Through three games this season, Washington Huskies sophomore receiver John Ross has caught six passes.
One of those gained 5 yards. Two of them lost one yard. And the other three were touchdowns, gains of 91, 55 and 75 yards, caught against Hawaii, Eastern Washington and Illinois, respectively.
The simple conclusion, then, is that Ross, a 5-foot-11, 179-pound blur who once clocked 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash and also returns kickoffs, probably should have the ball in his hands a little more often, given the fact that he’s possessed the ball nine times on plays from scrimmage and has scored four touchdowns (a 20-yard rush against Hawaii accounts for his other score).
Huskies coach Chris Petersen agrees. And he hears the calls, too, for senior receiver Kasen Williams to become more involved in the offense after catching just three passes for 30 yards through UW’s first three games.
There are challenges involved, though, in freeing those guys up.
“Coverage. Defense,” Petersen said. “If they’re going to take that away, we’re not going to force the ball in there … if the ball should go somewhere else because of coverage and schematics. Now, you can hand them the ball, you can get it to them on kick returns, those type of things. And so I think we’re doing what we can with John Ross, there’s no question.
“Do we want him to have the ball more? Yes. Do we want Kasen to get the ball more? Without question. But that’s part of the work in progress thing. What can we do as coaches to help that? What can Kasen help to do? What can the other receivers help to do to be productive to maybe single him up?”
Ross said he’s trying to tap into the mental side of the game, and as a sophomore, he’s still learning the requisite technique – “just reading coverages, getting in and out of my breaks and just small stuff like that,” he said – to consistently succeed.
And he’s not going to complain about playing time or touches.
“I leave it to the coach’s hands,” Ross said. “I don’t want to get over-aggressive and try to just force myself out there. That’s not my area. But I just want to keep working hard and wherever they put me, just make a play whenever I get the opportunity.”
Williams’ situation is a little different. The 6-3, 217-pound son of former Wilson High and UW track and football star Aaron Williams entered the season with 142 career catches and figured to be a primary weapon in the Huskies’ offense. But he’s also coming off a serious leg injury suffered in late October, and though he has said he’s 100 percent, there is still some question as to whether he is fully recovered.
“He’s been steady. Back to work, and he’s still working at it, getting himself back,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “We’ve got a couple of things for him. Again, he’s just got to keep grinding away. He’s an awesome kid. He’s been working hard. Things will come together for him.”
Petersen said Williams and quarterback Cyler Miles are working to get on the same page, and that “some of it has to do with Kasen needing to shake guys a little bit, get himself open. Again, I don’t think it’s any one thing.”
The coach joked that he noticed Williams walking with a limp this season, but said he saw the same limp while watching film of Williams from 2013, pre-injury.
“So maybe it’s just part of his swag,” Petersen joked.