We’ll continue the countdown with the second offensive player to make the list — sophomore receiver Kasen Williams.
Williams arrived last fall as one of the most celebrated recruits in recent UW history, having been named the Parade Magazine All-American Player of the Year among numerous honors (which also being named the Seattle Times’ boy’s athlete of the year three straight times).
Those honors elicited the predictable high expectations for Williams as a true freshman, and at times he delivered, such as the electrifying performance in the Apple Cup when he caught five passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns. His leap over WSU cornerback Nolan Washington (a play pictured at right in a Dean Rutz photo) stood as maybe the signature play of UW’s season.
However, with UW having an experienced receiving corps last season, Williams wasn’t needed to be a primary target from the outset, and he was initially limited in the role he was given, UW coaches leaving him at an outside position, feeling it would ease his transition to college football.
He also battled an ankle injury suffered against Utah. When the dust cleared, he had 36 receptions for 427 yards and six touchdowns — the receptions and yardage totals standing fourth on the team and the touchdowns tied for second (Jermaine Kearse led with seven).
Illustrative of how he appeared to get more comfortable as the year wore on, however, Williams had 22 catches for 270 yards and four touchdowns in the last five games of the season.
Williams, though, freely acknowledged in the spring there is still a lot of room for improvement. In the linked story, he talked about his decision to not pursue track this year so he could concentrate on football and that he was up to 215 pounds from the 200 at which he played as a freshman, weight he says should make him better able to win the kind of battles for balls that he sometimes lost last season (such as the interception near the end zone against Oregon State).
And the Huskies will obviously need Williams to take that next step as they lose Kearse and Devin Aguilar, who combined for 88 catches for 1,310 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian has already said that finding a capable third receiver will be a key goal of fall camp. That assumes Williams and senior James Johnson handling duties as the top two
Against a revived defense, and especially a secondary that suddenly has a pretty big experience edge, the receiving corps struggled at times during the spring — and Williams can hardly be considered a finished product as a player just entering his second season of college. But he should be a lot closer to being able to live up to all the expectations this season. And it’s not stretching it much to say that the success of UW’s offense this season will greatly depend on it.