Fall Camp Preview: Wide Receivers

At this time last year, with the graduation of Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse, Washington was searching for playmakers to step up alongside Kasen Williams. That's still the case as we head into training camp next week, but with a bit of a twist as several very talented youngsters will be in the mix to earn playing time this fall...

The Players:

Kasen Williams (Jr., 6-2, 216) - It was disappointing to hear about Williams' off-field transgression over Memorial Day weekend, but it appears it won't affect his junior season which appears poised to be even bigger than last year when he totaled 77 receptions for 878 yards and six touchdowns. The thing is, he might have fewer catches this year, but he should have more "explosive plays", those that are longer than 25 yards, and he should be able to approach double-digit touchdowns by becoming a bigger red-zone target due to his strength and leaping ability.

DiAndre Campbell (RS Jr., 6-1, 198) - This spring, Campbell played well enough for Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian to declare that he had worked his way into the starting lineup. Now, the question is, can he hold onto it? Campbell is smart and he's improved quite a bit as a route-runner and in reading defenses, but if he's going to hold off the incoming freshmen, he will need to continue to step up his game.

Kevin Smith (Sr., 5-11, 213) - From a talent standpoint, Smith has everything you could ask for, but unfortunately he's been unable to stay healthy, so we still have yet to see what he's really capable of as a receiver. Smith's main contributions, at least so far, have been as a return man with an occasional reception thrown in here or there. He has a chance to be a valuable player this fall if he can stay out of the training room.

Jaydon Mickens (So., 5-10, 170) - Mickens started as a true freshman last year and definitely had his growing pains, dropping easy passes and making "rookie" mistakes. Now, a year later, he is a grizzled veteran who the coaches have raved about this offseason as one to keep an eye on. He's not very big, but he's super-quick, he's got very good speed and he has the ability to get deep. Now he just needs to put it all together. If he does he could become a real weapon for the Huskies.

Kendyl Taylor (So., 5-10, 200) - Weighing in at 200 pounds, Taylor is built more like a running back and he'll see a lot of playing time as a receiver out of the backfield, but he'll also split out wide at times as well. Taylor is smart and he has enough speed to get the edge on plays, but he's at his best when he gets the ball in the open field where he can use his quickness and vision to make plays.

Marvin Hall (So., 5-11, 180) - Hall was the victim of high expectations last season. With his straight-line speed and return abilities, many expected to see him make a huge impact on special teams, but he just never seemed to settle into a role, although we saw some flashes of his potential in a couple of games (Stanford and Oregon State). The hope is he has matured and no longer feels the pressure of what others are expecting to see.

John Ross (Fr., 5-11, 173) - No receiver has worn the #1 jersey since Reggie Williams left following the 2003 season, so those are some mighty big shoes for Ross to fill. From all reports, Ross is lightning in a bottle. He's already considered one of the fastest players on the team and he's got the knack for getting open and making plays after he has the ball in his hands. He was heavily recruited and one of the top wideouts in California last season.

Damore'ea Stringfellow (Fr., 6-4, 232) - Husky head coach could hardly contain himself down at Pac 12 Media Day when asked about how Stringfellow looked when he stepped on campus on July 5th. Stringfellow is one of the biggest freshman wideouts in the country and he's a special, special player. His game is very much the same as Williams', but he will need to sharpen his routes in order to get separation from Pac 12 defensive backs.

Darrell Daniels (Fr., 6-3, 225) - Daniels is an extremely talented wideout, but he's very raw. One of the concerns from scouts was that he fought the ball and wasn't a natural receiver. However, when he has the ball in his hands, he is a special type of playmaker, able to make people miss and run away with his outstanding speed or run them over with his size. Either way, he's going to be a prospect that, with a year or two in the system, could really blossom into something special outside.

Antavius Sims (RS Sr., 6-0, 199) - Sims had a great spring game and showed he's got some skills that shouldn't be taken for granted, however, he's also never seen the field in a live game since he signed out of Ventura College a couple of years ago. This past spring was his chance to step up and show the coaches he could get the job done and he did that, but now he needs to follow up on that and make it so they can't keep him off the field.

The Battles: Williams has a spot sewn up at one of the outside positions, but behind him there are still a lot of question marks as to how the depth chart will work itself out.

Mickens, Hall, Taylor and Ross will work primarily out of the slot and all four will get their chances to show what they can do. It will be interesting to see how the coaches balance their skill-sets with playing time.

Opposite Williams outside will either be Campbell or Smith or Stringfellow. Right now, Campbell appears to have the edge, but the coaches have been drooling over seeing what Stringfellow could do in their system and he will be given every opportunity to impress.

The Depth: Williams will be the starter at one of the outside spots and you can expect Smith to be his primary backup, although, depending on how things work out with Campbell and Stringfellow, you could also see the other two as well.

The expectation is that Campbell will be the starter on the other side when the Huskies take the field against Boise State, but after that, it's hard to say as Stringfellow will be given plenty or reps at the position as well.

Inside, the Huskies would like to figure out a way to get Mickens and Ross on the field together, but Mickens will probably be the starter for the first game. However, like the second wideout spot, all bets are off after that.

The Future: Someone break out the glasses because "the future is so bright, you gotta wear shades". Okay, 1980's music references aside, this unit is in great shape as long as the players develop like expected.

Eric Keisau is a well-respected receivers coach and he knows how to get the most out of his players. He will have a lot of talent to work with and that is even considering that Williams could opt to leave if he has a big season.

Stringfellow, Ross and Daniels are all true freshmen and the hope is the Dawgs can redshirt at least one of them. Mickens, Hall and Taylor, following the 2013 season, will still have two years of eligibility remaining and when you throw in the two big-time receivers the Huskies already have in the boat for the 2014 class - Summit (Fontana, Ca.) WR Erik Brown and Cabrillo (Long Beach, Ca. ) WR Rahshead Johnson - you can expect things to keep humming along for the better part of the next decade at the position.

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