They arrived on campus last summer as two-thirds of a much-hyped class of wide receivers. Less than a year later, John Ross and Darrell Daniels remain integral figures in the Huskies’ future.
Ross, considered UW’s fastest player, flashed in spurts as a do-it-all slot receiver in 2013, capping his freshman season with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Fight Hunger Bowl. He even assisted the depleted defensive secondary as a nickel back in the final three games.
Daniels was a valuable special-teams performer as a true freshman, with three tackles in 11 games. He spent the second half of 2013 learning a new position — tight end.
The third receiver in that freshman class, Damore’ea Stringfellow, emerged late in the season, busting out with eight catches for 147 yards and one touchdown in his first start, at UCLA, last November. Stringfellow remains on indefinite suspension now following his alleged assault of Seahawks fans on Feb. 2, and his future with the team remains uncertain.
Ross and Daniels, meanwhile, are adjusting to new roles and new demands during spring practices under the new coaching staff.
On offense, Ross has been used mostly as an outside receiver, after spending last season almost exclusively in the slot. He’s also worked one-on-one with coach Chris Petersen as a kick returner, and Ross has spent a few drills working again with the defensive backs.
“I’m learning how to play outside,” said the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ross, who had 16 catches for 208 yards and one TD as a reserve last season. “I just feel comfortable. Me and my coach, I ask him after every play, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ I could score a 70-yard touchdown untouched and I’m going to ask him, ‘What could I have done better?’”
Ross said he played only outside receiver at Long Beach Jordan High, but joked that his team only had “like three routes” to run. Ross is open to the idea of playing more defense, too, if that’s what’s asked of him.
“Honestly, I just want to play,” he said. “If they ask me to be a kicker, a long snapper, anything — whatever they need me to do, I’m here for my team and I’ll do it.”
The 6-foot-4 Daniels arrived from Pittsburg, Calif., at about 232 pounds last summer. He made his UW debut in the opener against Boise State, but saw his reps limited by a deep receiving corps. In early October, Daniels shifted to tight end.
He’s now up to about 241 pounds, and blocking has been a primary focus for him at the new position.
“As spring ball’s gone on, I’m getting more comfortable, just learning the basics and all the blocking and all the other good stuff,” Daniels said Saturday, adding: “I like it. It’s a fun position. … I have a lot to learn always to improve my game. I just want to learn. I’m just soaking in the knowledge, everything I (can) for the position.”
Daniels said record-setting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a “big mentor” for him, and Daniels said his goal is to replace ASJ as UW’s starting tight end this year.
Overall, Ross said, the Huskies are getting more comfortable with the new coaching staff.
“We feel like we trust the coaches now. Not that we didn’t before, but, you know, it’s just that change,” Ross said. “Now we’re giving in to everything they’re saying, and everything’s moving faster because we’re understanding more things and we just want to learn and get better each and every day.”
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