Losses: Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse, Reade Lobdill
Returning Players: Cody Bruns (Sr), DiAndre Campbell (So), William Chandler (Jr), James Johnson (Sr), Jamaal Jones (RS Fr), Joshua Perkins (RS Fr), Kevin Smith (Jr), Kasen Williams (So)
Additions: Marvin Hall, Jaydon Mickens, Kendyl Taylor, Dwayne Washington
For all their issues with drops, Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse left the University of Washington as two of the most productive receivers in the history of the program, and arguably the best duo. Replacing their production will be no small feat.
Jermaine Kearse was a true #1 college receiver. In the Alamo Bowl, he torched Baylor to the tune of 198 yards and a touchdown, and when he went out with an injury the passing game took a hit. The Husky comeback was halted when, for the first time all game, Keith Price threw three straight incompletions and they turned the ball over on downs. A small sample, yes, but things may have gone differently with a healthy Kearse. When he was on, he was simply too skilled and strong for most college defenders to keep up with.
After all the accolades coming out of high school and the promising freshman season, Kasen Williams is expected to take over that role as the #1 target. He has the size, speed and hands to manhandle defenders in a way not seen on Montlake since Reggie Williams. Oh, and he's quite the jumper as well.
The receiving corps around Williams has some pretty good players as well. James Johnson has been a very good player when healthy, making a name for himself from day one against LSU as a freshman. As the most experienced WR on the roster, he'll be counted on to make plays throughout the season and be a steadying hand for the younger players.
Kevin Smith was going to be counted on to be a much bigger contributor this season. He got plenty of playing time last season, being a ballcarrier at times as well as catching a few passes. He also showed that he could be a better than average blocker. While not overly tall or fast, Smith is built like a bowling ball and is one of those players who seems to do everything at an above average level. However, he tore his ACL late in the season and if he comes back at all, it won't be until later in the season if at all. His return is likely dependent on the play of the younger receivers: if they show competence and ability, it seems likely that Smith will use his redshirt this year. If the young players are having trouble, the coaching staff may not have the luxury of giving Smith the entire year to recover.
The rest of the position breaks down like this: tons of talent, none of it yet proven. When the position has been clogged with excellent players like Williams, Kearse, Aguilar and Johnson, the younger players have not had much time to get their feet wet and prove their chops. It's a good problem to have, but leaves a little uncertainty for the coming season. Expect DiAndre Campbell, Josh Perkins and Jamaal Jones all to see team throughout the season until one of them separates himself from the pack.
The verdict: Worse
There's simply too much production to replace to be optimistic about improvement from the WR position. However, the potential of Williams to become a truly elite receiver coupled with as many young and unproven players means that there is a strong possibility that this group will surprise, and may be among the Pac-12's best units by season's end.