I’ll admit, I was a little uneasy writing today’s story about John Ross.
It’s not that the attention is undeserved for Ross. By all accounts, and from what I’ve seen with my own eyes, the freshman receiver has a chance to do some special things at UW.
He just hasn’t done them yet. It can be easy to overstate a kid straight out of high school as The Next Great Thing. Above all, is that an accurate portrait? And is it fair to the kid?I tried to balance all that in today’s story — being fair but also capturing the building excitement — but it’s a tightrope.
Ultimately, I do trust my eyes. I trust the head coach, Steve Sarkisian, when, on multiple occasions, he compares a kid to a former Heisman winner, Reggie Bush. I trust the senior quarterback, Keith Price, when he says he sees shades of De’Anthony Thomas in Ross.
UW linebacker John Timu, who is close with Ross, said the freshman receiver models his game after former West Virginia standout Tavon Austin. Another lofty, lofty comparison.
But even those three marquee college names had varying degrees of success as freshmen:
— Tavon Austin, 2009, West Virginia: 15 catches, 151 yards, 10.1 ypc, 1 TD; 6 rushes, 47 yards, 7.8 ypc, 1 TD; 17 kick returns, 426 yards, 1 TD
— Reggie Bush, USC, 2003: 90 rushes, 521 yards, 5.8 ypc, 3 TD; 15 catches, 314 yards, 20.9 ypc, 4 TD; 18 kick returns, 492 yards, 27.3 avg., 1 TD
— De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon, 2011: 55 rushes, 595 yards, 10.8 ypc, 7 TD; 46 catches, 605 yards, 13.2 ypc, 9 TD; 36 kick returns, 983 yards, 27.3 avg., 2 TD.
A bit of a mixed bag, which is typical of freshmen — even the best of freshmen.
What to expect of Ross?
He’s more of a true slot receiver like Austin, so perhaps that’s the best comparison now. Sarkisian said Ross has been used in practices and scrimmages this month in the backfield a bit, along with sophomore Jaydon Mickens. But I tend to think Ross will, at least initially, have the biggest impact as a punt returner.
Ross, by the way, had his pick of Pac-12 schools out of Long Beach Jordan High. It seems to chose UW at least in part because of the Huskies’ ties to Jordan: Timu was close with Ross when they were at Jordan together in 2010; senior linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, offensive lineman Siosifa Tufunga and associated head coach Johnny Nansen are all Jordan products, too.
As Ross’ head coach at Jordan told me, recruiters quickly got bored of watching Ross highlight reel that included one long kickoff return after another.
In a best-case scenario for Ross, and for UW, maybe — just maybe — he’ll start to bore you, too.
Have to run off to practice, but a few links:
— Jerry Brewer on the Huskies trying to make up for last season’s late stumbles.
— Sarkisian is No. 2 on this list of a coach with the “most to prove” in the Pac-12.
— From the Idaho Statesman: The two defensive coordinators in this week’s matchup, UW’s Justin Wilcox and Boise State’s Pete Kwiatkowski, have put their friendship on hold.