Long-Awaited Kirkland Return Expected Against Portland State

The University of Washington football team likely will use a lot of players on Saturday at Husky Stadium against Portland State, a four-touchdown underdog, things should get out of hand.

starters. backups Third teamers. First timers.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, two-time, first-team All-Pac-12 offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland — coming off ankle surgery, NCAA reinstatement and a one-game absence for his flirtation with the NFL draft — will make his season debut for the huskies

Should the 6-foot-7, 340-pound Kirkland start against the Big Sky Vikings, this will mark his 40th game-opening assignment, the most on the collegiate level by any current Husky at any combination of schools.

If he comes off the bench and plays, this will be a first for the sixth-year senior from Vancouver, Washington, who has started every game he’s played for the UW.

Either way, Kirkland’s return as one of the conference’s top players will give the Husky offense and new quarterback Michael Penix Jr. a decided emotional if not physical boost as everyone readies for the meat of schedule that shifts to Michigan State the following week and then the Pac-12.

Jaxson Kirkland is poised to return against Portland State.


Draft analysts previously projected Kirkland as a middle first-round pick before he got injured against Oregon State when he was blindsided while pass blocking. He played at no better than 60 percent after the mishap as the UW season fell apart.

Kirkland underwent surgery in the offseason and decided to pursue a pandemic allowance for a sixth season to try and regain his high draft status.

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It was more complicated than he expected, with the NCAA making him scramble for it after Kirkland had aligned himself with an agent and accepted some services.

Kirkland missed all of spring practice before being deemed eligible and watched most of fall camp while still in recovery.

Kirkland’s return against Portland State seems appropriate since he played his high school football in Portland.

If he returns to the starting lineup at left tackle against Portland State, the Huskies will need to reshuffle their offensive line from the opening week. Kirkland’s replacement at tackle, 6-foot-4, 312-pound sophomore Troy Fautanu, likely returns to left guard and replaces 6-foot-6, 316-pound sophomore Nate Kalepo, who made his first start against Kent State.

The rest of the starters should be the same in 6-foot-4, 294-pound senior Corey Luciano at center, 6-foot-7, 307-pound senior Henry Bainivalu at right guard and 6-foot-6, 303-pound redshirt freshman Roger Rosengarten at right tackle. Rosengarten graded out higher than any of his OL teammates in the season opener. If Luciano doesn’t start, he’ll be replaced by 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior Matteo Mele, who split time with him against Kent State.

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