It’s no secret the Huskies need a big boost in the receiver department. Despite ranking among the top in the Pac-12 for pass efficiency last season, Washington sat in the bottom five for passing yards per game and had difficulty coming up with huge gains on pass plays.
Thus Washington is “spotlighting the receivers” in fall camp in an attempt to not only give the wideouts more opportunities but to also take the pressure off the quarterbacks and running backs to carry the offense.
“We have a lot of playmakers out there, and just taking off some of the pressure from you and giving them a spotlight ball to let them use their skills to go make a play,” quarterback Jacob Eason said about the new strategy. “It takes the spotlight off you, you don’t have to make the perfect throw, but for them to make the good catch.”
With the bulk of its receivers returning from last year and adding two new faces to the position, in freshmen Puka Nacua and Taj Davis, the Huskies hope to put more attention on the position group for more passing yardage.
“It’s no secret, most people know that the receiver group isn’t the best in the country,” senior receiver Aaron Fuller said. “So it’s just about having a chip on your shoulder that we are pretty good and coming out and improving every day.”
This year’s group is led by four seniors in Fuller, Quinten Pounds, Andre Baccellia and Chico McClatcher.
Fuller led the receivers last season with 874 yards, averaging 62.4 per game. Following him was Baccellia with 584 yards. Despite an injury causing him to miss the last half of the season, Pounds caught the second-longest pass of the season for 57 yards. Then-sophomore Ty Jones followed Baccellia with 491 yards and scored six touchdowns after first stunning crowds with his one-handed catch in Washington’s opening game against Auburn.
With the freshmen joining the group, the veterans have already offered their help and guidance.
“Showing them that each day matters and to not just go through the motions,” Pounds said. “Each time I see something that they can do better, I give them another tip because the receiver room needs to be the best we’ve ever been.”
Nacua arrived at UW with top high-school credentials in Utah. The Provo native earned USA Today 2018 All-American honors and broke state records for high-school career receptions (260), receiving yards (5,226) and receiving touchdowns (58), helping make him the No. 1 recruit out of Utah as ranked by 247Sports.com.
Davis, from Chino, Calif., caught 110 passes for 2,239 yards and scored 23 touchdowns in his three seasons at Upland High School.
“The emphasis is on giving those guys a chance to go make plays,” offensive coordinator Bush Hamdam said. “I think a lot of times, when you give them a chance, some of the guys who maybe you would not expect to be great with the ball in the air end up being a lot better. The biggest thing with us right now is making sure we’re leaving balls on the field (taking chances) and giving guys a chance to go make plays.”