Kalen DeBoer and his University of Washington football coaching staff aren’t afraid to try something new or continually shake things up with their inherited personnel.
On Friday night at the Rose Bowl, they took a two-time, first-team, All-Pac-12 left offensive tackle in Jaxson Kirkland and made him a left guard. That doesn’t happen very often. Not someone so decorated at a particular position.
In facing UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 340-pound senior from Vancouver, Washington, flip-flopped positions with sophomore Troy Fautanu, who had started in both roles on the left side this season and intermittently last year.
“We just feel like Jaxson can be a great, great guard,” DeBoer said. “You can see how powerful he is.”
When the new coaches took over, they weren’t reluctant at all to move players around. They made starting offensive guard Ulumoo Ale a well-used defensive tackle. They turned safety Julius Irvin into a cornerback mid-game against Kent State. They made edge rusher Zion Tupola-Fetui a back-up player, always tinkering with their manpower and pushing ahead with tough decisions.
Kirkland began his UW career as a right guard, starting all 14 games as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and 11 more games the following season before he got hurt at Colorado.
He made the switch to left tackle during the pandemic-limited 2020 season and opened all four games, played that role again last year while fighting off an ankle injury and started 10 times, and he drew yet another left-tackle start a week ago against Stanford, giving him 15 in all.
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Now taking on his third position, Kirkland has 41 overall starts, the most of any Husky player.
What’s really unclear was if this move was made to accommodate Kirkland or Fautanu, the latter a rising star on the offensive line. The younger player opened the first three games at left tackle before Kirkland made his season debut after recovering from ankle surgery and Fautanu played at left guard against Stanford.
“We have the luxury with Troy to be able to play Jaxson wherever we feel he will give us that extra bit,” DeBoer said. “Tonight, we thought that was pretty good with the matchups inside.”
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