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Fall Camp Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

On our last day of fall previews, we present to you the air game.

Stanford v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Sup, and welcome to the final offensive position group preview. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first:

If you haven’t heard that Hunter Bryant will definitely be out for most of the season and possibly all of it, you know.

Feel free to scream into the closest pillow or, if available, take a big ol’ Nelson Cruz-sized swing at the nearest non-living entity.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it.

Key Departures

Nooooope. Nothing to see here. Everything’s fine.

Other than totally not losing any important pass-catchers, there’s also Will Dissly, who was drafted by the Seahawks in the fourth round. While he was kind of the anti-Hunter Bryant as far as being a quick, primarily receiving go-to, he had immense versatility as a blocking tight end who became a reliable (not to mention huge) target for Jake Browning and, once he had the ball in his hands, his power was a mismatch nightmare for scrawny little defensive backs. Combine that with the shorter offense the Dawgs ran last year after losing John Ross, and Dissly had more than six times the yardage output in 2017 than the year previous, with 21 receptions, 289 yards, and two touchdowns.

Furthermore, he was incredibly helpful as a release valve for Browning after disengaging from the block; his brutish ability on the line combined with good hands and size made him somewhat of a nightmare for everybody on the defense, albeit an understated one. When a team loses somebody who’s so dependable on the line and productive as a target, it hurts.

Returning Production

For a refresher, here are the receivers and tight ends who are coming back in 2018:

Returning Receivers and Tight Ends

Name Class Height Weight Receptions Yards TDs
Name Class Height Weight Receptions Yards TDs
Hunter Bryant So. 6'2" 245 22 331 1
Aaron Fuller Jr. 5'10" 190 26 291 1
Ty Jones So. 6'4" 215 7 71 0
Chico McClatcher Jr. 5'8" 176 10 128 0
Quinten Pounds Jr. 6'0" 182 10 155 1
Andre Baccellia Jr. 5'10" 173 16 187 0
Jordan Chin So. 6'0" 164 0 0 0
Drew Sample Sr. 6'5" 261 7 84 0
Jacob Kizer So. 6'4" 261 2 17 0
Jusstis Warren Jr. 6'2" 258 1 2 1
Michael Neal Jr. 6'4" 237 0 0 0
Ian Biddle** Sr. 6'0" 187 0 0 0
John Gardner** Sr. 6'3" 197 1 12 0
Josh Rasmussen** Jr. 5'11" 184 0 0 0
Max Richmond** Sr. 5'10" 181 0 0 0
Deshon Williams** Sr. 6'2" 228 0 0 0
** denotes walk-on, tight ends in bold

As you will note, as an at least semi-literate human person, there’s, uh, not a lot going on here.

With Bryant out, Aaron Fuller is, until proven otherwise, the de facto number one, while Chico McClatcher returns to his position as whatever you want to call it Chico does. Assuming he returns to full health after his ankle injury against Colorado, he’ll help take some stress off of the mid-range and short distances since his speed, while not John Ross-level, is still more than capable of stretching the field; after all, Browning’s first bomb of 2016 was not to Ross but to Chico, and he’s been the recipient of plenty. Furthermore, he’s versatile enough to be used on sweeps and as a pseudo-RB. Although his stature at 5’8” can make him a difficult target at times, he’s a shifty, speedy nightmare for opposing defenses once he has the ball in space.

On the other end of the spectrum, Drew Sample—who missed most of last year with an injury—is the anti-Chico. If the latter is a quick-twitch Jack Russell terrier, Sample’s a cart-pulling Saint Bernard. He contributes much of what Dissly did, although is slightly more prominent in the passing game as a target.

While the trio of Fuller, Chico, and Sample are dependable and varied, they’re pretty much the only consistently reliable targets. That’s terrifying.

Andre Baccellia got into the action some last year and was a dependable supporting cast member of the receiving corps, but hasn’t yet separated himself as a huge impact player; Quinten Pounds had some crazy catches (like this nuts one against Colorado) but was inconsistent. Ty Jones is a big target and was great with the ball in his hands but was clearly young and fresh to the offense; Jacob Kizer showed a bit of flash but mostly contributed as a physical blocker. Jusstis Warren was switching to the offense after initially being pegged as a linebacker.

There’s definitely potential in this group—especially from Jones and maybe Pounds—but, in the words of Jake Browning circa fall camp 2016: “Potential doesn’t win games.”

The one thing that does bode well, especially in a Petersen offense, is the cache of big tight ends. While none except maybe Sample will have huge statistical showings, their mismatch potential and versatility could end up a terror for opposing defenses. Plus it’s just fun watching five dudes who weigh like, 90 pounds try to tackle what may as well be Ivan Drago. It’s like watching Toad try to bring down Donkey Kong: just an all-around good time, as long as you’re not Toad.

Fresh Faces

Here’s where it gets interesting:

True and Redshirt Freshmen

Name Height Weight High School 247Sports Composite
Name Height Weight High School 247Sports Composite
Terrell Bynum* 6'1" 190 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA) 0.91
Alex Cook* 6'1" 192 Sheldon (Sacramento) 0.88
Cade Otton* 6'5" 244 Tumwater 0.86
Marquis Spiker 6'3" 180 Murrieta Valley (Murrieta, CA) 0.97
Austin Osborne 6'2" 188 Mission Viejo (Orange County) 0.92
Trey Lowe 5'8" 174 Jesuit (Portland) 0.91
Devin Culp 6'3" 235 Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) 0.88
David Pritchard** 6'0" 163 Eastside Catholic N/A
Jack Westover** 6'2" 220 Mt. Si N/A
*Redshirt freshmen, **Walk-ons, bold indicates tight end

Not to be too blunt or anything, but purely from a talent standpoint—and without knowing how the last couple years’ receiving corps steps up in 2018—this class of true and redshirt freshmen are better than every other class in this position group put together. That’s an exciting thought for the future but a scary situation for the present.

Thus, if a few of these guys can get up to speed fast, there’s a very real chance that A) returning players are overtaken for playing time and B) the passing game surpasses our cautious expectations. And if that doesn’t happen? Well, then we’ll see, I suppose.

The great thing about this group is there’s really nobody who isn’t a stud.

Terrell Bynum from 2017’s class was the first receiver with a 247 composite ranking above .90 to commit to UW under Petersen. Alex Cook was the third of the three commits of that class to verbally pledge and, subsequently, was somewhat overlooked but is nonetheless someone to keep an eye on. Cade Otton, the tight end and last redshirt in this group, won the Ultimate Bird Dawg award by the strength and conditioning staff for, as I wrote in my notes “spending the offseason gettin’ jacked as shit.” In a big group of returning TEs, he could still press for some impactful playing time.

Then the class of 2018 comes into play, and they’re even more impressive than the group Bush Hamdan put together the year before.

Given Washington’s needs within the group currently, I wouldn’t be shocked if Trey Lowe redshirts just since he’s essentially Chico McClatcher Jr. Is he a running back? Is he a receiver? Yes. The same thing will prooobably happen with Devin Culp as well, just because, in his offense east of the mountains at Gonzaga Prep, he was primarily used as an H-back and ball carrier out of the backfield so will probably need some time to adjust to a more pass-oriented offense than the Wing-T Flex Bone (which John Coalson so graciously pointed out in the comments) system in which he played in in Spokane.

That being said, it wouldn’t blow my mind if either of those guys see the field, whether or not that’s for more than four games and subsequently burns their redshirt.

The two who will almost certainly make an immediate impact (and this prediction isn’t news to any of you who even remotely follow recruiting) are Marquis Spiker and Austin Osborne. They’re both crazy talented plus, in Osborne’s case, he benefited from enrolling early for spring ball to get more in shape and in tune with the offense.

As far as quick thoughts on the two that are no means comprehensive: Osborne is sneakily elusive after the catch for someone of his size, knows how to manipulate defenders with a change of speed, and is good at using his frame to separate from defensive backs. Meanwhile, Spiker has great reach plus the body-control and coordination to go with it and is more physical than his somewhat lanky frame would suggest; like Osborne, he knows how to use his frame in conjunction with a defender’s leverage in space. What stands out though, to me at least, is how well his route-running gets defenders off balance. That aspect of his play is quite Pettis-esque, and we’ll hopefully see that continue in his college career.

Plus, with the two at 6’2” and 6’3” respectively, they both inject some much-needed size in a receiver group that—Ty Jones notwithstanding—averages 5’ 10.4.”

Regardless of the impact each of these new players makes this year, there’s no doubt most if not all of them will be big-time players down the line. And if that happens sooner rather than later, the Dawgs will be in a great spot.

Other than the new class, some players who until now were tertiary characters have to step up (I hate how cliché a term that is), especially with the confirmation of Hunter Bryant’s injury keeping him out most if not all of the season.

If none of those players have that in them and the young guys need a lot of time to adjust, this could get frustrating.

On the other hand, if both some under-the-radar vets and inexperienced talent make the leap, this could be real fun.

We’ll see what happens.

As always: Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.