Junior Adams turned his notifications off on Twitter.
But, if Washington’s first-year wide-receivers coach is reading this, we’re happy to relay a somewhat accurate amalgamation of the fan base’s completely-rational-and-definitely-not-in-any-way-premature suggestions. They are as follows:
1, Restrict the reps of senior wide receivers Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia and Chico McClatcher, who combined for a handful of drops in the 20-19 loss to Cal.
2, Play true freshman Puka Nacua.
3, Play redshirt freshman Austin Osborne.
4, Play redshirt freshman Marquis Spiker.
5, Repeat Nos. 2, 3 and 4.
As for Adams’ response?
“Coach (Chris Petersen) has a deal. We don’t listen to outside noise,” Adams said on Wednesday. “To answer your question, all those guys have played. Maybe not as many snaps as those older guys, but they’ve all played in the first two games. So they’re getting their reps.
“We’re always looking to expand people’s roles, and maybe this will be the week for those guys to expand. We’ll see.”
But don’t hold your breath. It’s true, Fuller (3 catches, 40 yards), Baccellia (3 catches, 27 yards) and McClatcher (3 catches, 22 yards) all underperformed against Cal’s elite secondary. Maybe Nacua, Osborne and Spiker will find their way onto the field more against Hawaii — especially if the Huskies pull away in the second half.
But Petersen has made it clear that one loss, one drop, one disappointing performance won’t prompt a quick hook.
“We’re always trying to develop these guys. We’ve got good young players there,” Petersen said. “Because a guy drops a ball, they’re not getting yanked out. That’s not how we do it. Because a guy throws an interception, we’re not pulling him out. Because a guy misses a block, we’re not pulling him out.
“Those guys feel as bad about it as anyone. Did they work a little harder catching some balls and maybe focus more (this week)? Yeah, they did. So that’s how we think about it here. We still are trying to get those (younger) guys in the game. And when it’s super-tight games and you’ve got experienced guys, it’s sometimes hard to push them in (the game) when you’d like to.”
Husky fans would love to provide a little extra push, and for obvious reasons. Nacua, Osborne and Spiker (and redshirt freshman Trey Lowe, for that matter, who is still recovering from an infection) were all regarded as consensus four-star recruits. The first three all measure at least 6 feet 1 and 193 pounds, providing a size and strength element that can’t be matched by the Husky seniors.
When asked what those young guys can do, offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said that “you never totally know until they get into the game. I think there’s certainly a group of guys that will get their opportunities, and they’ve got to make the most of it.”
So, OK, the opportunities will come. But when? Perhaps against Hawaii? Adams isn’t ready to definitively say.
“They work hard,” Adams did offer of his young receivers. “They come to work every day and they give us good looks, even when they’re on service team. When it’s good on good (in team drills), they’re making some plays. They’re growing each day, and they’re getting better.”
But, hopefully, they’re not the only ones.
“We’re very motivated,” Fuller said. “We left a lot on the field (against Cal), as an offense and as a receiver unit. There were a lot of drops in the red zone. We didn’t finish a lot of those drives. We had four drives where we just kicked field goals. We had a lot of drives where we stalled out as well.
“We’ve got to go out there and fix that, so we’re champing at the bit to do that.”
Washington’s defensive youth might be a problem.
But it’s certainly not an excuse.
By now, you already know the Huskies replaced nine defensive starters this offseason. But that relative inexperience was evident late in the loss to Cal.
“In a lot of ways we’ve still got some young-type players learning what we’re doing,” Petersen said. “It always, to me, comes down to fundamental football. Fundamentals and techniques. We’ve just got to keep getting better at those things in terms of tackling, getting off blocks, covering guys, thinking better on the field in critical situations. That’s what it’s all about.
“So we played a lot of good football, and we didn’t play it good enough at the most critical times.”
The Huskies didn’t tackle when they needed to. They didn’t play assignment-sound or penalty-free. Their effort, in this case, didn’t translate to execution.
“It all comes back to doing your job,” said defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. “We don’t have an issue with effort. The guys are playing really hard, and there’s maybe a couple instances where guys were going way too fast and trying to go blow up a play. Now that springs a leak and everyone else has to clean up that mess. Those are the things we need to make sure we clean up.”
UW can’t afford many more messes — especially against Hawaii, which is averaging 428.5 passing yards and 38 points per game in two wins over Pac-12 opponents. The Huskies’ young contributors — guys like true-freshman safety Cameron Williams, redshirt-freshman corner Kyler Gordon and sophomore outside linebacker Joe Tryon — will be tested.
And Lake doesn’t grade on a curve.
“There’s always been youth on our defense, every single year that we’ve been here — whether it was Taylor Rapp starting as a true freshman, Byron Murphy starting as a redshirt freshman,” Lake said. “We have youth all the time. Now we have two senior linebackers, a senior DB and two junior DBs.
“So youth is never going to be an excuse. We have enough of a mixture of old guys and young guys that we can still play excellent defense.”
- It hasn’t been easy for Washington’s scout team to effectively simulate Hawaii’s run-and-shoot offense, which both Petersen and Lake called “completely unique” this week. But the Huskies’ efforts appear to be paying off. “It is different, and their defense is different as well,” Petersen said of the Rainbow Warriors’ system. “But those kids that ran the scout team this week, we just had them out there and we practiced a little extra with those guys on Thursday, and I really was so proud of them and complimented them. They gave about as good an effort and as realistic a look as you can get in a short period of time. You’re never going to be able to simulate the speed of the game and exactly what they’re doing when they’re route-adjusting and all those type of things. But they gave a good look. They really did.”
- Fuller said he was “very close” to breaking free on a 19-yard punt return last weekend. The 5-11, 188-pound senior is looking to improve in that area after averaging 5.5 yards in 22 punt returns last season. To do that, he’s been studying tape of former Husky wideout Dante Pettis, who returned nine punts for scores in his four seasons at Washington. “(The goal is) just getting more vertical, more than anything,” Fuller said. “He saw holes better than I did last year.”