. He can play both.
Winner: Dunn. He seems to exude star quality and could become a long-term starter as a replacement for Alex Cook. He earned a chance to play with the outcome in doubt at Arizona State, in the Apple Cup against Washington State and in the Alamo Bowl against Texas. 
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