Receiver Might Be UW's Deepest Position

One of the things that stands out most about this year's Husky team is they simply have better overall depth. There are only 105 players allowed by NCAA rules until after you play your first game or whenever your school year starts. Washington will probably add 4-6 players after the Eastern Washington game, and that will leave them with the smallest roster of all four Northwest Pac-12 schools.

The increase in the quality of depth really applies to all positions, but it is most noticeable at receiver and safety. It is the quality of that depth that is so obvious with the wide-outs, and Receivers Coach Jimmie Dougherty probably has the best dozen or so receivers (as a group) that I have seen in years. If they simply eliminate drops, this could be the strength of the team, especially with opposing defenses packing the box to stop Chris Polk.

Dougherty has twelve listed players on the roster, although freshman speedster Marvin Hall - who hails from Beno Bryant's old school, Dorsey High in Los Angeles - has yet to practice because his credits have been hung up by the NCAA clearinghouse in a review of his transcripts. Top to bottom class-wise, this is really a promising group.

Dougherty has excellent leadership in this senior class with Jermaine Kearse (15), Devin Aguilar (9), and Cody Bruns (7) all returning, and all poised to have their best seasons. Kearse has quietly been preparing himself, even though he has been lightly thrown to for much of this camp. I think that is on purpose, because they want to see what they have below him in the depth.

Kearse should still catch as many balls as he did last year (68 including the six for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl game), and will probably end up being the leading receiver. Aguilar obviously worked hard in the weight room and it shows in his arms and overall stature, as he is up to 195 pounds. The two of them have played a lot in this system, and as seniors should still get the majority of the snaps. But the quality coming up behind them may cut into their playing time.

I think Cody Bruns is having a great camp, and he continually shows his solid hands and ability to get open. He lost his father this year, and is really focused on helping the team as much as he can. He is a good player, and reminds me a lot of Joe Kralik, who I got to coach in the early 90's. He is also the holder for kick,s which is critical on the season. But he is really a top notch receiver, and I think will really help this season, similar to what D'Andre Goodwin did last season.

Both Bruns and Aguilar have shown sure hands in returning punts and have experience doing so. In fact, almost all the receivers are working with the return teams.

So that's three seniors for your rotation right there, and you usually only travel 8-9 receivers for conference games. They will probably take a couple of extras for the Nebraska game just to acclimate younger players to the difference in traveling preparation.

Of your nine-man depth, which is essentially a three-deep, you usually only play 6-7 in the game, not counting special teams.

The Huskies only have two juniors in James Johnson (3) and Luther Leonard (83), and both are going to be hard-pressed to get many balls thrown their way. Johnson is rebounding from a sophomore slump caused by injury and has been making some nice plays in this camp. It seems like yesterday that he had that breakout game against LSU, but his playing time has steadily shrunk. He should be back this season and will get into the rotation.

Leonard, who was a quarterback when he came to Washington, has struggled with the transition to receiver and may not travel unless he makes something happen real soon.

The sophomores are Kevin Smith (8) and William Chandler (27), a walk-on from Skyline High School, and both are really valuable to the team. Smith has to be counted in the rotation, and Chandler will do anything the coaches ask - including catching everything.

Kevin Smith is really strong to the ball and is powerfully built at 6 feet and 210 pounds, and plays with great confidence. I think Smith has some special qualities that will make him a star player before he leaves Washington. He is also an excellent kick returner.

Chandler is a valuable practice player, and when opportunity presents itself I'm sure he'll earn some snaps.

The other four are all freshmen - one red-shirt freshman and three true freshmen. DiAndre Campbell is the only red-shirt, and like Aguilar he has made some noticeable changes in the weight room. Campbell has added 10 pounds and increased his strength. He is almost 6-foot-2, and is pressing hard for playing time. He has a one-year head start on the three first-year players. He has also made some nice catches in this camp.

This year's true freshmen are a super group, with all three of them - Kasen Williams (2), Jamaal Jones (11), and Joshua Perkins (12) - look like they are going to be excellent contributors at this level. Hopefully Marvin Hall can join them, but as a trio this group is really special.

Williams, of course, is a man-child. At 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, he is physically ahead of the others and most certainly will play this season. He can really go up to the football and always tries to catch it at the highest point. He catches nearly everything thrown in his direction and sometimes borders on spectacular. He has had some drops in early camp, but they are usually on difficult catches. Kasen will be in the six-man rotation, and he will make some big plays this season.

Jones is 6-foot-1 and Perkins is 6-foot-3, and both have shown up with some nice catches this camp. Either of them could play early, but if they could grow as much as Campbell did in one year, a red-shirt year would seem ideal.

When you have a player like Chris Polk, the blocking by the receivers down field is often the key that makes for a big play. All of the receivers are working hard on their positioning and those who do block consistently are liable to gain more playing time as a result.

What will determine their success as a group simply goes back to one thing, and that is catching the football. Washington dropped too many balls last year to be a really good team, and this group seems determined to correct that. As a group they certainly reflect well on the off-season strength and conditioning program run by Ivan Lewis. They are all bigger, faster, and stronger.

Top to bottom it might be the best-stocked position on the team, and I'm positive coach Dougherty likes the competition. He probably likes the balance as well, and there is no doubt this group will be key to the success of the offense.


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