Spring Battles to Watch - WR/TE

With Washington Spring Football less than a week away, it's time to break down the positions and analyze where the real battles for starting time should take place. Today it's the receivers and tight ends, where they don't have any major defections from 2012 but do return two extremely productive players and a bunch of potential behind them. Who will step up?

James Johnson, Sr. 6-1 197
Kevin Smith, Sr. 5-11 213
William Chandler, Sr. 6-0 186 (Walk-On)
Kasen Williams, Jr. 6-2 216
DiAndre Campbell, Jr. 6-1 198
Jaydon Mickens, So. 5-10 170
Marvin Hall, So. 5-10 181
Jamaal Jones, So. 6-1 188

Tight Ends:
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr. 6-6 266
Michael Hartvigson, Jr. 6-6 255
Evan Hudson, Jr. 6-5 262

Williams is the lead Dawg - Kasen Williams enters spring on a roll. He led the team with 878 receiving yards and six touchdowns, including the go-ahead score to beat No. 8 Stanford and big catches down the stretch to help the Huskies take down No. 7 Oregon State. He came up with at least 60 receiving yards a game in nine of UW's 13 games, including a career-high 129 yards versus the Cardinal. While Austin Seferian-Jenkins ruled the roost at tight end, Williams was Keith Price's security blanket from the wideout spot. Much like Bishop Sankey at running back, Williams is set at one of the receiver spots; his position is secure this spring.

Finding a third wheel - After Williams' 878 yards and Seferian-Jenkins' 850 yards, the next most yards by a receiver was the 190 of true frosh Jaydon Mickens. That is a massive disparity, and one of the reasons why Keith Price struggled in 2012; he only had two reliable targets. James Johnson's return can help solidify the battle toward finding a go-to third receiver, and Mickens' maturity should also pay dividends in terms of getting open on a more consistent basis. Campbell has shown flashes but this year is the year he really needs to come good.

Johnson is back - Johnson, who has been off and on during his UW career, has returned for his final year after a wrist injury sidelined him for all of the 2012 season. He had a redshirt year available, so he'll take advantage of it just like Cody Bruns did last year. Having another experienced receiver in the mix is big for the Huskies, who will be likely breaking in three more impact freshmen this fall in Damore'ea Stringfellow, Darrell Daniels, and John Ross. With nearly 800 career yards and seven scores for UW through his first four years, Johnson should be good for at least a 300-yard season - which would make him the No. 3 receiver in 2012 behind Williams and Seferian-Jenkins with a bullet.

An experienced group - Johnson's return means Washington will have five receivers in spring that have started at least one game in their UW careers - Johnson, Williams, Kevin Smith, DiAndre Campbell, and Mickens. Combined they have 41 career starts between them.

Who will be the deep threat? - Stringfellow, Daniels and Ross may answer this question in the fall, but who is going to pick up the slack in the spring when Price needs to stretch defenses and go deep? Mickens had the long catch of 2012 - 47 yards. Compare that to 2011, where there were SEVEN receivers that had long catches of 47 yards or longer. That's a huge disparity and also explains why Washington had trouble moving the ball last year - they couldn't pick up big plays and large chunks of real estate when they needed to. That has to change in order for the Huskies to get back to their productive ways on offense.

There is no position battle at TE - To quote the lending ad a while back on KJR, this is the biggest no-brainer in the history of Earth. As one of the top-3 tight ends in the entire country as a sophomore, Seferian-Jenkins already owns all the important All-Time UW Tight End records, and by the time he's finished at Montlake he will have set the standard that probably will never be matched for the position. He caught 850 yards' worth of passes in 2012 and is poised to track down even more as a junior. It's his world and Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson are simply his understudies. It's not that they aren't of value; they did catch 11 passes for 86 yards last year. And with teams sticking all their resources on ASJ in an attempt to slow him down you'd think that would leave the other two open enough to exploit the holes, but that didn't happen last season and I doubt it will in 2013 - specifically because ASJ is still a major mis-match for anyone he goes up again.

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