We’ll continue our overview of UW’s position groupings heading into spring practice with a look at the receivers:
The Huskies had two go-to receiving targets in 2012 in receiver Kasen Williams (pictured above in a Dean Rutz photo scoring the winning touchdown against Stanford) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Williams, in fact, somewhat quietly finished with the third-most catches in school history at 77.
The only receiver in UW history to catch more passes in a season is Reggie Williams, who did it twice — 94 catches in 2002 and 89 in 2003,
Seferian-Jenkins, meanwhile, finished with 69 catches in 2012, sixth-most in UW history (fourth on the list is Jerome Pathon with 73 in 1997 and fifth is Dane Looker with 72 in 1998).
The problem in 2012 was finding alternate targets. UW lost Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar to graduation off of the 2011 team, and also lost James Johnson to a season-ending injury in fall camp. Also, Kevin Smith was still bothered by a knee injury suffered prior to the 2011 Alamo Bowl and was unable to build on his 2011 season.
That left the Huskies relying on mostly younger and inexperienced receivers to fill in around Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, and the results were, at best, mixed.
In 2011, UW had six receivers catch 28 or more passes. In 2012, UW had just three catch more than 20 — Williams, Seferian-Jenkins, and running back Bishop Sankey with 33. Next on the list was Jaydon Mickens with 20. UW also had seven receivers in 2011 catches passes for 208 or more yards. In 2012 that was again just three.
The Huskies also were simply not able to make as many big plays in the passing game in 2012. Consider that the yards per catch average in 2012 was 10.4 compared to 12.4 in 2011. UW had seven different receivers make a catch of 47 yards or longer in 2011 — only one receiver caught a pass for that long in 2012 (Mickens, a 47-yarder against Utah that served as UW’s longest pass play of the season).
So the goals for 2013 are simple — find a few more reliable, consistent receivers to complement Williams and Seferian-Jenkins, and get back to making more big plays.
A LOOK AHEAD
The obvious good news for UW in 2013 is that both Williams and Seferian-Jenkins return — only one receiver in the Pac-12 returns who caught more passes than either in 2012, Arizona’s Austin Hill, who had 81.
The return of those two will give UW as accomplished of a receiving duo as there is in the country.
The question, as noted above, is who else steps forward. Opponents are sure to devise their defenses to contain Williams and ASJ and the Huskies will have to develop complementary threats to make them pay.
The most obvious candidate is Johnson, who Sarkisian said recently should be ready for spring football. Johnson has 68 receptions in a career that has been injury-plagued. But he’s also a fifth-year senior who has had some success, and if healthy could finally have the sort of season that was predicted when he signed with UW in 2009.
Smith, who had six catches in spot duty last season as a junior while continuing to recover from the 2011 knee injury, also could show marked improvement in his numbers if he gets and stays healthy.
Also back will be a trio of younger players who could be in a position to contribute more after getting some experience — sophomores Jaydon Mickens and Marvin Hall and junior DiAndre Campbell. Also back is Antavius Sims, now a senior. Mickens showed the most promise of that quartet last season with 20 catches for 190 yards.
Spring will be critical for those battling to establish roles in the offense since the Huskies in the fall will welcome the three receivers they signed in February that many regarded as maybe the three best receiving prospects on the West coast — Darrell Daniels, John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow. Any or all of the true frosh could emerge as contributors in 2013, with Daniels and Stringfellow projecting more as outside receivers and Ross on the inside.
Also potentially changing the dynamic some will be the move of Eric Kiesau from quarterbacks to receivers coach, replacing Jimmie Dougherty, who coached the receivers the previous four seasons. Kiesau has primarily coached receivers during his career.
UW returns all three of its tight ends in Seferian-Jenkins and juniors Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson, and will welcome 2013 signee David Ajamu in the fall. UW’s spring goal in this area is to get a little more production and consistency out of the players behind Seferian-Jenkins.