Dawgman.com Post-Season Position Analysis: Receiver/Tight End

In our third post-season analysis we look at the receivers and tight ends, groups that were expected to help Washington's starting quarterback through any early-season struggles with their experience and understanding, yet their maddening inconsistency turned the tables on that line of reasoning. Instead, it was the quarterback who had to play above his head at times in spite of the receivers.

Receivers

4 Jaydon Mickens (5-11, 170, Sr.)
16 Marvin Hall (5-10, 190, Sr.)
1 John Ross III (5-11, 194, Jr.)
83 *Neel Salukhe (5-11, 175, Jr.)
31 *Drew Before (6-0, 197, Jr.)
87 *Forrest Dunivin (6-4, 217, Jr.)
81 Brayden Lenius (6-5, 217, So.)
8 Dante Pettis (6-0, 183, So.)
28 Nik Little (6-4, 205, So.)
86 *Taelon Parson (6-1, 192, So.)
80 *Max Richmond (5-9, 178, RFr.)
89 *John Gardner (6-2, 195, RFr.)
13 Chico McClatcher (5-8, 180, Fr.)
18 Isaiah Renfro (6-1, 185, Fr.)
19 Andre Baccellia (5-9, 165, Fr.)
21 Quinten Pounds (5-11, 166, Fr.)
20 *Jamon Jones (6-2, 227, Fr.)
29 *Josh Rasmussen (5-11, 173, Fr.)



Where does the receiver/tight end positions find themselves after the season?

Once it was determined that true freshman Jake Browning was going to be the man at quarterback for 2015, there were two immediate storylines that wrote themselves: 1) The running backs would have to be the immediate focus to help bed Browning in and give him a soft landing in the harsh environment of top BCS-level football; 2) The receivers were also going to have to play a vital role in making sure Browning's landing was as smooth as could possibly be expected.

Both narratives bit the dust in Washington's first game, at Boise State. Not only were the running backs completely ineffective, but the whole offense struggled to find any kind of a rhythm. The offense got healthy against their next two non-conference opponents, but then struggled to do much of anything against California when they were bit by the turnover bug.

They came back to play in a win at USC, where they helped Browning in a challenging environment to get their first big 'signature' win of the season. A low point - and really the low point of the season for everyone - came at Stanford, when the offense was expected to help pick up first-time starter K.J. Carta-Samuels, but were unable to really do much outside of Myles Gaskin's running.

But the real low point for the receivers came against Arizona State, as they absolutely blew chance after chance to put the game away in the first half. Some were missed throws by Browning, but the receivers had multiple chances to score after dominating the first 30 minutes of play. Not taking advantage kept the Sun Devils in the game, and they made Washington pay for it.

One thing the receivers weren't lacking was pride, and they came back and demonstrated that the last two weeks of the season in must-win game scenarios versus Oregon State and Washington State. They helped Browning go 32-41 for 414 yards and four touchdowns to finish out the year.

But now what? The receivers and tight ends lose three seniors after 2015 - Jaydon Mickens, Joshua Perkins and Marvin Hall - and those three combined for 40 percent and 43 percent of Washington's total passes caught (88) and yardage (1229), respectively. The receiving groups are the only ones where senior attrition will actually impact the Huskies' offense going forward.

And in 2016 they have talent in pace to take over from where those numbers left off, but will they? There's no guarantee that will happen, as we thought a better downfield throwing quarterback in Browning would push the 2015 numbers higher - but that never really happened. The lone bright spot in the Huskies' receiving future is the fact that John Ross III, sidelined by injury and forced to redshirt 2015, will be back and he is a difference-maker. He's never been asked to shoulder the load as a leading receiver, but there's no time like the present to start integrating him more into any future plans.

The fact that the one real highlight for the pass game was the emergence of Dwayne Washington, a converted receiver now playing running back, might just be the most damning indictment of how stop-start the receivers were as a whole for the Huskies in 2015.



Jaydon Mickens (5-11, 171, Sr.): Going into the 2015 season, it was generally expected the senior leader of the receivers would have at least as good a year in terms of production from 2014, where he had 60 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns as the main threat for then-QB Cyler Miles. In fact, Mickens' senior year was worse in every respect; less catches (50), less yards (597), and less touchdowns (two). That's remarkable. Typically you would think injury would be the answer for any decline in production from one year to the next, but Mickens played in all 12 games. Add to it the lack of desire going down the field after a catch, where he'd go out of bounds untouched as often as he would get tackled, and you have to ask; where was the leadership? The coaches continually remarked on his effort in practice and being a good teammate, but he was hit and miss on Saturdays when it mattered. Mickens certainly had 'splash' moments, but with a long catch of only 43 yards it wasn't anywhere close to the expectations put on him at the beginning of the year. This was the year he was supposed to show himself as a potential NFL free agent; now that future has to be questioned.

Marvin Hall (5-10, 187, Sr.): It's never a good thing when a senior receiver is going to be remembered more for a pass than a catch, but unfortunately for Marvin Hall, that will be the case. His throw to Joshua Perkins for a touchdown versus USC will be his legacy, as well as his speed - which we didn't see enough of. Even though Hall had less catches in 2015 than 2014, he had four times the productivity, which was nice to see. But five catches as a fifth-year senior is not worth talking about.

Dante Pettis (6-0, 183, So.): The sophomore was supposed to step up and be Washington's second pass-catcher, and he did that - going from 17 catches for 259 yards in 2014 to 28 catches for 384 yards in 2015. Those were modest gains, but still only caught the same number of touchdowns - one. Again, Pettis is going to be another receiver known for doing something else in 2015 other than catching the ball; in his case it will be his work as a punt returner. He was an amazing returner, taking two to the house - but Husky fans rarely caught a glimpse of that game-breaking potential at work on offense. In fact, he had more punt returns for touchdowns than receiving touchdowns, and his long catch of 2015 was 33 yards. Ouch.

Brayden Lenius (6-5, 217, So.): The rangy sophomore made a much bigger jump than Pettis for 2015, but that wasn't going to be hard to do since he only caught seven passes in 2014. His 26 catches in 2015 went for 307 yards, not exactly the numbers you'd expect for a 6-foot-5 receiver with the capability of beating most defensive backs on downfield jump-ball opportunities. His long reception of 30 yards went to show Lenius as being the quintessential possession receiver, with not much in the way of yards after the catch. And this receiving group needed YAC in the worst way.

Chico McClatcher (5-8, 180, Fr.): Again, another receiver who is probably going to go down in 2015 more for his exploits doing something else other than catching the ball. The true frosh from Federal Way nearly doubled his output as a runner (127 yards) compared to catching (72). And if you take away his 49-yard touchdown against Sacramento State, that meant McClatcher had six catches for 23 yards. Double-ouch. Obviously McClatcher has a bright future ahead, but it might be more as a return guy and occasional switch-up in the run and pass game to take advantage of his explosion. But his future as a pure receiver? The jury might be coming back in on that one very soon.

Isaiah Renfro (6-1, 185 Fr.): Renfro was going to basically take on the Pettis/Lenius role that those two did in 2014 - that of the true freshman learning the ropes and picking up a pass or two along the way. And he did his role well, catching 13 passes for 178 yards and a long play of 43 yards. Expect his role to expand a lot more in 2016, much like it did for Lenius.

Quinten Pounds (5-11, 166, Fr.): Pounds sustained a season-ending knee injury before the USC game, and the Washington coaches are confident they will be able to get his redshirt year back for 2016. He did not have a catch in 2015.

Andre Baccellia (5-9, 165, Fr.): Redshirted.



Overall Position Grade

It's hard not to be harsh on this group, because they underachieved all season. At their best they showed they could make plays out wide and down the field and at times they made the game look very easy for Jake Browning. At their worst they were downright awful - and those times were more than any D1 group should have. There were 14 Pac-12 receivers that had more yards than Washington's top man Mickens. Fourteen. Mickens barely broke the top 150 receivers in the country when it came to yardage. And that was the best statistic you could come up with. I'm not going to place it all at the feet of the receivers because they were learning with a true freshman quarterback behind the wheel and he certainly had his issues too. But dropped passes, poor blocking, and overall lack of production is what Washington's receiving corps is going to be known for when looking back at the 2015 season. And that's a shame, because they were poised to be much better. Not truly great, but even average would have put Washington's offense on a different level. They weren't even average.

GRADE: D



Projected Spring 2016 WR Depth Chart (scholarship players)


John Ross III (5-11, 194, Jr.)
Chico McClatcher (5-8, 180, So.)
Andre Baccellia (5-9, 165, RFr.)

Brayden Lenius (6-5, 217, Jr.)
Isaiah Renfro (6-1, 185, So.)
Nik Little (6-4, 205, Jr.)

Dante Pettis (6-0, 183, Jr.)
Quinten Pounds (5-11, 166, RFr.)



Tight Ends (by class)

Josh Perkins (6-4, 226, Sr.)
Darrell Daniels (6-4, 230, Jr.)
David Ajamu (6-5, 251, So.)
Connor Griffin (6-4, 212, So.)
Derek Hunter (6-4, 225, So.)
Drew Sample (6-4, 249, RFr.)
Mike Neal (6-4, 219, Fr.)



Where does the tight end position find itself after the season?

The tight ends accounted for 756 receiving yards out of the 2826 accumulated by Washington in 2015. That's 27 percent of the Huskies' total production. That's awful, especially considering how much of a weapon the tight ends were going to be when it was announced Jake Browning would be Washington's starting quarterback for the season. The tight ends should have been Browning's security blanket, his safety valve. But with only a quarter of Washington's passes going to the tight ends, they were underutilized at best and flat-out ignored at worst. No one believes the tight ends should have caught half the passes, for instance, but even a bump up to 30 percent would have meant an extra 10-15 passes would have gone to either Joshua Perkins or Darrell Daniels - and it's not hard to believe they would have done more damage catching those passes than the receivers. Perkins led the team in yards per reception at 14.2 yards per catch. A tight end.

With Perkins gone after 2015, that means 60 percent of the tight ends' catches, as well as a third of their overall production, goes by the wayside. Who is there to pick up the slack? Well, there's no question Daniels has the ability to really make a difference when he shows himself as a consistent pass-catcher. When the ball is in his hands he can get yards after contact. After that, it's a crap shoot, but one the Huskies can win. Drew Sample has shown he has the ability to be a difference-maker in the blocking game; now he has to show he can get downfield and make catches. Same for David Ajamu, whose time has to be 2015. He's just too talented to sit on the shelf and let others pass him up. And walk-on Connor Griffin just might be the real wild-card of the group. Mike Neal redshirted in 2015, and if Daniels, Sample and Ajamu can go for more catches and yards in 2016 his time won't be until the following season.



Josh Perkins (6-4, 226, Sr.): If there has been a 'Steady Eddie' catching passes the last couple seasons, it's been Perkins. He went from 25 catches for 315 yards and three scores in 2014 to 33 catches for 470 yards and three scores in 2015. He basically caught just short of an extra pass a game during his senior year, which separates him from the other senior leader Mickens - who went backward. But it just feels like there were a lot more passes left out there that Perkins could have had, and that's unfortunate.

Darrell Daniels (6-4, 230, Jr.): Daniels wasn't as explosive in 2015 as he was when he was a sophomore, but he was more productive as a whole. And that production has to keep going up, up, up if he wants to be considered a bonafide NFL tight end target. There's never been a question of his physical intangibles and his ability to make a difference down the field. He's got YAC written all over him. But can he catch more than 18 passes for 241 yards in 2016? He's going to have to if the tight end group expects to make a difference going forward.

Drew Sample (6-4, 249, RFr.): Before an injury took him out of much of spring, the former Newport star was having an exceptional spring, so I don’t expect Sample to slow down any time soon. There’s no question Drew has the physicality and game to challenge David Ajamu as one of those bigger ‘classic’ inline tight ends that can also break off and do some damage in space. Sample was a player originally committed to Petersen at Boise State before Pete switched area codes, so Drew is ‘all in’ when it comes to buying Petersen’s ‘OKG’ and ‘Built For Life’ mantras. There’s no reason Sample can vie for playing time this fall, provided he stays healthy.

David Ajamu (6-5, 251, So.): Having already used his redshirt year, 2015 was expected to be Ajamu's year. It turned out to be the exact opposite. A pre-game injury to his knee and that was it for his sophomore season. 

Mike Neal (6-4, 219, Fr.): Redshirted.



Overall Position Grade

The tight ends, in general, have a tough job. They have to do as much blocking as receiving - and in the blocking scheme of things the Washington tight end group were just fine. They were able to help supplement a learning UW offensive line and by the end of the year it appeared as if they had all gotten on the same page. But in the receiving game there was so much still left on the table unused - and that's not all their fault. Could better route running have helped? Almost certainly. Perkins and Daniels seemed underused in the pass game, and Sample and Ajamu not at all. Again, it felt like there was a lot the tight ends could have done this year to make Jake Browning's job easier, and I'm sure some of that comes down to Jonathan Smith calling plays for them and Browning executing plays for them. But at the end of the day it's up to them to make the plays, and their production speaks for itself. It didn't speak at near the volume it should have.

GRADE: C-



Projected Spring 2016 TE Depth Chart


Darrell Daniels (6-4, 230, Sr.)
Drew Sample (6-4, 249, So.)
David Ajamu (6-5, 251, Jr.)
Connor Griffin (6-4, 212, Jr.)
Derek Hunter (6-4, 225, Jr.)
Mike Neal (6-4, 219, RFr.)



Post-Season Position Analysis: QB’s
Pre-Fall Position Analysis: RB’s


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