I had a chance to talk after Saturday’s practice with receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty and get an update on that position group. Topics include who is emerging behind returning starters Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, and how UW will try to combat the tactics of Nebraska, a team the Huskies play again this September in Lincoln.
On redshirt freshman DiAndre Campbell, who had some nice plays Saturday: “He made a couple of plays so I kept throwing him out there. When a guy makes a couple of plays like that want to let them get on a roll. But he is getting better and better. He has really good ball skills and a really good feel, being a former basketball player, releasing at the line, good hands, a way to get open. He’s got to get stronger and that was a reason for redshirting him, but he’s coming along and getting stronger and faster and more explosive. As you can see, he’s got talent. Just got to keep him going and learning the offense.”
On Campbell’s weight: “I think he’s up to about 195, in that ballpark. He’s been working his butt off in the off-season program and he will get even bigger this summer. And again, just working on his speed, his flat-out speed.”
On the rest of the group and having established guys such as Kearse and Aguilar at the top: “You say it’s always about the competition and things can change any day, but yeah, Jermaine and Devin have played a lot of football for us and we keep on trying to push those guys to be leaders of the team, so we know those are guys we can count and that they are going to play a lot of football for us. Beyond that, they are kind of just battling it out. Kevin Smith is a guy that’s got a ton of talent and we want to keep him going. James Johnson is another guy we want to keep going and is a very solid player for us. Cody Bruns as well. And then the guys we’ve got coming in. Obviously Kasen (Williams), we are excited about him coming in and it’s just going to be a matter of him learning the offense. The kid has got unbelievable natural talent, it’s just a matter of how quickly he picks things up and adapts to that. But it’s a deep group but yeah, I’d say those are the two guys right now (at the top) Jermaine and Devin.”
On James Johnson’s progress this spring: “He’s still battling inconsistency is the best way I could put it. He will have times he will make a couple of plays in a row and then he will have a drop or a mental error and bust and not run the right route or whatever it is. It’s just a matter of that right now, he’s just a little inconsistent, and the quicker he can fix that and play more consistent and gain our trust, the quicker he will get back in there into the rotation.”
On potentially having a deeper rotation this year: “It’s definitely nice, the more guys you can trust that you can throw in there and know they can play and there is not going to be a big dropoff, that’s a luxury. The more guys that can play, the better. Obviously we are going to have our guys that we quote, unquote feature in the offense, Jermaine is going to get a lot of touches, Devin is going to get his touches and I can see Kevin being another guy and obviously Kasen coming in is a guy we think is going to touch the ball a lot. So we’ve got a lot of weapons. Obviously you see Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) is out there making plays and we’ve got backs. It’s good to have the more guys that can make plays.”
On how Seferian-Jenkins could help open things up for the receivers outside: “Oh yeah, definitely. They can’t leave the middle of the field when you’ve got that threat. A guy who can work on the linebackers inside and is definitely a huge target. You see the backs making plays, (Chris Polk) and Jesse (Callier). Everybody’s got to be a threat in the West Coast offense.”
On combating Nebraska’s physical play in the secondary: “Yeah, definitely (that’s something UW needs to get better at this year). Against Nebraska, that’s the nature of their defense, the way they are going to play, to bring it up and pressure at the line of scrimmage. Really, when they do that, we ran the ball the way we did for a reason, I’ll say that (UW had 268 yards rushing on 52 carries). They are very focused on stopping the pass and they do a nice job at it. Now, we can’t just sit back and say ‘let’s just take it.’ We definitely have to address it and get more physical at the line of scrimmage, release better and save more room on the sideline — that’s where it really became an issue in that game was we widened out too much. They play different than a lot of teams do where they jam you 10-15 yards down the field. So we have to play phyiscal all the way through the route and then yeah, make contested catches when teams play you like that. We have to jump up and take it off a guys’ head and make those plays. It’s definitely a thing we are focused on and will talk about.”