Using history as a guide, it stands to reason that some of Washington’s offensive production this season will come from an unanticipated source. That can materialize either through (1) a player who is being counted on for offense producing numbers well in excess of what anyone realistically predicted, or (2) an unexpected player coming out of seemingly nowhere to provide substantial offensive contributions.
Reviewing statistics from the past five seasons has uncovered offensive surprises of both types.
In 2011, Keith Price was in a camp battle with Nick Montana that was never as close as those obsessed with Montana’s name and pedigree wanted to believe. Still, Price was thought to be unspectacular and was following in the footsteps of the physically gifted Jake Locker. Instead of a drop-off in quarterback production, Price put together one of the best seasons of any QB in UW history. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Price’s 33 TDs, 67% completion and 161.9 QB rating during his sophomore season a shock.
A year later UW would lose another marquee offensive weapon in running back Chris Polk. Polk left Washington after recording his third straight 1,000 yard season, rushing for over 1,400 yards in each of his last two years. Bishop Sankey and Jesse Callier had the unenviable job of trying to replace him, with Callier earning the nod as starting tailback. Callier tore his ACL in the season opener against San Diego State and Sankey took over the starting job. He proved to be the surprise of the season on his way to 1,439 yards and 16 TDs. Sankey ran for only 187 yards the year before.
2013 brought us production of the "forgotten man" variety in WR Kevin Smith. As a sophomore in 2011, Smith showed promise, especially as a kickoff returner where he amassed 958 yards and a 25.8 yard average. He also showed up on offense in the form of 208 yards receiving and had some explosive running plays (5 rushes for 71 yards). Smith was expected to contribute more significantly on offense in 2012, but instead he was slowed by injuries and caught only 6 balls all year long. Just when he was written off, Smith emerged for a strong senior season, leading all Huskies with an unexpected 765 receiving yards.
Shaq Thompson was no doubt supposed to be one of the key players on the 2014 Husky team. The expectation was that he would be one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12, and he was. While the move to running back was often discussed, the reality of his 456 yards rushing in a mini-beast-mode stretch midway through the season has to be considered surprising.
Last year: Myles Gaskin. 14 TDs, 1,302 yards. True Freshman. ‘Nuff said.
This year the possibilities are many, especially with all the question marks at the WR position. Here are some options for potential "bonus offense" in 2016. I'm intentionally leaving out plenty of excellent candidates so make your case in the comments.
Jake Browning, QB
Browning could be the surprise here only if he puts up gaudy numbers. Realistic expectations for Browning don’t exceed 3,500 yards or 30 TDs, but I wouldn’t call it shocking if he puts up Keith Price 2011 stats (though I think we would all be very happy with that); it would have to be something beyond those numbers for a "wow, I did not see that coming" reaction.
John Ross III, WR
Ross is being counted on for a lot this season, and he looks to be recovered from his injury. We know he can catch the deep ball, and even if he returns 3 kickoffs for TDs I wouldn’t call that a huge surprise. For Ross to be the mystery man he will need to prove to be a bulk ball-catcher. If he hauls in 70 passes or more I will make the Macaulay Culkin face.
Not this face.
Chico McClatcher, RB/WR
McClatcher is a really good candidate here. We know what he can do on fly sweeps and bubble screens, but he also has the potential to run the ball between the tackles and catch it downfield. The question is, what is expected of him? If he tallies 400 yards receiving and another 250 on the ground no one will be shocked. Chico would have to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage to be considered a real surprise.
Brayden Lenius, WR
Even with the Canadian exchange figured in, Lenius’s 26 receptions and 11.8 yard average were well below what most expected in 2015. I’ll set 600 yards and 8 TDs as the over/under for any shock value.
Connor Griffin, WR
It won’t surprise me at all if the converted tight end plays a lot of snaps, makes some big catches, provides many key blocks and is a productive player. But big numbers from the former Gonzaga basketball player are unexpected in my book. Anything more than 500 yards would classify as serious bonus offense.
Andre Baccellia, WR
The darling of Spring Camp, Baccellia won’t shock many if he is a productive receiver. But spring stars are just guys who played well in practice. Can he produce when the lights come on for real? A 500-yard season will answer that question with a resounding "yes."
Quinten Pounds, WR
I’ve said it before and I’m sticking to my guns: Pounds is good. He was good enough to see the field early last year as a true freshman before a knee injury ended his season. He’s a nice possession WR with some moves. Here’s another guy who can "win" this category with 500 yards.
Sean McGrew, RB
I really have no idea what to expect from McGrew. Will he be a receiving back? Will he spell Gaskin? He may have trouble finding playing time if McClatcher has an increased role, but an explosive player doesn’t need a lot of touches to make an impact. Let’s call 600 scrimmage yards something that we don’t realistically expect to see. True frosh are always hard to guess.
Whether it’s someone I mentioned or a player I didn’t, who gives the Dawgs unexpected offensive production in 2016?