Last week’s receiving totals against Arizona are a snapshot of the University of Washington receiving corps’ struggles.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins: eight catches. Kasen Williams: eight catches. The two other receivers who caught passes, Jaydon Mickens and Cody Bruns had three combined. Wide receiver DiAndre Campbell was shut out.
More than half – 54.6 percent – of Keith Price’s completions this season have gone to Seferian-Jenkins and Williams.
It’s not what was expected at the start of the year. In 2011, Price consistently spread the ball around. Jermaine Kearse led Washington in catches with 47. Six UW players had 31 or more receptions last season, including running back Chris Polk.
Washington already has Seferian-Jenkins (37) and Williams (41) past that total. But they might be the only ones to exceeded 31 catches this year. The Huskies’ third-leading receiver, Bishop Sankey, has 15 catches and averages 6.4 yards per reception.
Senior James Johnson was expected to be a crucial part of the mix, but he injured his wrist during fall camp and had surgery. Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Tuesday that Johnson will not return this season and will redshirt. Johnson recently had the pins removed from his wrist and is rehabilitating it.
That leaves a large load on Seferian-Jenkins and Williams.
“It challenges them mentally because we have to move them around,” Sarkisian said. “They can’t just be stationary targets and line up one place on the field, or it’s easier to double those guys. In a perfect world, we’ll find another guy as we keep moving forward that can be a consistent, reliable guy in that scenario, especially on third down and in the red zone.”
Bruns has received more playing time the past two weeks. He was open on deep routes twice last Saturday during Arizona’s 52-17 drubbing of Washington, but Price was unable to get him the ball.
Campbell said the game against Arizona, when he had zero catches for the first time since the opener, was “a little rough.” He’s touted as having a deep understanding of the game plan and scouting reports, but Campbell has just nine catches this season.
“I just feel like it can only go up from here,” Campbell said.
When Sarkisian was the offensive coordinator at USC, he often relied on two primary receivers. At times, it was Mike Williams and Kerry Colbert. Other seasons, it was Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.
“When we got here, that was a bit new to me when the ball got spread around so much for the first three years,” Sarkisian said. “So, now we’re back to an arena I’m comfortable with. I think from an offensive standpoint it’d be nice to have three guys or four guys and have it spread out a little bit more. I think it’s a little bit tougher on the defense when it’s that way.”
The way it is now has led Washington to the bottom of the conference. It’s last in pass offense and 11th in pass efficiency.
Sarkisian said he received several texts about a column in The Oregonian that ran Tuesday and called Washington the “softest, least resilient team in the Pac-12.” He disagreed. “The reality of it is, I’ve been called a lot of things in my day, but I’ve never been called soft and not tough and not resilient. So, we’ll go play the game.” … Sarkisian said Price has been excellent in practice this week. Price, for his part, is pleased. “My team is looking up to me. My main thing is just not turning the ball over. I feel like I’ve been getting in a good rhythm throwing the ball and it’s just minimizing those mistakes.”todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas