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Watkins has a big lead in his UW career

Watkins has a big lead in his UW career

Watkins has a big lead in his UW career

Sometimes you forget who you’re dealing with when these guys walk into Husky Stadium with their 300-pound bodies, start smashing helmets with sixth-year seniors like Jacob Bandes and Alphonzo Tuputala, and do their best to suit the process.

Take Michael Levelle Watkins, for example. A freshman from Glendale, Ariz., joined the University of Washington football team for spring practice, drew No. 55 on offense and took most of the snaps as the No. 1 offensive guard over the next month.

He was only 17 years old.

Watkins had to act like it was business as usual that he was actually the first man to fill in for Julius Buelow on the Huskies’ national runner-up team. The idea is that he will handle that responsibility at least until fall camp, when reinforcements arrive or the remaining veterans become healthy and cleared to play again.

While his classmates at Apollo High School were enjoying spring break or making plans for prom, Watkins was studying the game in a crash course under UW offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Brennan Carroll.

For five weeks, he learned the proper technique to form a pocket around Mississippi State transfer quarterback Will Rogers and open holes for the Husky running backs, which included Adam Mohammed, his teammate Apollo and a freshman classmate

Talk about a college startup program.

Michael Watkins grabs Kahlee Tafai's shirt.

Michael Watkins grabs Kahlee Tafai’s shirt. / Skylar Lin Visuals

This is one of a series of articles — going from 0 to 99 on the Husky roster — examining what each scholarship player and leadoff hitter did last spring and what to expect from them going forward.

Watkins appeared to be holding up well this spring, though he was spotted after a practice on a stationary bike in a vigorous standing manner with a trainer or coach sitting by his side monitoring his progress, presumably because he liked that he was wearing little bit. too much excess weight on his 6-foot-2, 315-pound frame.

As this extremely young player, he was given the chance of a football lifetime to run with the first-team Husky offense for five weeks, which should accelerate his development with Fisch’s football team.

Four weeks after the spring football game, after 15 spring practices, Watkins crossed another milestone — on May 31, he celebrated his 18th birthday.

Michael Watkins grabs a drink during the UW Spring Ball.

Michael Watkins grabs a drink during the UW Spring Ball. / Skylar Lin Visuals

MICHAEL WATKINS FILE

What did he do: Watkins originally signed with Arizona when Fisch was there, but entered the transfer window on Feb. 8, or three weeks after the coach left for UW, and committed to the Huskies on Feb. 29. He has 15 varsity practices. His big offseason challenge will be to get in much better shape for the rigors of college football.

Starter or not: After being thrown into the football fire at such a young age, there’s no reason Watkins can’t strengthen his body and become a starting contender by 2025 or beyond. In the meantime, he should work on finding the right weight and just get on the field whenever he can this fall.

For the latest UW football and basketball news, go to si.com/college/washington