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Coping with the loss of Chico McClatcher for the season

The injured UW receiver leaves a major void in the UW rotation.

NCAA Football: Washington at Colorado
Chico’s injury is UW’s loss for the remainder of 2017.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This sucks.

Though it happens to just about every team in just about every season, the sting of losing a hard-working player to a hard-to-watch injury the sort of which Chico McClatcher suffered last Saturday is hard to take.

Unfortunately, the Huskies don’t have the luxury of mourning the loss of their teammate. Another road trip is looming this weekend and the process of implementing the game plan has already started. Someone is going to have to step into Chico’s playmaking role and a shuffling of the strategy that accounts for the loss of Chico’s unique skills has to happen.

What are the implications you ask? I’ve got three instant reactions for you to consider.

(1) The offense doesn’t really have to change

The UW offense is currently the #3 most efficient offense in the country per advanced stats culled by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly. However, the offense has not enjoyed the same kind of explosiveness that it enjoyed a year ago, ranking just 26th in the country at this point in the season.

McClatcher’s role on the team is less about supporting its efficiency and more about creating explosive play opportunities. While he was the clear best option to take on that role from John Ross, his success to date has not been overly remarkable. In fact, he hasn’t caught a TD pass on the year.

The availability of players with similar skill sets and the fact that UW hasn’t really crafted any specific schemes designed to take advantage of Chico’s unique capabilities means that the offensive playbook does not really have to change as a result of this unfortunate development.

That isn’t to say that UW doesn’t need to look at why the explosive plays are not coming as commonly as they did a year ago. This is just to say that nothing really has to be tweaked in order to accommodate how UW will most likely compensate for the loss of Chico for the year.

(2) Salvon Ahmed’s role is about to expand even further

Chico McClatcher’s greatest value to the team was less about being an every-down slot receiver and more about being a weapon that can attack the edge of a defense. His quick cuts and raw speed give him the ability to get around the corner quickly and allow blockers the luxury of not having to hold onto blocks on plays that typically take a long time to develop.

Finding another player who has that kind of capability on plays that UW likes to run - like jet sweeps and swing passes - can be challenging for most teams. It is especially daunting in a conference like the PAC 12 where linebacker speed is a prioritized commodity. Luckily, Salvon Ahmed has already shown those kinds of capabilities and spent most of fall camp developing his role as a hybrid player in much the same way McClatcher has been used.

It is clear that Ahmed is going to become a bigger part of the offense. Given the injury to Lavon Coleman, that was already happening as a running back. Going forward, we might see Ahmed on the field for as many as 65-70% of snaps.

(3) The competition for receiver reps is about to intensify

While I can see Ahmed getting many of McClatcher’s touches, I expect that another receiver is going to pick up a significant chunk of his snaps-on-the-field.

UW has struggled to establish a regular rotation of receivers behind Dante Pettis. In fact, McClatcher was the really the only “sure thing” that could be counted on a second option. Someone needs to step up and take on that role.

While it is clear that some of the “big receivers” could get more time - guys like Hunter Bryant, Brayden Lenius and Ty Jones - each of those guys play different roles on the team. It would seem like that the true slot / possession kind of role might come down to a competition between Andre Baccellia, Quinten Pounds and Aaron Fuller. I might be guilty of “size bias” here, but I have to believe that each of these guys is going to get more of a chance to show their stuff.

The Baccellia injury complicates this - who knows when he will be back? Fuller was a surprise play as a true freshman a year ago, but hasn’t been as prominent this year. Pounds had the incredible TD reception last weekend, but has otherwise been relatively quiet. It will be fun to see if a top candidate emerges.

(4) A redshirt may be in the offing

Because Chico’s injury occurred in the first 30% of the season, he may be able to take a redshirt. This would not be a “medical” redshirt in that Chico played as a true freshman.

The process for claiming this redshirt includes the application for a waiver and an approval by the NCAA. It is by no means automatic and would not even be something that we could make an assumption about until Team Chico requests it. But given the more player-friendly stances the NCAA is taking on injury situations, it would be a pretty good bet that Chico would be able to claim his redshirt.

That’s what I got. As you consider UW’s situation, what is on your mind?