Spring games — with limited rosters and the team split in two — inevitably allow a platform for walk-ons to shine.
And a good bet to take advantage of the situation tomorrow when the Huskies hold their Friday Night Lights contest is sophomore receiver William Chandler of Skyline High.
As detailed in this entry last week, Chandler has been one of the surprises of the spring, rising to as high as being the No. 4 overall receiver due to his solid play and injuries to some of the scholarship guys.
It’s a heady climb for a player who a year ago wasn’t even sure he would be playing football now.
Chandler was the lesser-known of the big three receivers at Skyline in 2008, where he played alongside Gino Simone (now at WSU) and Kasen Williams, catching 25 passes with five TDs as a senior, where the QB was Jake Heaps.
He didn’t have any scholarship offers other than from lower-division schools and planned to attend Washington solely as a student until being told shortly before camp that he had a spot as a walk-on.
“I would have missed football a lot,” he said. “But I didn’t really want to go down to a D-3 school that wasn’t quite the caliber of school UW is because academics were important to me, too.” (He said he’s likely to major in business or construction management).
He said he got the word from offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier a couple of weeks before camp” that he could walk-on.
“I decided to come out, give it a try and have some fun playing football,” Chandler said.
So far, he’s done more than that, impressing coaches with his hard work and knowledge of the playbook, and ability to make plays when he’s had opportunities.
“I worked really hard and the coaches have done a great job of getting me ready when a couple of guys got hurt and I got a chance to play,” said the 6-foot, 180-pounder. “I studied my playbook so I would know what I’m doing so I could execute when I got the chance to play. I didn’t think I would be playing as much as I am right now, but it’s not too much of a shock because I’ve worked really hard, I think.”
As for playing with such highly-touted players at Skyline, Chandler thinks it was a blessing.
“I think it gave me an opportunity because there were coaches who were watching them, so if I could make some plays too, they would notice me,” he said. “They took a lot of the spotlight, but I just went out there and did my best and tried to make plays and let things happen, and it’s worked out so far.”
With two new scholarship receivers arriving in the fall — Kevin Smith and DiAndre Campbell — competition for playing time will only stiffen.
Chandler says he understands.
“If I’m on the Scout Team, that’s fine,” he said. “As long as I can help the team out.”