Chico McClatcher says he’s had a good summer.
He’s worked on the speed that made him a standout receiver for the Washington Huskies two years ago. He’s spent hours in the weight room. He’s been getting in extra time with quarterback Jake Browning after workouts, and looking over his playbook.
The ankle injury that ended McClatcher’s season in the Huskies’ Pac-12 opener against Colorado a year ago — and kept him out of eight games and a bowl appearance — is becoming a distant memory.
“I’m feeling good running around, (and) fast,” McClatcher said Tuesday following UW’s first padded practice of preseason camp. “I’m just ready to get back to playing.”
McClatcher—now a junior, who was once a star at Federal Way High School and is a former TNT All-Area player of the year—hauled in 31 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns two years ago as a sophomore for UW.
Last season, grabbed another 10 balls for 128 yards in three games before his injury.
McClatcher says he’s ready to get back to making an impact on the field. Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan, who was the receivers coach during McClatcher’s sophomore campaign, is ready to have him back, too. He knows how explosive McClatcher can be..
“Chico is probably one of my favorite people I’ve ever been around,” Hamdan said. “I think somebody who goes through the adversity he’s gone through, always has a smile on his face, always practices at one speed — just to see him healthy, back on the field is uplifting for me.”
McClatcher said he is “close” to being at full strength. He was targeted on offense multiple times Tuesday and had a catch. He also joined tailbacks Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, lining up as a returner during special teams periods.
Hamdan said the Huskies are bringing McClatcher back “slow and steady.”
“We’re very careful with him,” Hamdan said. “When you have a guy as explosive as him, the plan is not to be ready today. It’s to get him quality work.
“We’re always concerned about that with our receivers, getting him as close to ready as he can be. Just with those top-level guys, they have to be feeling good.”
McClatcher says he’s ready to play wherever Hamdan puts him on offense — he was primarily a slot receiver before his injury — whether it’s inside or outside.
“He’s always a guy you have to be very aware of — is he getting the ball enough?” Hamdan said. “However that is. Whether it’s on the outside, inside.
“You look from a dynamic standpoint between him, between Myles and Salvon, those are three guys that are always going to be in our mind to get the ball to.”
McClatcher is one of the older receivers in this year’s group, with two seasons of significant experience. Hamdan also noted juniors Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia and Quinten Pounds — who is also returning from ACL surgery — and sophomore Ty Jones as receivers who have had an early impact in camp.
“This group is as deep as I think we’ve ever been,” Hamdan said. “There’s probably one or two guys maybe that separate themselves, and then there’s a group of probably six or seven guys that we’re trying to see what it looks like when the lights come on.
“So we’re excited about those guys. We have a couple of guys who lead the way, but we have a strong corps who’s growing fast.”
Gaskin and Ahmed continued their friendly quarreling about which tailback is faster.
Ahmed told members of the press he is. Gaskin disagreed.
The two recounted what happened at the Husky Combine in March. Ahmed ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds. Gaskin came in just behind him at 4.44.
“It wasn’t a head-to-head race, but I’ll say that,” Gaskin quipped.
“He don’t want to count it, though,” Ahmed fired back.
“We can count it, we can count it,” Gaskin replied, but urged Ahmed to tell the rest of the story.
The two later joined together on the field to run the 40-yard dash head-to-head.
“It was like (midnight). We were arguing, went to the field, we raced five times,” Ahmed said.
Gaskin made sure it was known that he won three out of the five races. But, Ahmed said he won the first and the fourth rep, contending that the fifth — which Gaskin won — was more of a test of endurance than speed.
The argument hasn’t been settled, Ahmed says, and it will continue.
“It’s never going to stop,” he said, smiling. “It’s going to keep going. We’re going to keep racing. I’m going to continue to be faster than him.”
That competition aside, Ahmed, who showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman last season, said he will try to emulate his older teammate’s performance on the field.
“I try to learn a lot from him,” Ahmed said. “Obviously I want to be my own player, but I try to learn the patience and the work ethic and everything like that.
“I try to take little pieces of his game and put it in mine. Hopefully I can be out there looking like (No.) 9, and have the same success.”
Tumwater High School product Cade Otton, a redshirt freshman who is projected to see playing time at tight end this season, had several first-team reps during team periods, specifically during a 7-on-7 drill. He had one catch during an 11-on-11 team period from redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Haener.