Key Losses: John Ross (WR), Darrell Daniels (TE)
Key Additions: Ty Jones (WR), Brayden Lenius (WR), Terrell Bynum (WR), Alex Cook (WR), Hunter Bryant (TE)
Have you heard? The Huskies need to replace some decent receiver from last year. I think his name was Johan Rose. Or something like that - there’s not much news about him so I can’t say for sure.
Seriously though, replacing the speedy John Ross will not be easy. Watch any game from last season, and notice how many easy first downs we got because DBs gave John Ross a huge cushion and allowed him to get an easy 5-7 yard out route, at will. That level of respect given to Ross will be the single hardest aspect of his game to replace. In short, we probably won’t have a single like-for-like replacement for his talents, but the team has a deeper group of receivers than last year ready to share his workload.
Let’s take a closer look:
Why the pass game will be better
In short, aside from one stellar receiver and a TE with 17 catches, everyone else comes back. Massive book end tackles to protect the QB on pass drop backs? Check. Experienced and smart QB entering his 3rd year as a starter? Check. Deep group of receivers? Check. The Huskies were 5th nationally in passing efficiency and 41st in total passing and with the returning experience should not expect to see those numbers drop, especially the efficiency. Players like Andre Baccellia and Aaron Fuller are primed for increased roles on the team and Chico McClatcher should see his numbers improve if he’s healthy the entire season. While he doesn’t have the same ability as Ross, he averaged over 18 yards a catch, so he’s got his own big play ability. True freshman TE Hunter Bryant is an intriguing option as well, as he offers the jumbo WR/TE threat the team has lacked. I get the feeling the coaches really want to redshirt him, but if he plays, expect him to make an impact. His twitter handle isn’t “black beast” for nothing.
Last year the Huskies were very top heavy in the pass game with Ross and Pettis, and only had 6 players finish with double digit receptions, which includes Myles Gaskin. Add in the emergence in fall camp of the big bodies of Ty Jones and Brayden Lenius, and there’s plenty of reason to believe a deeper, more well rounded unit will be better than last year. The Huskies could see an upwards of 10 or more players with double digit catches this year, while they had half that last year. Less reliance on 1-2 star players should allow the Huskies to attack defenses with more diversity this year. Plus, Jake Browning should have plenty of time to sit behind a big and experienced OL.
Why the pass game will be worse
John Ross blew the top off of defenses last year game after game. When they took away the deep ball, he killed defenses with out routes for easy first downs time and time again. In the red zone, he hurt teams on slants and fades, showing impressive short area quickness and route running. He had serious play making ability and rare traits no one else on the roster has. Dante Pettis had nearly as many TDs as Ross but surely benefited from the attention Ross received. Chico McClatcher has got nearly the same speed and had a very impressive yards/catch average, yet he’s more comfortable in the slot that outside. Players like Baccellia and Fuller will contribute more this year, but big, physical presences are what this offense is missing. That’s where we hope Ty Jones and Brayden Lenius step up. The key word here is hope - Jones is a true freshman, and Lenuis has spent his first 3 years injured and/or in Petersen’s dog house. Both have had their moments in fall camp, with Lenius seemingly entrenched in the #2 rotation, but we ultimately don’t know what’re going to get when they take the field. They’ve got the talent but there’s no guarantees.
Lastly, can’t forget Darrell Daniels. While he wasn’t a major receiving threat, his speed and ability to run up the seam route was one more thing defenses had to account for, and he caught more than a few of Dante Pettis’ throws on double passes. His most obvious replacement is another true freshman, Hunter Bryant.
I originally had this written as neutral. I’m confident in the overall maturation of the receiving corps. Players like Fuller, Baccellia, and Lenius are three players that have been in the program at least 2 years and will be ready to make meaningful contributions. And of course there’s Dante Pettis, and he’s really, really good. He’s not a physically imposing 6’1” but is athletic, a great route runner, and has some of the best hands on the team. With his 15 touchdowns last year, he knows where the end zone is. He got a lot of space last year from defenses respecting Ross, and the attention Pettis gets this year will no doubt open things up for the rest of the receivers.
What really put me over the top into the better category is the maturation of the offensive line. This isn’t 7 on 7 football, after all. As Husky fans know all too well, a poor offensive line can derail a pass offense. While that wasn’t a huge issue last year against most opponents, USC and Alabama basically negated the pass game, in part, with their ferocious pass rushes. Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary will both be entering their 3rd years as starting tackles, and shouldn’t have a problem keeping Jake upright and looking downfield. When he’s able to do that, he’ll find the open man.
Will the passing game be better, worse, or neutral in 2017 compared to 2016?
This poll is closed