Charles Smith disappeared amidst academic issues. Bobby Whithorne left the program, walked-on at UCLA and left the Bruins too. Quintin Daniels never got over the injury hump, although he had occasional flashes of brilliance. Corey Williams had one of the most remarkable catches in Husky history with his lay-out touchdown grab in the 2003 Apple Cup - and promptly disappeared after a broken wrist at Notre Dame the following year. He was never the same. And UW legacy Craig Chambers - he of the 'Hail Mary' grab at halftime of the Arizona game in 2005 - bailed to Montana less than a month after making that momentus catch.
Of that group, only Sonny Shackelford and Anthony Russo reached expectations, but they are both long gone.
So now - because of the numbers crunch and Tyrone Willingham's (correct) decision to bring in a junior college receiver (Marcel Reece) two years ago to help bridge the talent gap, the Huskies' head coach now finds himself in the most ironic position of heading into his fourth year counting on the most inexperience at the receiver position since his arrival in 2005.
Receiver D'Andre Goodwin* 6-0 170 So. Lancaster, Calif. (Antelope Valley) Curtis Shaw 5-11 190 So. Stockton, Calif. (Lincoln) Alvin Logan* 6-2 215 Fr. Aurora, Colo. (Regis Jesuit) Anthony Boyles 6-2 195 Fr. Compton, Calif. (Serra) Devin Aguilar 6-0 185 Fr. Denver, Colo. (Mullen) Chris Polk 5-11 195 Fr. Redlands, Calif. (East Valley) Charles Hawkins+* 6-2 185 Sr. Chicago, Ill. (WPP/Graceland U.) Tony Chidiac+* 5-11 190 So. Sammamish (Skyline) + Walk-on * Has utilized redshirt season
That inexperience just might have enough natural talent, however, to make up for their other youthful shortcomings. That is going to be one of the big questions that Willingham and UW Receivers Coach Charlie Baggett hope to get some answers for this spring.
There are only two wide receivers on the current Huskies' roster that have any catches in 2007 - D'Andre Goodwin and Curtis Shaw. And Shaw came into the program as a running back! Goodwin and Shaw combined for 76 of the Huskies' 2485 total receiving yards - roughly three percent of the total output. That's scary.
To add to that, two of the three receiver prospects Willingham signed in 2007 - Anthony Boyles and Devin Aguilar - didn't make it into school academically, and had to sweat out passing the SAT in order to enroll in time to participate for winter conditioning.
Thankfully for the program, both Boyles and Aguilar were able to make it in. So while they missed out on the benefits of either redshirting or possibly playing last year, they get the added benefit of 15 practices before fall.
OUtside of Chambers, both Boyles and Aguilar - as well as other true frosh RR/WR Chris Polk - come to Washington with as much pure athletic cred as the Huskies have seen at the position. Boyles had over 1500 all-purpose yards at Junipero Serra while playing WR, RB, QB - you name it. And for Aguilar's career, he totaled 2,809 yards on 132 receptions with 33 touchdowns. He was named to a high school all-time Colorado team that covered over a quarter of a century.
Polk's numbers are huge. As a senior Polk rushed for 2,561 yards and 29 touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 314 yards and five more scores. So he has the ability to produce and make an impact at multiple positions - much like what James Rodgers did at Oregon State this past season. Polk, like Goodwin and Shaw, has the pure speed to do damage on reverses, fly sweeps, jet plays - whatever you want to call them. If Washington catches the opposition on an influence play, all three have what it takes to break a big play.
So the athleticism of this group is not in question. What is to be determined is the group's ability to pick up the playbook and assimilate it in such a way that they can do what the 2007 group of receivers couldn't; get open and catch passes on a consistent basis. Russo proved to be Jake Locker's 'go-to' guy (at still less than four catches per game), and Reece was the big-play specialist - but that was basically it.
To give Locker the options he needs to be the true dual-threat that he's capable of - the receivers have to hold up their end of the bargain. And while I believe the receiver position is potentially as strong as when Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick hit campus, this group is nowhere near the polished product they need to be come fall. How quickly will it take to ramp-up this group's learning curve? That's the $64 question.
Tight End Michael Gottlieb* 6-5 245 Sr. Mercer Island (Mercer Island) Johnie Kirton* 6-4 270 Sr. Everett (Jackson) Walt Winter* 6-5 250 Sr. Bothell (Juanita) Chris Izbicki* 6-3 230 Fr. Kirkland (Lake Washington) Romeo Savant+* 6-5 250 Fr. Cathlamet (Wahkiakum) + Walk-on * Has utilized redshirt season
Sports Illustrated used to call Washington 'Tight End U'. And the strange part about it, that wasn't all that long ago. Jerramy Stevens, Jeremy Brigham, Cam Cleeland, Ernie Conwell, Mark Bruener, Aaron Pierce, Bill Ames, Rod Jones, David Bayle, Scott Greenwood, John Brady, David Williams...you get my point.
So what happened? Where did the dominant blocker/catcher go? Lyon, Tyler, Jason Benn, Ben Bandel, Dash Crutchley, Tim Williams and Robert Lewis all disappointed for one reason or another. Washington has three seniors in this tight end class that have a chance to make a difference (Gottlieb, Kirton and Winter) but only Gottlieb has shown himself to have the ability to both block and catch.
Kirton is an exceptional athlete for his size, but hasn't dedicated himself to the blocking game, and hasn't seen a ton of action as a result. And Winter started his career at defensive end before moving to tight end, and because of experience issues with the depth at DE it wouldn't be a huge shock to see Winter back on defense.
The player that has a chance to explode from this group is redshirt frosh Chris Izbicki. Highly-touted out of high school, Izbicki could find himself competing hard for playing time this spring if he's dedicated himself during the off-season. Based on how the tight end competition has gone the previous three springs and falls, it's hard to envision one player breaking free and clearly establishing themselves as the No. 1 guy - especially since UW Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano likes to use two ends in power formations and short-yardage situations.
But one in that group might want to put the pedal to the metal, because it stands to reason that high school All-American Kavario Middleton is not going to ride pine for very long if he lives up to his billing.