Notebook: Faatui Tuitele and the rest of the UW D-line face a formidable challenge against the State of Oregon
CORVALLIS, Oregon – On November 8, 2019, a true freshman named Faatui Tuitele did not play in Washington’s 19-7 road victory in Oregon State.
But a sound echoing off the walls inside Reser Stadium still seeped into his skin.
âThat chainsaw is the first thing I always remember about this stage, just hearing that chainsaw go off,â the third-year UW defensive lineman said Wednesday. “The environment and the fan base there are also great.”
In his last two games, Tuitele has made a splash by winning the first two sacks of his Husky career. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Honolulu won starting reps alongside Tuli Letuligasenoa and Sam “Taki” Taimani, sawing through the opposing offensive lines.
âI like the way he’s playing right now,â said UW head coach Jimmy Lake. âHe’s training to a high level so you know he’s going to excel when the lights come on on Saturday. He has a great look in his eyes during the pre-game warm-up. He’s locked in and focused. Faatui is definitely a player where you can see the growth and development every week and even year after year. He’s playing very good football for us right now.
Tuitele, Letuligasenoa, Taimani and Co. faced a formidable challenge on Saturday, against an attack from the state of Oregon which currently ranks first in the Pac-12 and seventh nationally for bags allowed ( 0.75 per game), while leading the conference in attacking rushing (225.75 yards per game) and yards per carry (5.75).
Washington’s defensive line failed a similar test at Michigan, giving up 343 rushing yards without scoring a sack.
But Tuitele insists he’s not the only one who keeps improving.
“We definitely learned from our first two games,” Tuitele said. âThose first two games were definitely not what we wanted and certainly not the way we wanted to play. But I think we bounced back really really well in the next two games. We held the State of Arkansas to within 50 yards on the ground and two good running backs within 100 yards for Cal. So I think we are taking the right steps in the right direction, but I know we can still improve for sure. “
Gordon’s NFL Actions
Following UW cornerback Kyler Gordon’s breakout game in the win over California – with 10 tackles and two interceptions, a tag team high – it’s fair to wonder what the stock will look like. Fourth-year NFL Draft next spring.
But if Gordon’s star continues to rise, don’t expect Lake to push for a fifth season in Seattle.
âWe don’t do that,â he said. âIf the information says he should go and he can’t improve his value, I tell them to go. Just like I said to Byron Murphy, Budda Baker, Taylor Rapp. I said ‘I would love to have you, but you have to go. You must go in pursuit of your dream. They say you’re going to be picked in the top 32. ‘
âSo with any of our players, if that information says he’s going to be in the top 32 or early in the secondâ¦ after talking to them and their families, if the information says they should leave, that’s what I will tell them, if the information indicates that they need to come back and improve their value, I will tell them as well.
UW Receptor Body Nearly Completed
Washington enjoyed the return of another wide receiver starting last weekend as sophomore rookie Rome Odunze recorded three catches for 56 yards on his 2021 debut.
“It’s another weapon in the arsenal that we can throw the ball at,” Lake said of Odunze, who missed UW’s first three games with injury. âHe’s fast, he’s our biggest receiver, he can jump, he’s competitive. You will see him improve further, I think, this week. He’s going to have even more opportunities to go do some big splash games. He adds another talent on the field that our opponent will have to worry about.
The same can be said of Terrell Bynum and Jalen McMillan, each having returned from injuries in recent weeks. Along with rookie Taj Davis in a red shirt, they are a plethora of enticing targets for Husky quarterback Dylan Morris.
âI told you guys I’m excited about this piece. I’m delighted we’re almost 100% healthy, âsaid Lake, although Ja’Lynn Polk remains out for the regular season. âI think they all add different things. The beautiful thing is that they are all fast. They are all quick and difficult to cover.
âWhat I really like is Junior Adams, our wide catcher coach, put a mentality in this room of tenacity and courage. I just love how competitive they are with each other. They all want football and they are all ready to go down that road to pave the way for the next guy. They want to make sure they keep working to be the best wide receiver in our conference. That’s their goal and that ‘ is what they are trying to do.
- On the injury side, UW cornerback Trent McDuffie – who didn’t play last week against Cal after injuring his ankle the week before – returned against Oregon State. But UW didn’t have their starting secondary as nickel-back Brendan Radley-Hiles – who left Cal’s game in the second half with an injury – was unavailable. And after entering the program’s COVID protocol, tight end Cade Otton missed his second game in a row. Tight end Jack Westover was also out for a second straight game.
- Second-year tight end Devin Culp – who started in Otton’s place against Cal – caught five assists, a team-high, for 81 yards a week after losing a sure touchdown in the 52 win UW -3 versus Arkansas State. â(It was a) huge confidence booster,â Lake said. âWe all know what Devin can do, and it’s unfortunate he’s had some glaring drops in the past two years. For him going out there and not having any drops and making some big catches, especially at the start of this game to start our attack and put our attack in rhythm and put some points on the board, was a huge boost no only for him but for our football team.
- The offense UW attempted to defend on Saturday is not the same as Jonathan Smith led in Washington or in his first three seasons at Oregon State. âIt has evolved in a very unique and very productive way,â Lake said. âYou also have to give (offensive coordinator Brian) Lindgren a lot of credit. They have a well-respected attacking staff, starting of course with Coach Smith. Their pattern has evolved. You can tell they added a lot of parts to it. They put their players in position to make plays and they added a lot of skill and a lot of quality players, at the catcher and runner level. Their tight ends are bigger now and older. You can see Smitty’s fingerprints everywhere. They want to lead the football, see the playing action, put their eyes in the wrong places and be able to give easy reads for the quarterback to look down. They are faster at wide receiver. This is a major offense which scores almost 45 points per game.
- Former UW wide receiver Trey Lowe left the program during the 2019 season, then resurfaced at Oregon State as a running back. The 5-foot-9, 191-pound player entered Saturday’s game with 121 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per carry and a touchdown in the Beavs’ first four games.