While we continue to wait for spring practices to resume, we’re continuing today with our spring positional breakdowns. Next up we have the wide receivers.
Performance in 2022
Under the tutelage of new receivers coach and pass game coordinator Jamarcus Shephard and executing the scheme devised by Kalen Deboer and Ryan Grubb, Washington’s receiving corps exploded. Both Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan turned in stellar seasons, each going over 70 catches for 1145 and 1098 yards respectively. McMillan hauled in 9 scores in 13 games, while Odunze brought in 7 in one less outing. In the slot, Ja’lynn Polk, the Texas Tech transfer, recorded 41 receptions, for 694 yards and 6 scores, including 3 against Michigan State in week 3.
Giles Jackson, normally a kickoff return specialist, had 28 catches for 328 yards and 1 score, coming off a well executed screen pass when he was lined up as a running back against Stanford, though his big play ability in crucial downs was certainly appreciated by the team. Taj Davis lurked in the background for the most part, save for his role in tying up the Oregon game with a 62 yard score with 3:07 left in the game, posting 21 catches, 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. Other players who caught at least one pass include Denzel Boston, who scored on an end around against Portland State, catching 2 passes for 15 yards, and seniors Jackson Girourard, and Brennan Holmes.
Lonyatta Alexander-Transfer to Montana State
The Kennedy Catholic alum has transferred again, first coming from Arizona State to the UW, and now he joins his fellow Kennedy Catholic teammate Sam Huard in the Big Sky. However, Alexander chose to attend Montana State instead of Cal Poly. He recorded 1 reception for 9 yards and 1 tackle on special teams during the Apple Cup for the Huskies.
Germie Bernard-6’1, 207 pounds
The saga of Germie Bernard’s career as it relates to Washington should be familiar to most: Bernard signed with the Huskies and initially committed to staying with the news that the new staff retained receivers coach Junior Adams. But Adams instead jumped to the rival Oregon Ducks, leaving Bernard to back out and sign with Michigan State instead. That arrangement yielded 7 catches for 128 yards and 2 scores, with Bernard seeing only tangential playing time for the Spartans in their matchup against the Huskies. Now back with Deboer’s staff, we should see Bernard compete for playing time here this season.
Keith Reynolds- 5’10, 170 pounds (not on campus yet)
The speedy wide receiver from Adelanto, California was one of the first offers of Deboer’s tenure. Reynolds has the potential to be a versatile offensive weapon for the Huskies, as in high school, he lined up at running back, in the slot, and out wide. That versatility, combined with game breaking speed, should make him a very versatile weapon in Grubb’s scheme and a possible go-to receiver in the future.
Taeshaun Lyons-6’3, 170 pounds (not on campus yet)
The number 1 wide receiver in the state of California, the Huskies won out on Lyons over offers from Oregon, Miami and Notre Dame. Lyons might not have elite straight ahead speed, but he has great quickness and the backing of coach Shephard, with Shephard stating that Lyons has the ability to create separation using that quickness.
Rashid Williams-6’2, 185 pounds (not on campus yet)
Another California receiver, Williams was the first 2023 four star recruit to commit to the Huskies, doing so after his official visit in May of 2022. Due to his prototypical size for the position, his path to the field should be the clearest of any of the new wide receivers. His height allows him to win the 50-50 balls, and his route running and explosive ability drew comparisons from our own Jeff Gorman to thousand yard receiver Rome Odunze. Though he should project as a starter next season, playing time in 2023 might be hard to come by for Williams.
Rest of Spring Storylines to Watch
- What’s Cooking for Grubb?
With an embarrassment of riches at the position, and a creative playcaller in Ryan Grubb, the number one question for the Dawgs at the receiver position is how to build on their success from the previous season, and if anyone can do it, it would be Grubb and Shephard.
What’s not immediately clear is who will play beyond the main 5 receivers from last season (that being McMillan, Odunze, Jackson, Polk and Davis). We will have to wait until fall camp to see if Williams, Lyons, or Reynolds is impressive enough to see action beyond a handful of games.
2. Swiss Army Knives
Speaking of Reynolds, he and fellow newcomer, running back Tybo Rogers present intriguing possibilities in Grubb’s scheme. We saw, when the Huskies lined up in 00, or the empty set if you prefer, they would sometimes use Wayne Taulapapa as a wide receiver. This arrangement resulted in a touchdown against Michigan State. Both Reynolds and Rogers have experience in lining up as a tailback and slotback respectively, and the unique skillsets of both players suit UW’s scheme to a T. Although Rogers will be the only one of the pair on campus this spring.
I’m reminded by both players of Chico McClatcher, the do-everything Swiss Army Knife who played for the Huskies from 2015-2019. Coach Petersen called on him to do everything from catching the ball, to running the ball on jet sweeps, to returning kicks occasionally. I would expect Reynolds at the very least to be that kind of player.
3. Business Is Boomin’
Last year, along with an increase in numbers, as well as an increased role in the offense, both Odunze and McMillan saw national recognition, not necessarily in terms of accolades, but in terms of draft stock. The pair garnered recognition from Pro Football Focus, with Odunze ranking third and McMillan ranking sixth in their Top Ten Returning Receivers list (you can read that here). Both receivers could’ve easily chosen the NFL, but thanks to the potential heights that this team could reach, and possibly thanks to the coaching staff being intact, they are now back, and ready to increase their draft stock and hopefully get some wins along with that.