University of Washington

Replacing Pettis and better health top goals for UW receiving corps entering spring camp

Washington wide receiver Chico McClatcher missed most of 2017 with a broken ankle.
Washington wide receiver Chico McClatcher missed most of 2017 with a broken ankle. Associated Press

For the first time in three seasons, Jake Browning will not have the comfort of throwing to Dante Pettis.

Browning's most trusted receiver is gone and the Washington Huskies are in a transitional period. They must use spring camp to not only replace Pettis but develop a variety of able targets should the Huskies be serious about challenging for a College Football Playoff berth in 2018.

The Huskies do have a few ways of providing Browning with some assistants. From the smaller speedy receivers to the bigger, more physical targets, there's a variety of players who can make UW's passing game more formidable.

Here's a look at what to watch for with the Huskies' receivers going into spring camp which starts Wednesday.

The biggest question is...

Enough is in place to suggest there's going to be a competition to find a No. 1 receiver and beyond. Pettis finished last season with 761 yards and seven TDs. Tight end Will Dissly, who also graduated, caught 21 passes for 289 yards and two TDs. Or to put it another way: Dissly and Pettis accounted for 36 percent of the Huskies' receiving yards and 47 percent of their touchdown receptions.

New offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan, who was a UW assistant for two seasons, will have a variety of players to chose from. Tight end Hunter Bryant, who will be a sophomore, missed four games because of a leg injury but returned for the Fiesta Bowl. The 6-foot-2 and 245-pound former Eastside Catholic star still accounted for 331 yards.

Bryant's freshman year was a microcosm for UW's receivers and tight ends. Right when someone was coming into their own, they got injured. Chico McClatcher, who was The News Tribune's All-Area Player of the Year in 2014 as a senior at Federal Way High School, was gaining ground after playing in three of UW's first four games only to suffer a season-ending broken ankle. Quinten Pounds gradually showed progress but after seven games, he sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice. McClatcher and Pounds, who are entering their junior seasons, should be healthy for the upcoming season.

Familiar faces

Those injures led to Andre Baccellia and Aaron Fuller getting reps in practice and carving out a place within the passing game. Fuller was used in spots earlier in the year but came on strong in the final five games. He caught 18 balls for 213 yards and a TD, whereas Pettis, by comparison, had 18 catches for 277 yards and a score in that same span. Baccellia's path was similar. He had six receptions late in wins over Rutgers and Montana but didn't catch another pass until mid-November. Browning found Baccellia 10 times for 118 yards over the last four games.

UW enters spring camp with 13 receivers and they come with different builds. McClatcher, who is 5-8 and a 176 pounds, might be the smallest target but he possesses the skill to get into open space. Baccellia is 5-10 and 173 pounds while Fuller is 5-10 and a 190 pounds. Those players, along with Pounds (6-feet, 182 pounds) are the in-between receivers when it comes to height and weight.

Austin Osborne and Ty Jones are the team's biggest receivers. Osborne, who will be a true freshman, is 6-2 and 188 pounds. Jones, who will be a sophomore, checks in at 6-4 and 215 pounds. The Huskies also have more bulk thanks to their tight ends. UW will have seven tight ends in camp and the shortest player in the group stands at 6-2. Senior Drew Sample, who is 6-5 and 261 pounds, is UW's most experienced tight end (26 starts in 39 career games). He had seven catches for 84 yards last season but could see his production increase while also serving as a blocker.

Going forward

Osborne is the only receiver in the Huskies' 2018 recruiting class who is an early enrollee. Actually, he the only non-quarterback from UW's new crop who will be in spring camp. He starred at national powerhouse Mission Viejo (Calif.) and had 47 receptions for 889 yards and nine TDs as a senior.

In total UW signed three receivers and a tight end. Four-star prospect and U.S. Army All-American Trey Lowe was the No. 6 all-purpose back in the nation but he's moving to receiver and serve in the same role as McClatcher. Marquis Spiker, another four-star prospect, was the No. 9 receiver in his class and the 59th best player in America. The 6-3 and 180-pound Spiker holds the California record for most career touchdowns with 72. As a senior, he torched secondaries for 83 receptions, 1,490 yards and 27 TDs.

Devin Culp is the final member of the group. He led Spokane Gonzaga Prep to Class 4A quarterfinal while lining up at running back and tight end. Culp, who is 6-3 and 235 pounds, was an Associated Press and News Tribune first-team selection at tight end.

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark
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