In the time it takes to read this sentence, Washington may have found another No. 2 receiver only to lose him to a season-ending injury.
All eyes are now on Aaron Fuller.
“Like coach says, it’s like carrying the flag,” Fuller said about being the Huskies second option to Dante Pettis. “You have to step up, be the next man up, and do as much as you can with the position you got.”
UW’s offense entered its spring and fall camp trying to find a replacement for speedy John Ross. It appeared junior Chico McClatcher was going to be paired with Pettis for the whole year.
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That is, until McClatcher broke his left ankle. Then emerging freshman Hunter Bryant, despite being a tight end, was thought to be the next option in the passing game for Huskies quarterback Jake Browning. Except Bryant injured his leg and is out indefinitely. The Huskies turned to sophomore Quinten Pounds. Only to have Pounds miss the rest of the year with a knee injury.
It’s Fuller’s turn.
Rated by Rivals as a two-star recruit, Fuller had offers from Iowa, Southern Methodist and Wisconsin until signing with UW in 2016.
He finished last year with 16 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Fuller’s most notable performance was when he had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown against Oregon State.
This year, he has 16 receptions for 207 yards and no touchdowns. Fuller’s role within UW’s offense was mixed until he was thrust into the No. 2 role.
He had four catches for 45 yards against Fresno State but had three games when he did not record any statistics.
Fuller’s last two games show why he’s won the job. He picked up eight receptions for 129 yards. Fuller actually led UW with 53 receiving yards in a 30-22 loss to Stanford last week.
“He’s always like known where to go and he has a really good football IQ,” Pettis said of Fuller. “He sees the defense well and I think he’s always kind of been ready but he’s getting that opportunity now.”
Part of Fuller’s acumen could be attributed to the time he spent playing high school football in Texas.
Texas high school football is a different animal compared to most states for several reasons. One example would be the demands placed on players to know the nuances of a particular scheme.
Aside from talent, college programs actively recruit Texas because many of the players grow up understanding the importance of playing within a specific system.
“Aaron is a guy that came in and to me, the reason he’s made such a big impact, is the way he practices,” Huskies receivers coach Matt Lubick said. “He came in, didn’t play as much early on as he is now but through practice and then, when he’s got into games, he’s made plays and he’s done a lot of good things in the run game that people don’t see.
“He’s making the most of it.”
Fuller, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds, starred at Lovejoy which is in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
He ripped opposing secondaries apart over his junior and senior seasons. In 2014, he was a Class 5A all-state selection with 69 catches for 1,386 yards and 22 touchdowns.
As a senior, he finished the year with 86 receptions for 1,178 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Fuller said his high school team operated out of a spread offense that was more of a pass-first offense.
UW’s pro-style scheme meant Fuller had to adjust but he still took to honing in on smaller details like becoming a better blocker to help the team’s running game.
“We have good coaches, good receivers that help us out like Dante and Ross helped me get adjusted to the system and everything coming in as a freshman,” Fuller said. “Which is why I was able to play a good amount coming in at the beginning. So, I mean, it wasn’t too bad just learning the plays, the signals and stuff like that.”
Both Lubick and Pettis said Fuller has done well in adapting to UW’s revolving door at receiver.
Lubick said the Huskies knew they had a lot of depth at receiver going into the season. Not that Lubick was hoping for injuries but in the event something happened, UW would be prepared.
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark