We’ll continue our look at Washington’s roster heading into spring ball with an examination of another position that should be a strong suit for the Huskies this year — receiver.
The Huskies will lose only D’Andre Goodwin of the six receivers who caught passes in 2010, will return All-Pac-10 second-teamer Jermaine Kearse among others, and will welcome highly-touted recruit Kasen Williams in the fall. (That’s Kearse pictured above catching the winning TD in the Apple Cup in a Dean Rutz photo).
While UW may not know for months who its quarterback will be, there is no question that QB will have a lot of help at the receiver spot.
First, a look at a projected spring depth chart.
PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Devin Aguilar, 6-0, 188, Sr.
Kevin Smith, 6-0, 197, So.
DiAndre Campbell, 6-1, 182, RFr.
Jermaine Kearse, 6-2, 205, Sr.
Cody Bruns, 5-11, 177, Sr.
Luther Leonard, 6-2, 195, Jr.
James Johnson, 6-0, 201, Jr.
William Chandler, 6-0, 184, Jr.
NEWCOMERS ARRIVING IN THE FALL
Marvin Hall, 5-10, 168, Fr.
Jamaal Jones, 6-2, 180, Fr.
Joshua Perkins, 6-4, 198, Fr.
Kasen Williams, 6-2, 210, Fr.
(A quick note on the positions above — UW simply lists three WR spots on its depth chart, so that’s what I did here. However, obviously not all WR positions are the same, with the X, Y and slot positions all calling for different responsibilities based on the play. Kearse and Aguilar tend to play more on the outside. The spot is the slot, where Goodwin was the primary starter last year. However, the Huskies mix-and-match pretty liberally, and all WRs are generally required to know all of the spots. Exactly who is where will become clearer in the spring).
To state the obvious, UW’s receiving corps will look a little different in the fall — after Williams and the other frosh arrive — than it will in the spring. Williams will almost certainly make an impact next season and Perkins and Hall also have attributes (size for Perkins, speed for Hall) that could get them on the field immediately, as well (and not discounting Jones, but it’s simply harder to get a read on him since he didn’t play last season due to an injury).
But even just what UW will have on hand in the spring would be enough to make the Huskies one of the better receiving corps in the conference.
Kearse is likely to get some pre-season All-Conference mention after catching 63 passes last year, the most for any Husky receiver since Reggie Williams in 2003 and sixth-most in Husky history.
He now has 133 career receptions, also sixth-most in UW history, and is 29 away from moving into second (however, he’ll likely stay there as Williams’ 243 receptions seems out of reach).
Kearse, however, could break the school’s all-time TD receiving record as he has 22, already tied with Williams for second behind Mario Bailey’s 30.
As the Nebraska games showed, Kearse has some areas where he can improve, specifically in dealing with physical coverage at the line of scrimmage. And he also needs to become more consistent catching the ball. But in the big picture, he’ll go into the season as one of the top few receivers in the Pac-12 next season.
Aguilar is a more-than-able second option with 90 receptions in his career, likely to break into the top 10 in UW history with a solid senior season. He was limited to 28 last year after missing two entire games and parts of a few others with a hip injury at mid-season. Aguilar averaged 12.6 yards per catch last season to Kearse’s 16.1, indicative of their differing roles in the offense.
Goodwin had 44 catches largely out of the slot last year, regaining his spot when Johnson fell victim to an early-season ankle injury. Johnson was healthy by the end of the season but simply struggled by that point to get back into the rotation. It’s also worth nothing that the rotation shrunk as the season went on with the coaches preferring to give the plays almost exclusively to the top three or four receivers. Also, there were fewer chances to go around for all the WRs the last quarter of the season as the Huskies went with more tight sets in featuring the running game.
Consider that Kearse, Goodwin and Aguilar had 135 receptions last season, the rest of the team just 69 (and 38 of those from RBs Chris Polk and Jesse Callier).
If Johnson is again healthy and returns to his 2009 form, when he caught 39 passes, he’s an obvious candidate to become the third starter (he’s currently running indoor track, so he appears to have recovered fully). He finished last year with just one catch for three yards.
Bruns became a capable reserve last year, with seven catches for 102 yards, a few at pretty critical times, and will be in the mix again this year. UPDATE — Since this was initially written, Jordan Polk has been dimissed from the team.
An intriguing player to watch in the spring will be Smith, who saw increasing playing time as the season progressed, making one catch for 18 yards at Cal. Campbell will also make his first real stab at playing time after spending last fall as a redshirt. Leonard and walk-on Chandler add depth.
All will compete this spring knowing there are some pretty heavy reinforcements coming in the fall.