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UW Fall Camp Preview: WR/TE

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Washington boasts a talented, well-stocked and balanced group of tight ends, but is particularly young and not nearly as balanced at wide receiver. Will the Huskies lean on that talent at TE to bolster the passing game this fall?

WR Jaydon Mickens
WR Jaydon Mickens
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It's a Tale of Two Position groups for the Huskies when looking at the receivers. At tight end, they boast talented players at every class level with a nice mix of bigger bodies and faster catch-and-run types; at wide receiver, they return just two experienced upperclassmen and only four scholarship players with experience, and they are somewhat lacking in the bigger-bodied receivers you'd like to have at the X (split-end) spot.  The coaches will be looking to newcomers to help fill in the gaps, and they might decide to get creative with the TE group and utilize more 12 and 22 personnel.

Who's Gone (5):

Player Pos Year Stats
Kasen Williams WR Sr 20 catches/189 yards, 9.4 avg, 2 TD
DiAndre Campbell WR RS-Sr 24 catches/231 yards, 9.6 avg, 1 TD
Michael Hartvigson TE RS-Sr 5 catches/65 yards, 13.0 avg, 0 TD
John Ross WR RS-So 17 catches/371 yards, 21.8 avg, 4 TD
Kendyl Taylor WR RS-So 18 catches/146 yards, 8.1 avg, 2 TD

Attrition of the unwanted kind hit the WR group this off-season as Kendyl Taylor opted to transfer and John Ross re-injured his leg and will be redshirting this season.  That leaves the Huskies with just four scholarship wide receivers with experience heading into fall camp.  Kasen Williams attempted to come back from a gruesome lisfranc injury to his left foot but appeared slowed early in the season and never quite seemed to fit in to the flow of the offense.  There were flashes here and there where he showed some of his pre-injury form (Arizona, WSU, Oklahoma State) but overall it must have felt like a bit of a disappointing ending to the former 5-star Parade All-American and Husky legacy.

DiAndre Campbell was given a shot at playing a 5th year by Coach Petersen after the previous staff encouraged him to move on after 2013, and while Campbell wasn't setting any records, he provided a steady veteran presence on the field and in the locker room and was arguably the best blocker in the WR group.  His 24 catches in 2014 placed him 3rd on the team in that category.

Michael Hartvigson found himself overshadowed during his career by Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and while he never quite emerged as a big-time receiving threat, he did develop into a quality in-line blocker on the edge of the line and contributed a few timely catches in 2014.

While there was much debate over the move of Ross to CB midway through 2014, there was no question that he represented the most electric play-maker on the team on offense and the coaching staff had already decided to return him to WR this year.  While he still exhibited a tendency to dance around too much at times, he also displayed his explosiveness as he led the team with his 21.8 yard average on his 17 catches, four of which went the distance.  His loss will be a blow.

Taylor seemed to have settled into a permanent position at WR after bouncing around to RB and S in his first couple of seasons, and he excited Husky fans with a terrific performance in the 2014 spring combine showcase, but it never quite translated out on the field as he saw limited playing time.  He still finished 5th in catches with 18, and his athleticism and experience would have been nice assets to have this year.

Key Returners (8):

Player Pos Year Stats
Josh Perkins TE RS-Sr 25 catches/315 yards, 12.6 avg, 3 TD
Jaydon Mickens WR Sr 60 catches/617 yards, 10.3 avg, 4 TD
Marvin Hall WR Sr 6 catches/42 yards, 7.0 avg, 0 TD
Darrell Daniels TE Jr 11 catches/171 yards, 15.5 avg, 1 TD
David Ajamu TE RS-So
Dante Pettis WR So 17 catches/259 yards, 15.2 avg, 1 TD
Braden Lenius WR So 7 catches/56 yards, 8.0 avg, 0 TD
Drew Sample TE RS-Fr


It's hard to believe Jaydon Mickens is heading into his fourth season - it doesn't seem that long ago that the one-time USC commit was making his announcement for the Huskies by playfully picking up then tossing aside a Cuog cap and saying "Nah!" and committing to the Dawgs.  Now he's the established vet heading into his final season, owner of the #8 and #10 seasons in Husky history for catches and with a good chance to finish his career #2 in receptions for Washington.  Long known for his big smile and ease in front of the mic, Husky fans also saw a fiery side of him in the Cactus Bowl as he did his best to rally his team on the sidelines and on the field.  Mickens provides a terrific security blanket for the passing game, someone with terrific quickness and elusiveness that can turn a swing pass or bubble screen into a long gain and enough pure speed to get open deep.  He'll be leaned on heavily to lead his fellow receivers on and off the field this year.

Josh Perkins entered the program as a highly productive WR from Gahr H.S. with good size, but the coaching staff saw a player with the skillset to provide a real threat as a TE.  Fast enough to be a mismatch against many linebackers and safeties and with enough size to not embarrass himself as a blocker, Perkins has developed into a reliable option in the passing game over the last couple of years.  He's often been split wide rather than lining up outside the tackle, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him utilized at times this year out on the perimeter.

Before Mickens arrived at Washington from Dorsey H.S., Marvin Hall paved the way.  Hall has similar size to Mickens and is a touch faster in a straight line, but thus far significant playing time has eluded him.  Now in his final year, this would be a great time for him to make a big leap forward and help fill the gap left behind by the injury to fellow Legion of Zoom member Ross.

Similar to Perkins, Darrell Daniels arrived at Washington as big-bodied WR.  Blessed with terrific speed, the 4-star got a lot of attention from Husky fans and showed enough to the coaching staff to avoid a redshirt year.  Noted for his punishing hits on special teams, some lobbied to see him moved to linebacker.  Instead, the coaching staff moved him to TE.  He's continued to get bigger without losing his speed, and he's a nightmare matchup for any linebacker.  But he also has battled nagging injuries that have played a part in keeping him from breaking out, though he showed his potential with a spectacular 68 yard catch and run for a TD last year against Oregon State.  Finding ways to get him more involved in the passing game has to be a priority for the coaches.

When he arrived at Washington, Shelton's David Ajamu invited comparisons to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, often saying how he aspired to be a similar player.  The biggest of the Husky tight ends at 6'5", 251 pounds, he has worked hard at improving his game and isn't just a blocker - the RS-Sophomore showed this past spring that he has the ability to make spectacular catches and be a real threat in the passing game.

Dante Pettis arrived as a 3-star WR recruit, but with some notable hype as the younger cousin of star WR Austin Pettis and a player that Greg Biggins considered highly under-recruited.  With the opportunity available for early playing time, Pettis seized it showed flashes over the course of the season that he could become an impact player at the position.  His 15.2 ypc figure ranks 2nd among returning receivers, and he figures to emerge as the #2 option among the WR group.

Less heralded but no less intriguing is Braden Lenius, a big target originally from British Columbia who spent a year in California at Chaminade Prep to gain greater recruiting exposure.  While still a bit raw in terms of technique, his size and ability jumps off the page and he too avoided a redshirt year as he earned a spot in the depth as a true frosh.  As one of the few big receivers among the WR group, he fills a needed role as a blocker on the edge and a dangerous end zone target.

Initially a Boise State commit, Drew Sample followed Chris Petersen to Washington.  With the TE position well-stocked, he was able to redshirt last season.  He has good size at 6'4", 249 lbs and showed well this spring both as a receiver and a blocker.  He figures to see time in blocking sets and has enough talent to rotate in as a receiver as well, and along with Ajamu he figures to keep the position in great hands for the foreseeable future.

Newcomers (6):

Name Ht Wt Pos Year Stars
Nik Little 6'5" 210 lbs WR Jr (JC transfer) **
Andre Baccellia 5'9" 165 lbs WR Fr ***
Chico McClatcher 5'8" 180 lbs WR Fr ****
Michael Neal 6'4" 219 lbs TE Fr ***
Quinten Pounds 5'11" 166 lbs WR Fr ***
Isaiah Renfro 6'1" 185 lbs WR Fr ****

Washington coaches saw the lack of scholarship bodies at the WR position this past spring and not a lot of big guys to fill the Split End role and decided to offer JC transfer Nik Little, a big target at 6'5", 210 lbs.  Little had a big freshman year at Golden West College and was getting a lot of recruiting attention, but an injury limited him to two games this past year and left him available well after Signing Day had come and gone.  Whether he's 100% recovered is unknown at this point, so it will be very interesting to see how he looks once fall camp starts.  At his size - and with his JC experience - he's a guy that will have a great opportunity to make an immediate impact.

With four recruits coming in at WR, there's a major re-stocking of the position.  In the interests of keeping the positions balanced across classes, you'd figure that the staff would hope to redshirt 1-2 of the incoming frosh, but which ones?  Isaiah Renfro brings needed size and 4-star pedigree so it would seem he'll have a great chance to play right away.  The other 4-star in the group is the "Blue Mamba", Chico McClatcher from Federal Way.  A local legend with an amazing highlight reel, he brings electric play-making ability to the position, but he's also a player in transition as he was a RB in high school and will need to prove his hands are reliable.  Expect to see him used a lot as a slot player and out of the backfield with some handoffs a possibility.  Andre Baccellia is a polished route-runner with explosive breaks; size and an injury his senior year meant a low 3-star rating, but he could surprise a lot of folks.  Quinten Pounds was recruited by many teams as an "athlete" with the potential to play in the secondary, but the Husky coaches will start him off on offense.  Slightly built at just 166 pounds, he could stand a year in the weight room, but he was a productive and versatile player in high school with terrific athleticism.  Joining the TE group is Mike Neal, a play-maker who would appear to fit more of the Josh Perkins mold.  With the quality of depth at this position, he figures to get the luxury of a redshirt year to keep things nicely balanced with one player per year.

Analysis:

With few proven returning WR's - heck, few unproven ones too - and a large recruiting class of new WR's, this is a position in transition.  Mickens is the unquestioned leader and (by far) the most established target.  Pettis brings a lot of potential to the group and could be poised for a big uptick in his production.  Beyond that you're looking at a lot of unproven and/or new players and hoping they can advance quickly.  The good news is there's talent there to be molded, but how quickly they can emerge is a big question mark.  Keep an eye on the walk-ons too - guys like Drew Before, Max Richmond, John Gardner and Taelon Parson got a lot of reps this past spring, and talented kids like Jamon Jones and Josh Rasmussen will join the competition when fall camp opens next month.

The good news is that the TE group is very well established, and all four players took turns grabbing the spotlight this past spring.  With a couple of former WR's in that group in Perkins and Daniels, you have players that could potentially play a hybrid role where they see some time split out wide with the other WR's while the bigger guys - Ajamu and Sample - play more of a traditional in-line TE role.  This should be a case where the position of strength (TE) supplements the less-proven position (WR).

Predicted Depth Chart:

Here's my WAG for how things will look when fall camp opens:

WR1: Jaydon Mickens, Chico McClatcher, Andre Baccellia

WR 2: Dante Pettis, Marvin Hall, Drew Before* (walk-on)

WR3: Braden Lenius, Nik Little, Isaiah Renfro

TE: Josh Perkins, Darrell Daniels, David Ajamu, Drew Sample