The Huskies are young and largely unproven at wide receiver, and they know some have tagged them as the "weak link" of the offense.
The throw from Jake Browning floated high toward the right edge of the end zone. Washington receiver Aaron Fuller broke right, separated from the cornerback and made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch for a 25-yard touchdown during Saturday’s open practice at Husky Stadium.
The play was one of the top highlights for the UW offense so far in fall camp, and the added degree of difficulty of doing it against Byron Murphy — the Huskies’ top cover corner and one of the elite defensive backs in the Pac-12 — made it all the more notable for Fuller.
Going head to head against the Huskies’ veteran secondary each day, UW’s young receiving corps was humbled more often than not during the first week of camp. The No. 1 offense didn’t score a touchdown until the seventh practice, and the defense had at least three interceptions each day that first week.
The breakthrough came Saturday afternoon during a practice filled with red-zone drills, designed to give the offense some positive momentum. And it worked.
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“I mean, they’re the top defensive backs in all of college football, and knowing we can put work on them is just a major leap forward for us,” Fuller said Sunday. “Practices like that show what kind of potential we have in this offense.”
Sophomore Ty Jones added another highlight Saturday, a leaping one-handed touchdown grab over senior cornerback Jordan Miller.
“A big thing helping these guys tremendously is going against a good secondary — the better they are, it makes us that much better,” said Matt Lubick, UW’s co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. “When you can win a battle against a guy who’s been out there and done it in big games — and this is as good a secondary as our guys will ever play against — that gives guys confidence and makes you better.”
The Huskies are young and largely unproven at wide receiver, and they know some have tagged them as the “weak link” of the offense.
John Ross is long gone. Gone too is Dante Pettis, a second-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers this spring. As a senior in 2017, Pettis had 63 catches for 761 yards and seven touchdowns. The Huskies’ next five returning receivers combined for 69 receptions and two TDs last year.
“Obviously, production-wise we didn’t have the greatest year, and we’re using that as motivation to do better. Each and every one of us,” said Fuller, the team’s leading returning receiver with 26 catches for 291 yards and one TD last year.
“We don’t really listen to what other people have to say. They can talk about Ross or Dante — they can live in the past if they want,” Pounds said. “But they haven’t seen this receiver group and they don’t know what’s coming this year.”
Many are hoping for a breakout from the 6-foot-4 Jones in his second season.
“A big thing with him is confidence,” Lubick said of Jones. “Last year, he was a true freshman and he was thinking instead of playing, which is typical of a freshman. Now he knows what he’s doing, so his athletic ability is starting to come out. I love his vibe and he’s made a lot of plays for us.”
Junior Andre Baccellia has been steady in camp, and Lubick is encouraged with the rest of the group — redshirt freshmen Terrell Bynum and Alex Cook; and true freshman Austin Osborne, Marquis Spiker and Trey Lowe.
“The thing that’s exciting is we have a lot more depth than we had last year,” Lubick said. “We’ve got eight or nine guys who all know what they’re doing, and they’re all competing. And that drives everybody else.”
— The Huskies had a light 90-minute practice Sunday afternoon. It was essentially a walk-through conducted without pads and without helmets.
— Junior Austin Joyner was back in action after missing a couple practices last week with a minor injury. He again got some time in at safety. Also taking some reps at safety was true freshman Julius Irvin, one the standouts of the first week of camp.
— Redshirt freshman Peyton Henry got four chances at 35-yard field goals at the end of Sunday’s practice; he made two and missed two.