Usually when you break in a new young group of wide receivers there is going to be a lot of fall off as far as performance goes from the previous year. In Washington's case I expect the opposite. I am expecting an extreme improvement in performance compared to last years senior laden squad.
Heading into Spring the Huskies will be led by Curtis Shaw, D'Andre Goodwin, and Alvin Logan who only have 11 career receptions between them. Anthony Boyles, Devin Aguilar, and Chris Polk joined the squad this Winter and will be playing for the first time this Spring. Talented walkon Charles Hawkins returns for his senior year and will be the old man of the group. In the Fall they will be joined by the highly touted Jermaine Kearse, Cody Bruns, and Jordan Polk, who are all capable of contributing right away. At TE heralded recruits Chris Izbicki, and Kavario Middleton will join the rotation, and give UW a chance to reclaim the title Tight End University.
Why am I so excited about a group with virtually no experience?
Chris Polk, Jordan Polk, D'Andre Goodwin, and Curtis Shaw have something you can't teach, and that is pure breakaway speed. The other new kids are a little slower, but are faster than the kids who graduated. Washington hasn't had this much speed in over a decade at these positions.
Talent and Athleticism
Curtis Shaw started playing receiver mid season, and while he has a lot to learn he was probably our most complete receiver at the end of the season. He was the only on the team that really knew how to instinctively come back for the ball. Have you seen the film on Aguilar, Boyles, J. Polk, Bruns, and Kearse? These kids did some amazing things with the ball in high school. One thing stands out and that is all these kids know how to get to the ball. I believe this is the most talented group of WR's that have been seen in Montlake since the early 1990's. As far as talent and potential goes it is the difference between night in day when you compare it to last years squad.
Attitude and Coachability
The previous group of WR's played under how many head coaches, and position coaches? How many games did they win exactly while they were here? Do you think that might have retarded whatever development they were capable of? Do you think it might have affected their confidence, attitude, and work ethic? Did they ever really get better as a group? The advantage you have with these young guys is that they should be receptive to coaching. These are all Ty's kids, and they were recruited for character first.
Curtis Shaw was a highly recruited running back with track speed. The coaches noticed he had excellent hands and intincts so they moved him over to wide receiver after the bye week. Curtis wasn't perfect but he showed enough talent to make the move permanent. Husky fans saw a different dimension when the ball was thrown to him. He seemed more athletic than the rest of the receivers, and he also made the great adjustments to the ball in the air. Count on Curtis to have a big year in 2008, and if Johnson goes down at TB he couls see some quality time there also.
D'Andre sat out his first year to get bigger and stronger. The man nicknamed the "Flea" became one of UW's end around men last year. The deep passing game didn't materialize much last year as Jake had work to do on his accuracy. D'Andre only caught five passes on the year, but he did get plenty of time running routes in the rotation. Last year he was the low man on the Totem Pole, this year he will get the chance to make an impact as a sophomore. You just might see him returning kicks this Fall in addition to his WR duties.
Alvin redshirted last season, but could have played if needed. Logan has the potential to be the most physical receiver on the squad. If not for a late defection by another player last recruiting season he might have ended up at Safety. Alvin is 6'2 190 and ran 4.5 40 in HS which means he also has pretty good speed. I think the strongest contribution he will make besides passing the ball is blocking down field. Down field blocking is something that they have been trying to improve, but they didn't quite get there with the last group of receivers.
He was the crown jewel of last years recruiting class and he was scheduled to hit the field immediately. He has good size at 6'3 185, but observers feel he lost some weight while sitting out, he will need to build some strenght between now and next Fall. Anthony ran a recorded time of 4.5 when in HS so he is another big fast quick target for Jake to throw at. the thing that stands out from his film is how incredible an athlete he is. The guy makes incredible plays, and he was potentially better than any receiver UW had on the roster last season.
Devin is the other Winter enrollee and he is one of the biggest stars to ever leave the state of Colorado. He was Gatorade player of the year, and he made the list of the top 50 HS players ever from the state of Colorado. Aguilar is 6'1, 185 and runs a 4.45 fourty which is extremely fast. What sets him apart though is he is great player who runs very disciplined routes. Like Boyles he was potentially better than any other receiver on the Washington roster last season.
Chris is a member of the 2008 class who was able to enroll this winter to get a head start. In a start studded class he was arguably the top recruit Washington brought in last season. It isn't every day that you get a kid to decommit from USC to come to Washington. If you watch film on Chris you realize that we haven't had an athlete like this on campus since the early 1990's. He may start off at RB, but like Curtis Shaw he is just too good to keep on the bench behind Brandon Johnson who should own the starting TB job for the next three years. Like Curtis he can play either position, and they will probably give him a shot at both to see what he can do. If Johnson goes down it gives them another option. Personally Chris wants to be a WR, he feels that is where his future lies, kids usually play where they want with Willingham. He will be one hombre I will be keeping a serious eye on during the Spring game.
Lakes HS Coach Dave Miller feels that Jermaine may end up being the best receiver that he has ever coached, and that is saying a lot since he also coached Reggie Williams. He isn't nearly as big as Reggie, and he might not be quite as fast, but he may be a lot more coachable and willing to work to get better. What Kearse does is run disciplined routes and catch the ball. QB's are very comfortable throwing to him, and he is a candidate to play right away if needed in 2008. At 6'2 175 he may need to add a little muscle before next Fall to be able to effectively get off the line, and block downfield.
This guy may be the most celebrated pass catcher in quite awhile from the State of Washington. He isn't fast, and he isn't big, but he is a Dave Janoski type of guy who can catch the ball. UW needs those type of guys especially when you remember how many drives were killed last year by dropped balls. Cody is only 5'11, and 170 pounds, with a 4.65 fourty. He could probably use a year judging by those numbers to build some muscle, but this kid isn't about the numbers. This kid is all about catching the ball and he may surprise you by playing a lot next year because of the quality routes he runs. His level of production is unprecedented in high school football as he set a national record for receptions with 304 catches for 5,080 yards and 72 touchdowns.
I saw a lot of film this Winter and Jordan's highlight tape might have been my favorite. This kid is fast, lightning fast, plus he has the ability to make acrobatic catches. He is only 5'10, 170 so like Bruns he is a possible candidate for a year of seasoning. That being said the race for WR slots is wide open next season, the best will play period, and if he is among the best they are going to use him. He reminds me a lot of Mario Bailey.
Chris was the big local catch in the 2007 at 6'4, 240 with a 4.70 he was among the highest rated HS TE's in the country that year. Suprisingly enough despite the fact that UW has the most mediocre TE corps in memorable history he redshirted his first season. There was a reason for that, it was blocking, and blocking takes muscle. Chris needed a year to get stronger and learn technique. Keep an eye on Chris this Spring, they are going to give him every chance to win the starting job. Willingham says he is the complete package. They don't currently have a player on the Spring roster who can do all the things he can do.
Kavario is the highest rated player in the 2008 class. At 6'6 240, and running 4.75 fourty he represent the future big mobile target that Jake will start relying on in 2008. What makes him special is his ability to get up in the air and play much bigger than his 6'6 height. He is an excellent basketball player, and most great tight ends are really very good power forwards in disguise. This kid has NFL written all over him, and the only question going into 2008 will be his initial blocking ability. Unlike Izbicki I think they will play him early because he is too good of a receiving threat to keep on the bench for a year. Kavario just may be the best TE prospect to step on campus since Mark Breunner. Imagine a 6'6 guy who can hurdle defenders, and isn't afraid to go over the middle. That is what Kavario brings to the offense.
Analyzing The Departed
Take a quick look at the players who graduated this past season, Anthony Russo, Corey Williams, Marcel Reese, Quinton Daniels, Cody Ellis, and TE Rob Lewis. Which one of these guys are you going to miss in 2008? I mean no offense, but is there a single guy there whose performance in 2007 excited you?
Anthony Russo was a kid that got better every single season, was never a problem, and made some big plays here and there. He was also a guy that wasn't going to break many plays, or get many yards after the catch. Reese had great size, and good speed to match, but he was never all that polished. Daniels was injured most of his career. Ellis played sparingly even though I thought he had good hands. Lewis who was one of Neu's athletes never really found a position to excel in even though he got some quality time as a junior at TE. Frankly, and once again no offense, but I don't think we are going to miss these guys at all despite the loss of experience.
I think from the get go this new group will come on like gangbusters. This class makes me think of the Mario Bailey's, Orlando McKay's. It makes me think of the days when we started lining up NFL TE's 4-5 deep. I really think these kids can be the foundation of something great starting in 2008.