Post-Spring Position Analysis: Receiver

It wasn’t completely unexpected, but the news that John Ross would be redshirting in 2015 still reverberated the Husky Stadium concourses like a small earthquake. Now what? How will Washington cope with the loss of their top returning offensive playmaker, one who scored as many receiving touchdowns in 17 touches as senior Jaydon Mickens did in 60?

Receiver

*Walk-on
#Redshirting 2015 season

Incoming Freshmen:


Where does the receiver position find itself after spring: The answer to this is easy; not as good as where it was at season’s end. And that’s damning with faint praise, because after Mickens’ 60 catches the next-best returning receiver was freshman Dante Pettis with 17 catches. Between Mickens and Pettis were seniors DiAndre Campbell (24 catches) and Kasen Williams (20 catches), as well as Kendyl Taylor (18 catches), who opted for a transfer to Northern Arizona.

The reason why they’re worse off now is because of Ross’s injury. Receivers Coach Brent Pease would have been ecstatic at the news he would have Ross all to himself after the athletic playmaker was loaned out short-term to Defensive Backs Coach Jimmy Lake for the final games of the 2014 season. Not only do they lose their premier playmaker, but they lose another experienced body. With four true freshmen coming in to play, that kind of veteran presence is a loss you can’t cover up. Ross will obviously be around the team, providing some impact in the meeting and locker rooms, but not being side-by-side with them in the heat of the battle hurts.

Ross’s exclusion is another wake-up call for Pettis and Brayden Lenius; they have to be ready to not just play a lot, but significantly contribute to the receivers’ fortunes in 2015. They have to grow up in a hurry. The good part about that is they were able to maximize the time they did have on the field in April, and that will speed up the maturation process.

Here’s what we did find out about each receiver during the 15 spring practices held at Husky Stadium:
Awaiting Image
Jaydon Mickens
5'11" / 171 / Sr.
  • WR
  • 4

Notes

The unquestioned leader of the receiving corps, Mickens had a relatively quiet spring from a production and big play standpoint, yet still caught four balls for a team-high 93 yards and one touchdown during Washington’s Spring Preview. He’s by far the most consistent receiver Washington has and will be counted on a ton this fall to lead the younger guys into battle.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
Marvin Hall
5'10" / 187 / Sr.
  • WR
  • 16

Notes

The time is now for Hall to make hay with the talent he has. The last two springs he’s shown glimpses of the player he could be, yet last fall he finished with only six catches. But with Ross out for the season, he’s the main true speed threat to stretch the field. Mickens can do that, but Hall will most likely be asked to do it more.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
John Ross III
5'11" / 194 / Jr.
  • WR
  • 1

Notes

Ross was hurt during spring, and as a result will be forced to redshirt the 2015 season. Good thing he has a redshirt year available, as he played as a true frosh and sophomore. Ross will be missed as a deep threat, as well as in the return game.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
Drew Before
6'0" / 195 / Jr.
  • WR
  • 23

Notes

One of the walk-ons who was asked to help shore up the receiver numbers during spring, Before was actually a defensive back before being moved to receiver. He’s the biggest of the ‘newer’ walk-ons and had four catches in the Spring Preview, so he can get open downfield and make plays.

Player Profile

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Dante Pettis
6'0" / 183 / So.
  • WR
  • 87

Notes

For his first spring campaign, Pettis was productive. He had four catches for 90 yards in the Spring Preview, including a 71-yard touchdown pass. He’s finding different ways to be effective as a pass-catcher, and not just taking shorter passes and getting YAC. He’s honing in his intermediate to deep game. Obviously Pettis will also be counted on as a return specialist with Ross out.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
Brayden Lenius
6'5" / 217 / So.
  • WR
  • 81

Notes

The lone returning ‘big’ receiver, Lenius didn’t have a catch in the Spring Preview but nonetheless was a consistent presence within the receiving corps. He’s not hard to miss! He only had seven catches in 2014, but clearly was improving as the year finished out and his production in spring put him right on track for being a difference-maker this coming fall.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
Neel Salukhe
5'11" / 171 / RJr.
  • WR
  • 83

Notes

Salukhe, along with Parson, are the two walk-on receivers that have been around the longest. He’s only seen mop-up duty in one game in two years, so I don’t expect to see much of him this fall.

Player Profile

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Taelon Parson
6'1" / 187 / RSo.
  • WR
  • 86

Notes

Parson has played some in one game each of the last two years when the games were well beyond reach, so in some ways when you see him or Salukhe in the game they are the Human Victory Cigars.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
Max Richmond
5'9" / 178 / RFr.
  • WR
  • 80

Notes

Richmond, a Bellevue High grad, had four catches during the Spring Preview and showed that he has what it takes to be that smaller, quicker prototype slotback in the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola/Julian Edelman mold. He just knows how to get open and find the soft spots in zones.

Player Profile

Awaiting Image
John Gardner
6'3" / 186 / RFr.
  • WR
  • 89

Notes

At 6-foot-3, Gardner showed at times during spring that he can be that bigger receiver to help complement Brayden Lenius when the Huskies need that threat downfield. He didn’t see any time in 2014, but depending on how the freshmen pan out during fall camp he may see some more time.

Player Profile


Where will the receivers be as UW heads to fall camp?: Hopefully they will be wherever the Jugs machine is set up - the contraption that continuously pelts their hands with footballs. It’s a necessary off-season step within their summer regimen, one taken to ensure their hands are ready to make every catch in the fall.

With Mickens providing leadership and confidence to the true freshmen, hopefully the PRP’s (player-run practices) will test the fresh charges against a defensive back corps that has already been in their shoes, already been thrown into the fire. If there’s any way the cornerbacks and safeties can simulate a rough game day experience for the frosh, it hastens their development. It’s a necessary step to make sure the new boys can be counted on when the ‘bullets are flying’.

Where do the freshmen fit this fall?: They fit in the starting lineup, and that’s the startling truth of the matter. Most established programs replace players with players so that attrition happens naturally and predictably. Any time there’s transfers or players have to redshirt due to injury, that jumbles the numbers in such a way that may be difficult to overcome.

But it’s not impossible. Of all the positions on the football field, receiver is one of the few spots where freshmen can create an immediate impact. The Huskies will not be able to substitute Ross for one of the freshmen - say Andre Baccellia or Chico McClatcher - without a substantial drop-off in production. That’s an inevitability. But can Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith find subtle, yet effective ways to bring the frosh along in a way that yields a positive return? That will be the challenge Smith faces this fall.

To add to the challenge, Baccellia didn’t play much of 2014 due to injury. McClatcher was a full-time running back at Federal Way High. On the plus side of the ledger, Isaiah Renfro and Quinten Pounds combined for over 1800 yards’ worth of receptions, so there’s production to be had. Just based on how their senior seasons went, one has to assume Renfro and Pounds will be the freshmen Smith initially leans on, while he picks his spots with Baccellia and McClatcher, opening things up for them once they’ve seized upon the moment and shown they are ready to contribute.


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