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Washington Football 2016 Fall Camp Preview: Passing Attack

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Washington’s passing game improved dramatically from the beginning to the end of the 2015 season. Now, that improvement will go as far as quarterback Jake Browning can take it.

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Last month, the ESPN Pac-12 Blog ranked Washington’s trio of quarterback Jake Browning, running back Myles Gaskin and wide receiver John Ross as the second-best set of offensive triplets in the conference. Though Washington ranked just a middling fifth in the Pac-12’s yards-per-attempt statistic last year (7.9; Stanford led the conference at 9.3), expectations that the offense will continue to improve the way it did over the latter half of 2015 has given many fans and pundits reason to believe that Washington’s passing attack has the potential to cause some real headaches for opposing defenses this fall.

The Players

Jersey Name Pos Ht Wt Year Att Comp Yds TDs INTs
3 Jake Browning QB 6-2 205 Sophomore 369 233 2,955 16 10
7 Tony Rodriguez QB 6-3 191 Junior -- -- -- -- --
11 K.J. Carta-Samuels QB 6-2 219 Sophomore 24 10 124 0 1
16 Blake Gregory QB 6-3 170 Freshman (walk-on) -- -- -- -- --
17 Daniel Bridge-Gadd QB 6-2 195 Freshman -- -- -- -- --
393 243 3,079 16 11


Jersey Name Pos Ht Wt Year Rec Yds TDs
1 John Ross III (2014) WR 5-11 196 Junior 17 371 4
5 Jeff Lindquist TE 6-3 244 Senior -- -- --
8 Dante Pettis WR 6-1 187 Junior 30 414 1
9 Myles Gaskin TB 5-10 193 Sophomore 6 19 0
10 Jomon Dotson TB 5-10 175 Sophomore 2 19 0
12 Aaron Fuller WR 6-0 177 Freshman -- -- --
13 Chico McClatcher WR 5-7 176 Sophomore 8 78 1
15 Darrell Daniels TE 6-4 237 Senior 19 250 1
19 Andre Baccellia WR 5-10 166 Redshirt freshman -- -- --
21 Quinten Pounds WR 5-11 178 Redshirt freshman -- -- --
22 Lavon Coleman TB 5-11 220 Junior 4 31 0
23 Logan Hurst TB 5-10 186 Redshirt freshman (walk-on) -- -- --
24 Kamari Pleasant TB 6-0 195 Freshman -- -- --
25 Sean McGrew TB 5-7 173 Freshman -- -- --
28 Nik Little WR 6-5 212 Junior -- -- --
29 Josh Rasmussen WR 5-11 188 Redshirt freshman (walk-on) -- -- --
30 Gavin McDaniel TB 5-8 188 Sophomore (walk-on) -- -- --
31 Drew Before WR 6-0 201 Senior (walk-on) -- -- --
40 Ralph Kinne TB 5-10 216 Junior (walk-on) -- -- --
45 Mike Petroff FB/TE 6-1 235 Freshman (walk-on) -- -- --
80 Max Richmond WR 5-9 182 Sophomore (walk-on) -- -- --
81 Brayden Lenius WR 6-5 228 Junior 26 307 3
82 Jordan Chin WR 6-0 151 Freshman -- -- --
84 Michael Neal TE 6-4 237 Redshirt freshman -- -- --
85 David Ajamu TE 6-5 246 Junior -- -- --
86 Taelon Parson WR 6-1 195 Junior (walk-on) -- -- --
87 Forrest Dunivin WR 6-4 200 Junior (walk-on) -- -- --
88 Drew Sample TE 6-5 260 Sophomore 5 45 2
89 John Gardner WR 6-3 183 Sophomore (walk-on) -- -- --
94 Derek Hunter TE 6-2 227 Junior (walk-on) -- -- --
98 Will Dissly TE/DL 6-4 273 Junior -- -- --
117 1,534 12

Jake Browning’s growth and progression toward the end of the 2015 season is a large — perhaps the largest — reason why the Huskies are being picked as a potential Pac-12 champion. In the last three games of the season, Washington took on teams with pass defenses ranking No. 112 (Oregon State), No. 49 (Washington State) and No. 35 (Southern Miss); against them, Browning completed 55 of 74 attempts (74.3 percent) for 698 yards (9.4 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns against one interception. In addition, his 2,955 passing yards were the fifth-most in school history, and obliterated Jake Locker’s 2007 freshman passing record of 2,062 yards.

However, the gulf between Browning and his backup, likely to be either K.J. Carta-Samuels or Tony Rodriguez, is vast; in fact, Carta-Samuels is the only quarterback on the roster other than Browning who has attempted a pass in a Husky uniform. If Browning stays healthy, the sky’s the limit for this offense; if he goes down, and Chris Petersen is forced yet again to start from scratch at quarterback, then the talk of Washington being a Pac-12 contender will likely go away as quickly as it came.

At receiver, Husky fans are salivating at the return of John Ross III, who showed no loss of speed following two meniscus tears in his knee that forced him to sit out the 2015 season by running a 4.25-second hand-timed 40-yard dash at last spring’s Husky Combine. Ross is unquestionably one of the most dangerous home-run hitters in the Pac-12, as evidenced by his seven touchdowns in 2014 coming off plays of 20, 91, 55, 75, 86 and 100 yards. However, in his career thus far, he’s accounted for just 33 receptions and 579 yards, and only two touchdowns against Pac-12 opponents.

It seems clear, then, the Washington is going to need at least one other receiver to step up into a 40-, 50- or even 60-catch role. Dante Pettis seems to be a good candidate for doing so; no one on the team returning in 2016 hauled in more receptions than his 30 last year, and his 13.8 yards per reception was 17th-best in the conference. Brayden Lenius and his 6-5, 220 lb. frame is a good candidate to seize the spotlight, too; he caught just 26 balls last year but scored on three of them, all in the red zone.

Tight end Joshua Perkins became one of Jake Browning’s favorite safety nets last year, as the true freshman connected with him for at least one completion in every game in which he threw a pass. Browning will presumably try to replicate that chemistry this season with senior Darrell Daniels, who caught 19 passes for 250 yards last year as Perkins’ understudy. Another good candidate for taking on an increased role in the offense is redshirt sophomore Drew Sample, who scored twice on 13 catches last year. Lastly, the group’s biggest wildcard might be Jeff Lindquist, who moved to tight end this spring after playing quarterback for his first four years in Seattle.

Even though Myles Gaskin seized the starting tailback role by the season’s midpoint in 2015, Dwayne Washington continued to earn significant playing time by proving himself an invaluable asset in the passing game, both as a blocker and as a check-down option. By the end of the year, he had accounted for 25 catches, 315 yards and three touchdowns; those numbers rank fourth, fourth and tied for first, respectively, among Washington’s players last season. Finding his replacement, then, is going to be one of running backs coach Keith Bhonopha’s principle tasks this fall. Lavon Coleman would seem to have the physicality to fill that role, but with just 13 career receptions, it seems unrealistic to project such a leap for him to make in just one year. With so many big-bodied tight ends, don’t be surprised to see Washington utilize in-line tight end sets more frequently to help shore up the team’s pass-blocking if the running backs struggle.