In a move that has been rumored for months, wide receivers Austin Obsorne and Marquis Spiker have entered the transfer portal.
It marks the end of what at the time appeared to be a gold mine of offensive talent being added in the Class of 2018. Washington signed two 4-star quarterbacks and three 4-star wide receivers: Colson Yankoff, Jacob Sirmon, Marquis Spiker, Austin Osborne, and Trey Lowe. Now all 5 of them have either transferred or declared their intentions to transfer.
Entering college Marquis Spiker had put together one of the great statistical careers in the history of California football. He appeared to be an absolute can’t miss home run prospect He struggled to see the field in his first two seasons but seemingly came on late in 2019. It was only 3 catches for Spiker but all of them went for more than 20 yards and he certainly seemed like in a post-Fuller/Baccellia world that Spiker could emerge as a deep threat. Unfortunately he reportedly dealt with an injury in training camp and ended up not being able to get on the field in the 4 games this fall.
Osborne didn’t have quite the statistical resume of Spiker but was a popular sleeper to outperform his lower 4-star status with his shiftiness and route running ability. He was viewed as a slot receiver but was clearly beaten out by Terrell Bynum and when Bynum did come off the field the Huskies were content to either bring in another tight end or shift one of the outside guys inside. The end result for Osborne was 1 career pass for -2 yards on a quick pass where the guy missed his block and he was tackled immediately.
Right when the season ended there was no question that these transfers made sense. Spiker and Osborne hadn’t cracked the depth chart and Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze had appeared to become major rotation pieces over them. However Washington saw 3 of the players above them: Jordan Chin, Ty Jones, and Puka Nacua transfer this offseason (although with 1 addition in Ja’Lynn Polk) that could’ve potentially convinced at least one of them to stay. That apparently isn’t the case however and so 5 Washington WRs have now left the program since December.
Without Spiker or Osborne on the depth chart now the Huskies have 6 scholarship receivers available for spring practices which begin next Wednesday: Terrell Bynum, Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk, Taj Davis, and Sawyer Racanelli. True freshman Jabez Tinae will join the team in the fall to make it 7. As returners who all saw major playing time last year it certainly would seem that Bynum, Odunze, and McMillan are the favorites to start in any 3 WR sets. Although Ja’Lynn Polk who played more than either Odunze or McMillan while at Texas Tech this past fall could also easily wind up overtaking one of the other freshmen. Davis and Racanelli have yet to record a reception as Racanelli was coming off an ACL tear as a true freshman while Davis redshirted then opted out of this season over COVID concerns.
There’s no question that the Huskies are now left with a receiver room that is both incredibly young and without much depth. That doesn’t mean that Washington is doomed. Bynum is a proven entity and should be one of the better slot receivers in the conference. He was a deadly weapon this fall getting the ball on fly sweep action and can be dynamic with the ball in his hands. Odunze and McMillan have all the physical tools to be dominant options on the outside. Polk had some clear flashes at Texas Tech. But the margin or error just got smaller.
Spiker and Osborne weren’t proven guys but given their pedigree they still had upside if injuries forced them into action. Now if one of those first 4 are hurt you’re relying not only on guys who haven’t seen the field in college but who also don’t have 3 years in the program to give you a little more faith they at least have full knowledge of the system. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Huskies try to find another receiver in the portal after spring practices conclude around the country to try to fortify the position for this fall.
I’m disappointed that in particular Spiker wasn’t willing to stick it out through this spring practice session while fully healthy in order to try to carve out a role for the fall. But if neither realistically saw an opening to playing time given their inside knowledge of the depth chart then I can’t blame either for hoping to find that opportunity elsewhere. Best of luck Austin and Marquis at your next stop!