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30 Day Countdown: Day 20 — Who’ll make the siren sound?

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Kicker and quarterback notwithstanding, that is.

Eastern Washington v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Team. Team team team team team. You probably think this photo on my desk is my family, right? WRONG. It’s the A-Team.

Yesterday Jeff tried to predict who would lead the team in interceptions. The day before, John wondered who’d lead the team in sacks. And today I’m here to ask: Who will lead the team in touchdowns?

(Obviously, The Quarterback is not included here.)

Let’s start with option nummer eins:

Cade Otton

You have to begin with this guy, right? I mean, he was Dylan Morris’s clear favorite target in their four games last season. He gets open. He’s got fantastic (and gloveless) hands. He’s the perfect safety valve due to his proficiency as a blocker. And he’s a huge target, making him extra ideal for red zone work. So, even if Cade Otton doesn’t have the most yards or receptions this season (which he could totally have the best year in those categories, too), he has a heckuva lot of built-in advantages when it comes to sounding the siren.

Last year he had three touchdowns in four games. Over a 13 game season — I’m including a bowl game here — that’d amount to 9.75 scores. (For those interested, he was on pace for 840 yards receiving last year over a standard 13 game season.)

There’s a few cases for and against Otton having a statistically more significant performance this year than last, adjusted for season length of course.

On one hand, based on what’s been alluded to in the offseason and seen at fall camp so far, it sure sounds like the passing game is being given more freedom and finding a good rhythm (advantage more Otton touchdowns). On the other hand, if that’s the case then Dylan Morris will probably not rely so heavily on his one favorite target (advantage less Otton touchdowns). On the other other hand, if they’re able to move down the field using other pass-catchers more liberally, that should give Otton more space to not be so keyed-in on by opposing defenses. On the other other other hand, if the passing offense spreads the ball to more targets, doesn’t Otton still have to be your number one priority as a defensive coordinator simply because of his size and reputation? On the other other other other hand, no matter how they move the ball down the field, he’s a ginormous, perfect target for the end zone... right?

In other words, I have no idea.

But I suppose I’ve just talked myself into the idea that the most likely scenario is Cade Otton has a less statistically significant season as far as yards per game, but that he has a good chance to still be the number one Catcher Of Touchdowns as such a reliable gigantic target that Dylan Morris trusts when it gets tight.

Terrell Bynum

If Cade Otton’s the most reliable pass-catcher of all positions, Terrell Bynum’s the most reliable of the receivers — or at least, the most proven. He’s also way more athletic than we give him credit for. The dude runs a 4.43 40 yard dash, for crap’s sake. And while he’s not DK Metcalf, Bynum’s 6’1,” not some diminutive little guy.

My gut is that Bynum could get the receiver version of the Myles Gaskin treatment last season in the NFL; i.e., prolific when it comes to helping his team get down the field, only for another guy to get the final six at the end of a drive.

The way I’m thinking about Terrell Bynum is that he’s the most prominent receiver until proven otherwise. That being said, upon being forced against my will under threat of death* to rewatch the Stanford game from last season, I was pleasantly surprised to see more from Rome Odunze than I remembered. The obvious implication from that is it’ll help take pressure off of Bynum and make him a more statistically efficient receiver, but it also just divvies up the catches, end zone or otherwise.

Better per target yet with a lower total wouldn’t surprise me. Overall, my gut is that it’ll be close between him and Odunze as to which receiver has the most touchdowns this season.

*Managing editor, Max R. Vrooman, may dispute this^

^Also, I cannot confirm his middle initial is R. But I like to think it is, and it stands for Rutherford.

Richard Newton

Looking at the candidates from the running backs room is a pretty tricky exercise simply because there’s so many of them who don’t suck. A few years ago you this countdown piece would be pointless because you could just write the words “Myles Gaskin” and we all knew that’d be correct.

Now though, there’s genuine passing game options and a deeper running backs room. The idea of a single guy there leading the team feels unlikely but my gut is that, if anyone would, it’s Newton.

Sure, Sean McGrew might combine the most experience and dependability and Cam Davis might be the most complete back (more on him in a sec), but Newton benefits from exactly the opposite of the issue Gaskin had in Miami last season and potential issue Bynum could have. In other words, if the ball gets down to short yardage and goal, you can bet Newton will be called to run it in pretty dang often.

And I’m not trying to say he doesn’t deserve it; he’s situationally tailor-made for those scenarios.

That’s also not to say he won’t get his fair share of carries elsewhere — despite apparently being in the doghouse the last two games of Washington’s four game 2020 season he’s had a productive fall camp — but he’ll likely have a disproportionate amount of them come when the offense needs to punch it in from short. It makes sense; he’s big and he’s powerful and he sure seems to love running through defenders. What traits are better for thumping it into the end zone?

Cam Davis

I feel a bit bad leaving Sean McGrew out of our running backs options here, and it’s not out of the question that he could be the leader of that room not just off the field but as a scorer as well. That being said, the vibe I’m getting from fall camp is that Davis is ascending at McGrew’s expense, snaps-wise.

UW’s running game will undoubtedly be by committee more than not. But where McGrew has the best speed and Newton has the ability to make opponents lose the will to live, Davis is the most well-rounded. He’s not super fast and he doesn’t punish guys to the extent Newton does, but he has that combination of vision and balance that’s a prerequisite to be elite. I’m too lazy to find the article now, but when he signed with Washington I wrote that his high school tape had many plays that reminded me of Najee Harris’ high school tape. (Before anyone takes this and runs with “Gabey says Cam Davis is Najee Harris” — don’t.)

He’s not a frontrunner with the crowded running back room, but with his apparent rise and versatility, it’d feel negligent to not mention Davis as an option.

Rome Odunze OR Jalen McMillan

Including these guys together simply because, well, they’re kind of inseparably linked until they’re not.

Both were a huge step up for receiver recruiting in 2020. Both are fast as crap. Neither are small possession guys. Both saw the field last year as true freshmen, unlike so many receivers under Chris Petersen.

Plus both are pretty silly athletes; they were both in the top four of the 3-cone drill for the Husky Combine — top three if you don’t include that somehow Race Porter was third best on the whole team because he’s an absolute mad lad at punter. Compared to NFL Combine receiver numbers, Odunze’s pro-agility time was in the 89th percentile and his 4.45 40-yard dash was in the 71st percentile. Based on past 40 times, McMillan’s not far behind.

But just like how I’ll give the edge to Terrell Bynum as far as presumptions of productivity this season over Rome Odunze until proven otherwise, I’ll do the same with Odunze over Jalen McMillan.

That’s not a knock on McMillan, just a reflection of the fact that Odunze, unlike him, got thrown into the fire last year against Stanford after half the receiver room was out with COVID exposure.

And, while the end result of the game blew chunks, Odunze looked, in the words of Larry David: pretty, pretty, pretty... pretty good. Five receptions, 69 yards (nice), and a long of 25. Considering this was him after being forced to start in his fourth college game ever — against a team who purposefully played slower than molasses solely to limit Washington’s possessions and offensive opportunities — that’s... pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Besides the fact that Odunze already has that one proof-of-concept game under his belt, I also feel like he has a slight edge simply because of physics. The dude is an extra two inches taller (easier for Dylan Morris to target when space gets tight in the red zone) and an extra 20 lbs heavier (easier to out-physical opponents for contested catches).

McMillan, on the other hand, only had one actual catch last season. That might surprise you — it certainly surprised me — simply because, while he obviously was being eased into playing last year like almost all true freshmen are, it felt like there were multiple times in the three games he played where he was really, really close to a huge completion. Off the top of my head, one of them was batted out of his hands by a DB and a few were just out of his reach. But in those latter examples, he had run a route that got him behind the defensive back and, had the pass been completed, would’ve gone for 50+ yards and a touchdown easily.

Deep balls are already a low-percentage shot so I think the hand-wringing about Morris’s were a bit overblown considering none were that far off but, with a full offseason for McMillan to work on that rapport, more of those are gonna start clicking. And when they do, McMillan will take them to the house. That’s just, like... how trajectories and speed work when you’ve already beaten a cornerback.

Considering Bynum and especially Otton have already established themselves as consistent targets, it’d take a really impressive year from either Odunze or McMillan to lead the team in scoring. Yet still, it’s not something that’d be so out of left field they shouldn’t be included here as dark horses.

Poll

Who will lead the team in touchdowns?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Cade Otton
    (102 votes)
  • 4%
    Terrell Bynum
    (16 votes)
  • 55%
    Richard Newton
    (206 votes)
  • 2%
    Cam Davis
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Rome Odunze OR Jalen McMillan
    (16 votes)
  • 5%
    Other
    (22 votes)
373 votes total Vote Now

The Verdict

Cade Otton

I really went back and forth on this and if you want to make the case for why I’m wrong, you could convince me pretty easily. Bynum will get plenty of opportunities as the most proven receiver. Odunze ended last season on a strong note and should continue that trajectory. And no doubt the Dawgs will have their fair share of running it for six under a combination of Newton, Davis, and McGrew.

But I can’t shake that lingering image of Otton being Morris’s guy. When it comes down to it, their connection and the fact that he’s such a difficult matchup and him being just a huge target for the red zone makes me just .001% more confident in choosing him over so many other options, particularly Bynum and Newton. Who knows, really, but it feels hard to bet against Otton.

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