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January 15, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Washington Huskies 2015 outlook: Wide receivers

Jaydon Mickens led the Huskies with 60 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. He also had two rushing touchdowns. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Jaydon Mickens led the Huskies with 60 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. He also had two rushing touchdowns. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

A position-by-position analysis of the 2015 Washington Huskies roster before national signing day on Feb. 4. Today: Wide receivers. Friday: Tight ends.

2014 review: It was a frustrating season for the Huskies’ passing game. UW finished 11th in the Pac-12, and 89th nationally, with an average of 200.1 yards passing per game. There were many factors: the new offensive system and new techniques being taught, the limitations of the young quarterbacks, the spotty run game. That UW ran the ball more often than anyone in the Pac-12 — 60 percent of the time — was a considerable factor in the passing game’s poor production, too. The wide receiver rotation never seemed settled either, with the Huskies using seven different starters throughout the fall. Senior DiAndre Campbell was a steady leader who had 24 receptions and one touchdown. Senior Kasen Williams flashed some of his old form in the Cactus Bowl, with five caches for 73 yards, to finish the season with 20 catches — a little more than a quarter of the 77 he had in 2012. He did end his stellar UW career third on the school’s all-time list with 162 receptions, but it was evident for most of the season that he wasn’t fully recovered from gruesome leg injury from October 2013. Slot receiver Jaydon Mickens, for the second year in a row, led the team in receptions, with 60 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns. But his 44.1 yards per game ranked just 28th in the Pac-12 and his average of 10.3 yards per catch was among the lowest in the conference. In short, the Huskies lacked a consistent big-play threat out wide. That’s as much about the shortcomings of Cyler Miles and the rest of the offense as it is the receivers, but getting improved production in the passing game is no doubt a top priority for the Huskies heading into 2015.

Who’s out:

Kasen Williams, 6-3, 217
DiAndre Campbell, 6-2, 206
Kendyl Taylor, jr., 5-10, 202 (transferring to Northern Arizona)

Who’s in:

Chico McClatcher, WR/RB, 5-9, 185, Federal Way HS
Andre Baccellia, 5-11, 170, Westlake HS (Westlake Village, Calif.)
Isaiah Renfro, 6-2, 185, Sierra Canyon School (Chatsworth, Calif.)

Current roster:

Jaydon Mickens, sr., 5-11, 174
Dante Pettis, so., 6-0, 177
Brayden Lenius, so., 6-5, 217
John Ross III, jr., 5-11, 179
Marvin Hall, sr., 5-10, 188
Drew Before, r-so., 5-11, 195
John Gardner, r-fr., 6-3, 182
Taelon Parson, so., 6-1, 184
Max Richmond, r-fr., 5-9, 173
Neel Salukhe, 5-11, 167

2015 outlook: The good news is the Huskies return all three starting receivers from the Cactus Bowl: Jaydon Mickens, Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius. As true freshman, Pettis and Lenius earned more playing time as the season progressed, with Pettis starting five of the final six games. He has some big-play ability — as his long punt return for a touchdown at Colorado showed — and should be a top target for the next few years. Lenius, at 6-5, has all the physical tools you love in a receiver, plus good hangs and good speed. There’s a lot to like about his upside. Depth is a big question mark going into 2015. With two recruits committed for this class, one or all three might wind up pushed into action next fall. Speaking of depth, as you can see, I have included John Ross III among the receivers. That’s in part because he said he would like to try play both offense and defense next season — though doing both full-time is probably unrealistic, as Chris Petersen said this week. My sense is Ross’ heart remains on offense, and his 21.8 yards per catch (which would have been the best in the Pac-12, had he officially qualified with more catches) certainly justifies that. His best path to the NFL, however, might be as a cornerback, and the Huskies could still use some help there next fall. We’ll have to see how that unfolds this offseason and into next fall.

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