Huskies receiver John Ross eager to break out

christian.caple@thenewstribune.comNovember 7, 2013 

Washington’s John Ross (1) had four catches for 39 yards Aug. 31 against Boise State in the true freshman’s first game for the Huskies. As a senior at Jordan High in Long Beach, Calif., Ross was named to The News Tribune’s “Western 100” team.

JANET JENSEN — Staff photographer Buy Photo

The speed of John Ross was finally displayed in its fullest measure, Washington’s freshman receiver sprinting away from each member of California’s kickoff coverage team.

Ross scored a touchdown. He appeared pleased.

A penalty was called against the Huskies. No touchdown.

Ross was not as pleased.

“It was my first one (as a kick returner), and I was kind of hoping to have it count,” Ross said, good-naturedly, after Wednesday’s practice. “It’d have meant a lot to the program, because it had been a long time since that happened.”

One of these days, maybe it will.

Ross, who was made available Wednesday to be interviewed by reporters for the first time, said he feels like he’s “just a spark away” from having the kind of breakout game Huskies fans have anticipated since his arrival.

And that anticipation began before the season did. UW coach Steve Sarkisian was so impressed by Ross’ skills and speed during the Huskies’ preseason camp that he said he was reminded, in some ways, of former USC star Reggie Bush, high praise for a player who had yet to put on a college uniform.

But Heisman Trophy winners are not made in one month, and Ross admits it took a while to adjust to the speed of the college game. Still, he’s been relatively productive for a freshman, catching 13 passes for 180 yards while also returning kickoffs and punts.

“In high school, I never really had to run full speed and that was a problem when I first got here, because I thought that I didn’t have to run full speed,” Ross said. “And now that I do run full speed, I understand that I can actually run past guys if I just trust myself.”

Those kinds of this-ain’t-high-school adjustments have been the key to his development – running vertically instead of horizontally on kickoffs, for example.

“That was a mistake,” Ross said of his east-to-west kick returns. “Everyone’s faster than high school, by far.”

His playing time so far has exceeded his expectations, Ross said, and he’s likely to see the field even more with starting junior receiver Kasen Williams sidelined by a broken leg.

Same goes for receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman who was also accompanied to UW by high expectations. He hasn’t been on the field much, but with Williams out, both Stringfellow and sophomore Marvin Hall will help fill that void, beginning with Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against Colorado.

UW quarterback Keith Price said Stringfellow “possesses a lot of the same tools Kasen has. Might be a bit stronger than what Kasen was as a freshman. Not sure if he can jump as high as Kasen, but he definitely has great hands, big hands, and is a big target.”

Hall has been mentioned by coaches as someone who was close to earning more playing time, anyway, though he misplayed a couple of passes against California that could have netted big yardage.

Those miscues were noted by Hall himself, who told Price that the drops prevented him from clearing 100 receiving yards.

“I remember my first significant playing action, and I didn’t put up big stats, either,” Price said. “You live and you learn.

“They understand that they need to be good. They understand we need them in order to continue to make our offense work. I think they’ll be ready. I think Marvin got the jitterbugs out against Cal, so he’ll be ready to go.”

Ross, too.

“I’m being patient and I’m just waiting,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to break out. Just waiting.”

PRICE ‘100 PERCENT’

After resting before UW’s win over Cal, then resting some more during the bye week, Price said his thumb is healthy after he played four games with it injured.

Price first dinged the thumb on his right (throwing) hand in the Oct. 5 game at Stanford, and played through pain and swelling that at times made it difficult to grip the ball.

But he said he’s fine now.

“I sat out that week (before Cal) and it felt a lot better – me having a full week off, me not having to play a game and me (not) having to re-injure it or bang my hand against something,” Price said. “But I’m completely healthy. I’m 100 percent.”

christian.caple@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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