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Consulting the Chart: 2018 UW Wide Receivers Review

What do some of the advanced metrics say about Washington’s wide receivers this season?

NCAA Football: Washington at California D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season is officially over which means we can look back and try to process what the heck happened during an up and down Washington Huskies season. Almost all of the data that will be laid out in this series comes from my own game charting so it may not exactly agree with what you see elsewhere if I had differing criteria. Let’s get into it with the position group that both entered and left the season with the most question marks: The Wide Receivers.

2018 UW Wide Receiver Statistics

Player Receptions Targets 1st Downs Yards TDs Yds per Target Yds per Route Avg Depth of Target Avg Yds After Catch Forced Missed Tackle % Drop %
Player Receptions Targets 1st Downs Yards TDs Yds per Target Yds per Route Avg Depth of Target Avg Yds After Catch Forced Missed Tackle % Drop %
Aaron Fuller 59 105 39 874 4 8.32 2.23 9.04 5.88 16.95% 5.71%
Andre Baccellia 54 68 30 584 0 8.59 1.83 6.33 6.02 11.11% 1.47%
Ty Jones 31 56 23 491 6 8.77 1.47 13.77 2.61 3.23% 8.93%
Quentin Pounds 8 12 6 166 1 13.83 3.19 12.00 6 0.00% 8.33%
Chico McClatcher 9 10 7 133 0 13.30 5.12 -4.00 14.88 11.11% 10.00%
Alex Cook 1 2 1 26 0 13.00 1.37 13.00 6 0.00% 0.00%
Jordan Chin 1 1 1 15 0 15.00 0.56 14.00 1 0.00% 0.00%
Terrell Bynum 0 2 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 5.00 N/A N/A 50.00%

Aaron Fuller

Aaron Fuller made a huge impact early on in the season as he averaged 6 catches for 95 yards in the first 5 games and looked like he might be able to step in seamlessly for Dante Pettis. Unfortunately, Fuller didn’t come close to continuing that crazy pace and he averaged just 3 catches for 44 yards over the final 9 contests.

The thing that really stands out looking at his numbers above is that he saw almost 40 more targets than the next Husky WR as he was clearly Browning’s go to target. Yet, only 56% of passes thrown his way were actually caught. Some of that is Fuller’s fault and some of it is on Browning. Of those 46 incompletions, 21 were inaccurate passes, 13 were broken up by the defender, 3 were intercepted, 2 were tipped at the line, and 2 were throwaways. The 13 PBUs is particularly difficult to attribute blame as you can view that high number as a sign that Fuller didn’t fight for contested catches enough or that Browning trusted Fuller enough to make a play and so threw it to him in traffic more often. That’s for the film study crew to decide.

Given the season in its totality there’s not really an indication that Fuller is going to be a true #1 guy moving forward. I think he’s a very solid second receiver and an exceptional #3 but we saw the trouble this offense got into when you’re relying that heavily on Aaron Fuller. He forced 10 missed tackles which led the receivers by a considerable margin so he does have some wiggle.

Andre Baccellia

For much of the year Baccellia was the 3rd receiver in the offense but he had his coming out party in the Rose Bowl with 11 catches on 15 targets for 109 yards (all season highs). During the Husky combine Baccellia has shown that he’s one of the fastest Huskies and it shows with his role in the offense.

Washington primarily liked to get him the ball in space closer to the line of scrimmage and allow him to run after the catch. The statistics above don’t include a pair of end arounds on which he gained an additional 50 yards (they also don’t show a pair of passes he threw, one of which was an interception on the 1st play from scrimmage against ASU). Once Chico McClatcher left the team partway through the season he helped take on some of that role as the guy catching bubble and tunnel screens on the perimeter.

He was the most surehanded of UW’s receivers although that’s partly because his throws came closer to the line of scrimmage and therefore were easier to catch. His YAC and missed tackle numbers demonstrate that he can be useful creating big plays out of short passes but they aren’t so overwhelming that it screams for the need to get him the ball all the time. If Chico doesn’t return to the team over the offseason then I expect to see Andre in a very similar role in the offense to the one that he played over the last 4 games.

Ty Jones

Jones’ 4* pedigree and status as the only Husky WR with elite size led to high expectations on the part of the fanbase. There were elements of his game which fulfilled those expectations but he also showed inconsistent hands and disappeared in several games.

Jones had the longest depth of target of any UW receiver with more than 2 targets at almost 14 yards downfield. Getting targeted so far beyond the line of scrimmage was a big reason behind 74% of Jones’ catches resulting in a first down, which was the highest on the team. It also helped Jones to lead the team in TD catches at 6.

It’s clear though that Jones struggled to do much in the way of yards after the catch. If you’re picturing a Ty Jones catch right now it’s probably a rainbow along the right sideline in which Jones out-jumps the corner and then is immediately hit and tackled. The past few years Jake Browning has had deep threats who could gain immense separation and wait for an underthrown ball and still get yards after catch. That isn’t Jones who can make many of those catches but because of the lack of separation will only gain as many yards as it takes him to fall forwards after the catch.

The other big problem with Jones’ game is inconsistent hands as his drop percentage of 8.93% was higher than Aaron Fuller or Andre Baccellia. Given the situation around it I think most Husky fans will remember all off-season Jones turning his head to look upfield before securing the catch for what would’ve been a wide open 20+ yard gain in the 4th quarter of the Rose Bowl. But it was a nice bookend to his season as he also dropped his first target of the season against Auburn.

Jones was still just a true sophomore and there is upside to his development. At least some of his problem with drops is related to technique and with a new WR coach coming in they can fix his issue of turning before the ball gets there. If you magically turned 4 of his drops into catches for 80 total yards then I think most Husky fans would feel a lot more optimistic about Jones going forward. No matter what though he will continue to be a weapon in the red zone and someone for which the defense will need to take into account.

Quentin Pounds

Pounds was off to a great start to the season before he suffered a knee injury which ended his 2018 campaign. Given his history of knee injuries there’s no guarantee that he returns to the team next season and if he does he may not be 100%. But in the time that he did play, Pounds was quite good.

The TD catch against Auburn was sensational and the kind of play that you rarely saw a UW receiver make this season. Unlike Jones, Pounds showed some ability to get separation on the deep ball as his 57 yard catch and run against North Dakota (I understand it should be taken with a grain of salt as it was against North Dakota) was the only throw this season where the receiver gained at least 45 yards before being contacted by a defender.

His yards after catch numbers were close to Andre Baccellia and yet his average targeted air yards were closer to Ty Jones. If Pounds had played the entire season his numbers probably would’ve come down as they did for every other UW receiver as well but if Pounds does come back 100% next year then he should be viewed as a prime candidate for a breakout season.

Chico McClatcher

It was a very disappointing comeback year for Chico McClatcher who many (including me) thought would bring back a dynamic element to the UW passing game. Unfortunately, Chico stepped away from the team at the end of October with Chris Petersen saying that “Chico just needs a break from football”. Nothing is confirmed yet but the early signs point towards Chico coming back next year.

That would be huge because as far as Chico’s on-field performance, despite a limited role this season Chico still was UW’s most explosive receiver. He was used almost exclusively on throws to space behind the line of scrimmage as his average targeted air yards was actually negative 4. But his average yards after the catch were more than double any other UW player. Even if you subtract the 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage it’s still substantially higher than anyone else. 8 of his 9 catches resulted in gains of 9+ yards.

But 2 plays probably ended up defining McClatcher’s season for most fans. McClatcher dropped an easy pass behind the line of scrimmage against Arizona State in the red zone that had a chance for a touchdown. He also fumbled out the end zone against Colorado which kept things as a one score game in the 4th quarter. Hopefully Chico can come back 100% focused on football because he is too talented to have that be the last memory Husky fans have of him in a game situation.

Alex Cook/Jordan Chin/Terrell Bynum

The trio of Cook, Chin, and Bynum were never able to breakthrough and become major contributors despite significant absences from Pounds, McClatcher, and Hunter Bryant. Whether they simply struggled to get open or Browning just never looked at them, the three of them combined for just 2 catches on 5 targets for 41 yards (and one of the completions was thrown by Jake Haener during garbage time of the North Dakota game). The 4th receiver spot was wide open for the second half of the season and all 3 occupied it briefly but the fact that none of them was able to show definitively that they deserved more time isn’t a great sign for their development. It might be telling that Alex Cook announced last week that he would be changing positions to defensive back.

2018 UW Wide Receiver Success Rates

Player Total Snaps Total Success Rate Pass Play Snaps Pass Play Success Rate Run Play Snaps Run Play Success Rate
Player Total Snaps Total Success Rate Pass Play Snaps Pass Play Success Rate Run Play Snaps Run Play Success Rate
Aaron Fuller 666 44.39% 392 44.39% 274 45.99%
Ty Jones 570 43.88% 335 43.88% 235 48.09%
Andre Baccellia 498 47.19% 319 46.71% 179 48.04%
Quentin Pounds 110 50.91% 52 57.69% 58 44.83%
Terrell Bynum 83 57.83% 27 55.56% 56 58.93%
Alex Cook 66 52.63% 19 52.63% 47 44.68%
Chico McClatcher 65 52.31% 26 38.46% 39 61.54%
Jordan Chin 64 35.94% 27 33.33% 37 37.84%
Trey Lowe 3 33.33% 3 33.33% N/A N/A

There are a few interesting things to note from this table. First, I want to point out that it’s difficult to separate out from just the data above whether a player really made that big of an impact. For instance, the run success rate would be more useful if it was just runs towards the direction of a block rather than also including runs to the opposite side for which the receiver just stood there. But this is what I tracked so this is what we have.

The difficulty of parsing out individual players makes sense given that the total success rate for the top 3 receivers was in the mid-40’s for all of them. And the run success rate in particular is in the mid-40’s for 5 of the top 6 receivers in total snaps. That tracks pretty closely with the overall success rate of the team in all situations.

But the outliers are interesting. Let’s start with Chico McClatcher’s astronomical 61.5% run success rate. I think we can all agree that it’s unlikely that Chico is the greatest run blocking receiver on the face of the earth. What is much more likely is that if we ran the ball with Chico in the game that he ran a jet sweep motion pre-snap and provided misdirection on a good number of those snaps. It’s my goal for next year to track that as well so we have a better idea for it but it’s both logical and backed up by the stats that putting someone the defense has to respect in a jet sweep is going to cause a slight bit of hesitation on the part of the LBs and allow you to pick up more yards.

Terrell Bynum has the second highest run success rate and there’s a chance this could be a positive sign for him as a run blocker. But there was a period where Bynum ran jet sweep motion frequently so that same effect may be coming into play.

The one area where the stats match the eye test is with regards to Jordan Chin. Both his pass success rate and run success rate were the lowest of any receiver on the team. There was a pretty even split in the number of snaps that Chin shared with each receiver. But the common denominator was that when Chin was in the game the offense was less effective at meeting its goals.

Clearly the staff had their reasons for Chin taking over for Bynum as the most commonly used 4th receiver over the last part of the season. Given their tight-tongued nature with regards to injuries it’s possible that Bynum was banged up. He only played one snap in the final 3 games. But the data certainly seems to indicate that Bynum should be above Chin on the depth chart going into next season barring a major offseason change.

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