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Consulting the Chart: 2019 Wide Receivers Review

An advanced stats focused player-by-player discussion of the Husky receiving corps

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Hawaii at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello and welcome to the first in what will be an ongoing series reviewing the performance of every Husky position group from the 2019 football season!

For those that don’t know, I go back and game chart every snap on offense and defense that the Huskies take each year to record every player on the field and a variety of extra factors that go into the ability to have my own advanced statistics database. I’ll break out those stats throughout the article as we go player by player through the roster. We’ll begin with perhaps the most heavily scrutinized position group on the Huskies this season: the wide receivers.

2019 UW Wide Receivers Basic Statistics

Player Snaps Routes Targets Receptions Yards 1st Downs TDs
Player Snaps Routes Targets Receptions Yards 1st Downs TDs
Fuller 611 340 91 58 687 36 6
Baccellia 463 273 54 29 314 15 4
Bynum 443 219 43 30 361 20 2
McClatcher 122 77 18 13 102 7 1
Nacua 113 38 11 7 168 4 2
Chin 49 32 8 3 98 3 2
Spiker 47 31 5 3 67 2 0
Jones 30 9 0 0 0 0 0
Osborne 14 6 1 1 -2 0 0
Pounds 5 5 0 0 0 0 0

2019 UW Wide Receivers Advanced Statistics

Player Yards per Catch Yards per Route Yards per Target Average Air Yards Avg Yards After Catch Drop % Forced Missed Tackle % % Targets per Route % 1st Downs per Target
Player Yards per Catch Yards per Route Yards per Target Average Air Yards Avg Yards After Catch Drop % Forced Missed Tackle % % Targets per Route % 1st Downs per Target
Fuller 11.8 2.0 7.7 10.9 4.3 5.5% 2.20% 26.8% 39.6%
Baccellia 10.8 1.2 5.9 10.3 5.6 9.3% 7.40% 19.8% 27.8%
Bynum 12.0 1.7 8.6 8.8 3.9 7.0% 9.30% 19.6% 46.5%
McClatcher 7.9 1.3 5.7 5.7 7.7 11.1% 11.10% 23.4% 38.9%
Nacua 24.0 4.4 15.3 14.7 7.9 9.1% 18.20% 29.0% 36.4%
Chin 32.7 3.1 12.3 30.5 1.3 0.0% 0% 25.0% 37.5%
Spiker 22.3 2.2 13.4 19.6 4.3 0.0% 0% 16.1% 40.0%

Aaron Fuller

After an out of nowhere start to the 2018 season, Aaron Fuller’s play and production gradually tailed off along with the Husky passing game in general. With a new wide receivers coach in place there was some hope that Fuller might take a leap in his senior year. That was seemingly validated in week 1 when Fuller made a ridiculous one handed highlight reel catch for a touchdown. Unfortunately, that was the peak of the season for maybe the team as well as for Fuller and his only time breaking the 100-yard mark was in a disappointing loss at Stanford when he finished with 85% of the team’s receiving yards.

Despite the heavy criticism lobbed Fuller’s way by some fans he didn’t have a terrible season. Fuller had 4+ catches in 6 of UW’s first 7 games before missing the Oregon game due to injury. Upon his return he only met that benchmark in 2 of the final 5 games. Fuller still had the highest yards per route run of any of the wide receivers that ran at least 40 routes (i.e Fuller, Baccellia, Bynum, and McClatcher). He was Eason’s favorite target throughout the season and had the ball thrown to him a team high 91 times.

There are clearly deficiencies in Fuller’s game. He has some after the catch ability but Fuller forced just 2 missed tackles all year contributing to a season long catch of 37 yards. That just isn’t something you can afford to see out of your #1 receiver. I bet most fans feel like Fuller dropped every other pass. He actually had the lowest drop % of any of the major contributors at wide receiver. The problem? All 5 of his drops came in the 4th quarter of games UW was trailing in and eventually lost. Those made the drops all the more memorable and made Fuller appear less sure-handed than he actually was in 2019.

During this same column last year I stated that Fuller was a below average #1 guy, a solid 2nd receiver, and a great 3rd option. Nothing really changed between his junior and senior years. Fuller was capable of making the tough reception but also rarely created scoring chances by gaining much separation or yards after the catch. For a player that was a low 3-star recruit coming out of high school he definitely has to be called a success story. Unfortunately Husky fans are unlikely to remember him as such because through no fault of his own he was miscast as a #1 receiver on a pair of struggling offenses as an upperclassman.

Andre Baccellia

After a breakout performance with 12 catches for 109 yards in the Rose Bowl and a 4.38 40-yard dash in the Husky combine there were increased expectations for Andre Baccellia going into the season. It’s fair to say he failed to meet any of them. Baccellia finished with just 2 games of 40+ receiving yards and they were in blowouts over Eastern Washington and BYU. This despite taking the field on 62% of UW’s pass plays throughout the season. In Washington’s 5 losses he had a combined total of 11 catches for 82 yards and 1 touchdown while running 125 routes. He left the offense essentially playing down a man when the team needed a spark.

None of the advanced metrics were particularly favorable for Baccellia either. He finished last among the primary 7 receivers in the rotation in yards per route and % of first downs per target while finishing 6th in yards per target. Somehow Baccellia tied for the lead among UW wide receivers in forced missed tackles with 4 but he was never a threat to break a legitimate tackle attempt. His hands also became an issue for the first time this year as he finished with 5 drops including a pair on throws behind the line of scrimmage. It certainly looked like Baccellia was pressing at times from the pressure to make a play but he never got things turned around. The Huskies had a 35.9% success rate when throwing the ball to Baccellia and a 50.7% success rate throwing to anyone else. That kind of sums it up.

Baccellia’s playing time tailed off as the season went along. That was partly due to injury but his 7 games with the fewest snaps were the final 7 games of the season in some order. Beginning with the Utah game 73% of his snaps came in a 3 WR set and it was rare to see him out there unless Fuller and Bynum also were in the game. It’s hard to look at a game like the one against Cal where Fuller and Baccellia each played 74 snaps and not think that with some of the younger talent on the field that becomes a W.

Similar to Fuller, Baccellia was an unheralded 3-star recruit and his career numbers were probably better than what you would’ve expected when he entered the program. The real failure was on the part of the coaching staff either to continue to put Baccellia out on the field when there were better options or to fail to get the younger talent ready to play heavy snaps in the early part of the year.

Terrell Bynum

Last season Bynum got a little bit of shine as the 4th receiver but became one of several Huskies to try out that role and none ever got much of a chance to prove anything other than their run blocking acumen. Things got marginally better at the beginning of this year as Bynum played between 13 and 19 snaps in 6 of the first 7 games this season. However, with injuries to the senior wide receivers above him Bynum finally got a chance to shine over the last third of the season and by the bowl game was clearly entrenched as a starter on the depth chart.

Bynum showed he had good speed by running a 4.48 40-yard dash at the Husky combine and he mostly put that on display running crossers and slants underneath when on the field. His average air yards per target was only higher than Chico McClatcher showing that Bynum rarely got a chance to attack vertically. And yet his % of first downs per target were the highest of any UW wide receiver. Good things generally happened when Bynum was thrown the ball. Washington’s 61.9% success rate on throws to Bynum was over 10 percentage points higher than any of the other Husky receivers.

He wasn’t immune to some of the other problems faced by UW’s pass catchers though. Bynum still dropped 3 passes and his 9.3% forced missed tackle percentage was fine but not exceptional.

The season long numbers between Bynum and Fuller were relatively close but from the Oregon game on Bynum averaged more than 4 yards extra per reception and almost 3 yards more per target than Fuller. During that time Bynum averaged 4.7 catches for 54.5 yards per game with a pair of touchdowns. Who knows what the Jon Donovan era will bring but it’s clear that Bynum should start the 2020 season entrenched as the primary slot receiver.

Chico McClatcher

Chico became a fan favorite when as a sophomore he averaged nearly 20 yards per catch as a dynamic mighty mouse receiver during Washington’s magical 2016 run to the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, a leg injury cut short his 2017 campaign and then during a comeback attempt last year he stepped away from the team in the second half of the season. A combination of more injuries and reduced usage once again saw Chico relegated to largely a “gadget” player in the Husky offense.

11 of Chico’s 18 targets this season came on throws within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and 13 of them came with at least 7 yards to go to the first down marker. When he was in the game it signaled to the opponent that a screen pass or reverse or something behind the line of scrimmage was likely to happen. That lack of versatility whether on the part of Chico or the play calling meant that just 38.9% of plays where Chico was targeted were successful and his 5.7 yards per target were by far the lowest among the regular contributors at WR.

Chico showed off his trademark burst and wiggle by finishing 2nd among the receivers in forced missed tackle percentage at 11.1% but also dropped a pair of passes against Cal on 3rd or 4th down. The coaches did try to find other ways to get the ball into Chico’s hands and he ended up with 9 rushing attempts for 53 yards (5.9 ypc) with 5 coming on fly sweep handoffs.

It became clear the coaching staff dramatically re-thought his role after that Cal game as he played 62 snaps in UW’s first 2 games and just 60 combined in their remaining 11 games. It’s only speculation but given the timing of Trey Lowe’s transfer and the similarity of their body types it seemed like a real time philosophical shift on the part of the coaches to move away from the small speed guys. Whether due to injuries or off-field issues it’s a shame that we never got to see a career where Chico looked like a true difference making game breaker for more than one season in a Husky uniform.

Puka Nacua

The Huskies executed a late recruiting coup last February when they convinced Nacua, who led the nation in receiving yards, to sign with Washington. Perhaps no true freshman last summer inspired more day dreaming by UW fans than Nacua. That led to some consternation when he saw just 2 snaps in the loss to Cal with an anemic passing offense on display. The rumbles grew louder when Nacua scored a 28 yard touchdown on his first ever target against Hawai’i. It took until the loss at Stanford though for the coaching staff to make some wholesale changes as Nacua then earned 68 snaps against in the next two games against Arizona and Oregon before suffering a season ending injury in practice.

It’s very much possible if not extremely likely that Nacua’s team leading 15.3 yards per target would have come down with extended playing time. A total of 4.4 yards per route run is unsustainable even for superstar players. Still, it’s cruel that Nacua broke his foot so soon after putting his immense potential on display and therefore denying Husky fans of his exciting playmaking ability down the stretch. Puka forced as many missed tackles as Aaron Fuller this year on 51 fewer receptions.

It’s also true that the offense was just flat out better when he was on the field. It has to be stated that there’s a little bit of a chicken and egg conundrum. The majority of Nacua’s snaps this year came in the 2nd half against Arizona and against Oregon when the Husky offense scored an average of 11.5 points per quarter compared to the 7.2 they scored in all other games. Was that because Nacua was in the game or was Nacua in there when the Huskies happened to catch some breaks? It’s likely a combination of both but UW fans certainly hope it’s more the former. Washington had a 60.8% success rate when Nacua was on the field. The next highest for a UW receiver was Aaron Fuller at 47.9%.

Jordan Chin

In 2018 Chin looked over matched as the team had an abysmal 35.9% success rate on his 64 snaps and he was only targeted once despite running 27 routes. Things certainly flipped this season as Chin was often used as an effective deep threat. His second career catch went for 39 yards against Arizona and Chin kept it going the next two weeks with a beautiful 48 yard touchdown against Oregon and an 11 yard touchdown versus Utah. Unfortunately those were his only 3 catches of the year but all were massive plays for the offense.

The Oregon and Utah games were the only two in which Chin saw double digit snaps (which was partly due to injuries to the rest of the receiving corps) and he otherwise was brought in 2-4 times per game to run go routes either as the primary option or to occupy the defense’s attention. Chin’s 37.5% success rate on targets was the second lowest among receivers behind Baccellia and his 39.1% success rate while on the field was the lowest. But because of Chin’s route tree he was only ever targeted with at least 8 yards to go and his ridiculous 30.5 average air yards shows that success rate isn’t the best way to view his effectiveness. A 3 out of 8 chance of gaining 32 yards are pretty good odds to result in a boom or bust 12.3 yards per play.

With Fuller and Baccellia graduating it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chin still occupy the same role until he can prove to have a more advanced route tree. However it certainly seemed by the end of the year as if defenses knew that when Chin was in the game to have one deep safety to his side so under a new OC it would be best to either give Chin a chance to display versatility or plan on him mostly serving as a decoy.

Marquis Spiker

There were certainly hopes coming into the year that Spiker would emerge early on this season since he was the highest rated receiver recruit UW had signed since Kasen Williams. Unfortunately Spiker was never quite able to break through on the depth chart and was seemingly used only on certain packages designed to keep things simple for him. Spiker never played double digit snaps in a game this season but appeared on offense in 10 total contests.

Many of those opportunities came on 3rd and long where Spiker’s physical tools allowed him the chance to make contested catches in double coverage. The average yards to gain when Spiker was in the game was 9.7 so he almost always came in on a pure passing down. His average air yard total was almost 20 which was second highest on the team behind Jordan Chin and 4 of his 5 targets were on either 3rd or 4th down. Yet 2 of those catches still resulted in 1st down conversions and a 3rd picked up 20 on the 3rd and 23 at the end of the Oregon game to give the Huskies a fighting chance.

At a bare minimum Spiker should continue to be a receiver who can win jump balls and provide a red zone target similar to how Ty Jones was often used in 2017 and 2018. But expectations for Spiker given his pedigree will remain much higher than that and there were enough glimpses this season to think that he could be a breakout candidate whether in 2020 or in 2021.

Ty Jones

Speaking of Ty Jones, this was just a bizarre season. Jones dealt with multiple injuries during the offseason and while it looked like he might be ready for the start of the season he instead missed the first several games. From Coach Petersen’s comments it certainly seemed like Jones was healthy about halfway through the year but that he decided to sit out the full 9 games to guarantee a redshirt rather than play only 6-7 games and burn a year of eligibility. It’s impossible to say whether Jones could’ve made a difference if he’d been available against Oregon or Utah but the results in the 4 games he did play in suggests no.

After catching 31 balls for 491 yards and 6 TDs as a sophomore, Jones only played a combined 30 snaps in the final 4 games and was never officially targeted (he drew one pass interference penalty). Maybe with a full offseason to heal and get comfortable working with whoever the new starter is at QB Jones regains his starting job in 2020 on the outside. But Jones struggled with drops and gaining separation in 2018 and with all of the young talent on the depth chart it may be tough for him to see that kind of playing time again even with Fuller, Baccellia, McClatcher, and Pounds graduating.

Austin Osborne

It was a chic opinion to say that Osborne would end up being a better receiver than Marquis Spiker who was more highly rated as a fellow 4-star in the same recruiting class. Both players redshirted their first year on campus and there were good reports on Osborne in fall camp. Unfortunately, he never broke through the depth chart even when 5 of the 8 players who saw more snaps than him missed at least some time due to injury. That’s not exactly a great sign. But Osborne is still going to be just a redshirt sophomore with a new offensive coordinator coming in so it’s not time to give up on him yet. He ended up playing just 14 snaps and earned one target; a bubble screen which was immediately blown up for a 2 yard loss.

Quinten Pounds

In 2018 Pounds largely occupied the role that Jordan Chin played this season as a deep threat who saw almost all of his targets 20+ yards downfield. Unfortunately a knee injury cut short his junior season and there was some concern that it could be career ending due to his history of knee ailments. Then he was suspended for the first 3 games of this season for an unknown violation of team rules. Pounds eventually made it back onto the field but he played only 5 snaps all season and never saw the ball thrown his way. It was an unfortunate end to his Husky career but at least we’ll always have Auburn.