Fall Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

In today's Fall Preview installment, we take a look at what is likely to be the deepest position on Washington's roster. The Huskies have a potential All-American candidate and two others who could garner All-Pac 10 honors by the end of the season and this group will go a long way in helping the offense become the quick-strike unit they are capable of being...

The Wideouts: D'Andre Goodwin (Sr.); Jermaine Kearse (Jr.); Cody Bruns (Jr.); Devin Aguilar (Jr.); Jordan Polk (Jr.); James Johnson (So.); Luther Leonard (So.); William Chandler (RS Fr.)#; Kevin Smith (Fr.); DiAndre Campbell (Fr.)

The Tight Ends: Chris Izbicki (Jr.); Marek Domanski (So.)#; Marlion Barnett (RS Fr.); Michael Hartvigson (Fr.); Evan Hudson (Fr.)#

It wasn't so long ago that the Husky receiver corps appeared to be on the verge of being one of the thinnest positions on the team.

However, Tyrone Willingham's staff brought in a boatload of talent in the 2008 recruiting class, signing Kearse, Polk and Bruns while getting Aguilar after a greyshirt season.

Steve Sarkisian and his staff immediately went to work once they were hired on and got Johnson, one of the top freshman wideouts in the country last year, and in February they signed two more athletic playmakers -- Smith and Campbell -- who promise to be the backbone of the unit in the coming years.

Now, with arguably the most depth on the entire team, the wide receivers are expected to take a huge leap this fall in helping the offense become the quick-strike, big-play unit everyone thinks they can be.

Kearse is the "big name" of the bunch and is poised to be one of the top wide receivers in the country as a junior this fall. He led the Huskies last year with 50 receptions for 866 yards and eight touchdowns and with a little more consistency and concentration, he could be the first wideout to top 1,000 yards since Reggie Williams did it back in 2003 and he should definitely get some post season attention from the All-American committee as well as the Pac 10 conference if he has the season many think he's capable of.

Two young men who could put a damper on Kearse's big season are Aguilar and Johnson, two players who will get plenty of looks from Jake Locker this fall.

Aguilar is solid in almost every phase of the game and he's a very hard worker. He's got very good hands and is deceptively fast, able to get deep occasionally for a big gainer. Johnson on the other hand, is probably at his best working the middle of the field in the intermediate areas, able to use his size and strength and outstanding route-running skills to cause probablems for safeties and linebackers in between the hashes.

People tend to forget that Goodwin, now a senior, led the Huskies in receptions (60) and yards (692) in 2008. While he's got great speed, Goodwin rarely gets deep and is much better at working the short and medium areas of the field against zone coverage.

Bruns is an enigma because he's probably best route-runner on the team and he's got sticky hands, but he just doesn't seem to fit into what Washington is trying to do at the receiver position. The staff found different ways to get the talented junior-to-be on the field as a sophomore last fall, but he didn't have any catches and needs to find a way this year to make it so the coaches can't keep him off the field.

Polk is probably the quickest of the Husky receivers, but his size limits what he can do in the offense. Washington appeared to want to find ways to get him the ball, but he only managed five receptions for 42 yards. Polk struggles getting off the press and doesn't have great top-end speed, so he needs to rely on his quickness and the ability to read defenses in order to find soft spots in zone coverage that he can exploit.

Leonard came to Washington as a quarterback, but made the switch to wideout in the spring of 2009. He's a good athlete and has the size the coaches are looking for, now it just depends on if he can find his way onto the field.

Chandler is a walk-on from Skyline (Sammamish, Wa.) and appears to be a player the coaches like a lot. He's got a ways to go in order to see the field, but don't be surprised if you see him on some special teams units this fall and, before his career is over, he could end up seeing some playing time due to his size and physical nature.

Of the two freshman who enrolled in July, Smith appears to be the one ready for the big stage. He's very strong and super-athletic. He's still raw though, so the Husky coaches will have to pick and choose their spots with him as he gets used to the college game.

Campbell is long and lanky, but has very good body-control and sticky hands as well. He needs at least a year, if not two, in the weight room in order to be effective against Pac 10 corners, but he's got the skill-set to be a good one down the road.

At tight end, the loss of Kavario Middleton to off-field issues was a blow, but Izbicki was the starter coming out of spring ball and he was expected to see plenty of time this fall no matter what happened.

The talented junior-to-be from Kirkland isn't the athlete that Middleton was, but he's still above-average in that department and he's a good blocker. He needs to work the middle zones better in order to be the outlet receiver Locker can count on.

Barnett doesn't have the ideal size you are looking for in a tight end, but he's got good hands and is a very good athlete. The staff needs to figure out how they want to use him in their offense because he can be a playmaker for them in the right situations. Blocking will be his kryptonite this year as he still needs to add bulk and strength to his relatively slender frame.

Hartvigson is a talent, but the coaches will do what they can to make sure he's able to redshirt this fall. If not, the talented freshman from Bothell would be counted on as a blocker, probably what he does best right now, in the two-tight end sets.

Domanski and Hudson are two solid walk-on prospects who add depth to a unit that could struggle in that department this fall.

Hudson already has a Pac 10 body, but his learning curve will be pretty steep. Domanski, for his part, had a solid spring, even catching a 38-yard touchdown pass from Nick Montana in the spring game, but counting on him being much more than a blocker would be asking for trouble.


Fall Preview: Quarterbacks

Fall Preview: Defensive Line

Fall Preview: Running Backs

Fall Preview: Linebackers


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