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Position analysis: Can the wide receivers overcome injuries and inexperience?

Post by Ryan Divish on Aug. 25, 2012 at 1:12 am with No Comments »
August 25, 2012 10:29 am
Cody Bruns is back after redshirting last year. His experience will be a key for the Husky receiving corps (AP photo)

WIDE RECEIVERS

Starters:

  • Kasen Williams, 6-2, 216, Sophomore
  • Jaydon Mickens, 5-10, 170, freshman
  • DiAndre Campbell, 6-1, 198, sophomore OR Kendyl Taylor, 5-10, 200, freshman

Second-team:

  • Cody Bruns, 5-11, 183, senior
  • Kevin Smith, 5-11, 213, junior

The rest:

  • Jamaal Jones, 6-1, 188, redshirt freshman
  • Marvin Hall, 5-10, 188, freshman
  • William Chandler, 6-0, 186, junior
  • Antavius Sims, 6-0, 199, junior

Injured:

  • James Johnson 6-1, 197, senior (injured)

Strengths: There is certainly some versatility to this unit of wide receivers. It’s a good mixture of size, speed and athleticism. Each receiver brings something different to the field. You have the size and strength and playmaking ability of Kasen Williams. You have the explosiveness and experience of James Johnson. Kevin Smith has a full season of game experience and has shown he can contribute. Cody Bruns is a solid slot receiver with the best hands on the team. DiAndre Campbell can play all three positions and true freshmen Kendyl Taylor, Jaydon Mickens and Marvin Hall bring a level of speed that the team simply hasn’t had under Sarkisian. There seems to be some  potential playmakers.

Weaknesses: The unit lacks game experience. Williams, Johnson, Smith and Bruns are the only ones who have taken consistent game snaps. The rest of the group have not seen game speed at the college level. People often bashed Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar over the years. But the duo combined for over 40 career touchdown catches. They knew the offense. They knew the routes and the reads. Most importantly, they knew how to get open against college defenses. While Mickens and Taylor and the other young receivers are wonderfully talented, there will be a period of adjustment. Look at what Williams went through last season. Success didn’t come right away.

Fall camp thoughts: The injury to Johnson is more damaging than some people believe. He is the perfect receiver to play opposite Williams. Johnson has speed, size, explosiveness and experience. He is good at running the deeper crossing patterns and is a big target. The hope is that Johnson will be back in 4 to 6 weeks. It’s probably better to error toward the six weeks. The injury seems pretty serious. It means that UW will play at LSU without one of its best receivers. With Johnson, the Huskies were really just trying to find a third receiver. Sarkisian was using the combination of Bruns, Taylor and Mickens and it seemed like a good mix. But with the absence of Johnson, it means Taylor or Mickens or Campbell will have to play the No. 2 spot. That means on any given play the Huskies could have two inexperienced receivers out there with Williams. It might seem minor, but it isn’t.

Williams certainly needs to elevate his game to the next level. He needs to be a go-to receiver, who is a presence on deeper passes and dependable on third downs.

TNT file photo

He needs to make the leap into being a star.

If he can do that, it makes things much easier for the young supporting cast.

Mickens’ speed really stood out. Despite being smaller, he has shown the ability to make plays down the field and make catches in traffic. He’s fantastic at getting yards after catch and dangerous in the open field.

At 200 pounds, Taylor is surprisingly stout for a true freshman. He seems strong enough to fight off press coverage. But there’s also technique to it too. Teams are going to force the young receivers to battle press coverage until they prove they can beat it effectively.

Bruns isn’t a speed burner or a physical presence like the others, but he’s a good possession receiver that can be effective in the slot, particularly against zone coverage. He knows how to play and his hands are impeccable.

Getting Smith back at even 85 percent would be a coup. He’s strong and experienced. He doesn’t quite have the burst he had last season because of the offseason knee surgery. But if he can play, it would make the time Johnson is out easier to navigate.

With Johnson, the receiving corps were good with the chance to be great. Without Johnson, the corps are largely unproven with the change to be very good. It all depends on how the freshmen react to playing at the Pac-12 level.

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