Mathisen: Who Steps Up at Wide Receiver this Season for the Huskies?

Washington wideouts are short on experience, but long on talent, size, and depth

Posted on October 14, 2020

Nathan Mathisen
  By Nathan Mathisen of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The wide receiver position has been a let-down for the Huskies over the past few years, with Washington players dropping key passes far too often.

Fuller

Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia showed glimpses of greatness at times, only to drop a pivotal pass on the next play.

The last great receiver year at Washington came in 2016, with John Ross III and Dante Pettis leading the way. That season the pair combined for 1,927 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns. 

The best performances since then came in 2018, with Fuller and Baccellia combining for 1,458 yards, but only four combined touchdowns. They couldn’t find the end zone the way Ross and Pettis did so often.


Now with Fuller and Baccellia graduated, who will take the wide receiver reins? 

There are plenty of names to choose from with 12 wide receivers on the roster. But out of those 12, only two are seniors, and two are juniors, meaning the wide receiver room is very young.

Only one of the Husky receivers had more than 10 catches last year, and that was Terrell Bynum, a junior who pulled in 31 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns. 

Terrell Bynum | Mike Siegel/Seattle Times

Based on last season, Bynum appears to have one of the three wide receiver positions locked down. However, with a new offense, and a new coordinator in John Donovan, nothing is set in stone.

For the sake of argument, I will slot him in at the position of wide receiver One. 

What other two players will step up and show the coaches that they deserve the starting wide receiver snaps?

The answer to that question is probably Puka Nacua and Ty Jones.

Nacua, a sophomore who played in the first eight games last season before breaking his foot against Utah, earned his starts with what little opportunity he was given. Whenever he had a chance, he shined. 


His first-ever catch in college football was a 28-yard touchdown against Hawaii. When the Huskies traveled to Arizona, Nacua showed off again. In the course of the few snaps he was afforded, he hauled in three catches for 97 yards.

After that game the Husky coaches showed more trust in Nacua in one of the biggest games of the year, against Oregon. He came through with three catches for 43 yards, including a 33 yard touchdown grab that put Washington up by 14 in the third quarter.

Nacua is a gifted receiver with good size at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, and averaged an impressive 24 yards per catch his freshman season. 

Ty Jones | Thomas Boyd/AP via Deseret News

The other receiver I would be looking at as a potential starter with a chance to have a great year would be Ty Jones. 

Jones played in just four games in 2019, due to a wrist injury, but in 2018, he led the Husky receivers in touchdowns with six. 

Like Nacua, Jones—who also hails from Provo, Utah—has good size as well, at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. In his 2018 campaign, Jones finished with 31 catches and 491 receiving yards, and started in eight of the 14 games he played.

Jones made a handful of spectacular plays that season, including an amazing one-handed touchdown grab against North Dakota, one of his two touchdowns in that contest.

Odunze

Two other players who are flying under the radar, but could easily have a breakout year and capture starting spots at wide receiver, are Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze, a pair of star freshman recruits. 

Both players have all the makings of great college receivers. McMillan has good length and great speed to get separation from defending cornerbacks. Watching his high school highlight tape, I see a resemblance to CeeDee Lamb.


Both are lanky, skinnier receivers, who have great hands, and they have shown great elusiveness in the open field. Their high school highlight tapes show they were most dangerous after the catch.

Rome Odunze is another big wide receiver at 6-3, 205, and he has blazing speed. Named the Gatorade and Max Preps Player of the Year in Nevada his senior year, he logged 54 catches for 1,222 yards and 15 touchdowns in 13 games. He was also a star sprinter on the track team, winning the state championship in the 200 meters with a time of 21.25.

McMillan

McMillan and Odunze have the skillsets to make an immediate impact for Washington, which currently lacks a true Number One wideout. The main reason I didn’t pick them for one of those top three spots is simply UW’s history of playing older players over their younger counterparts.

Looking at this upcoming season you have to be excited at the wide receiver position, given its sheer raw talent. Ideally, second-year wide receiver coach Junior Adams can get the most out of these guys and help the new quarterback—whoever it turns out to be—have a successful season.  

You can watch Mathisen’s Husky Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and read Mathisen’s other sports stories and columns at The Daily.




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