Terrell Bynum was healthy during Washington’s spring practices, which isn’t something he takes for granted.
Last year, the redshirt sophomore wide receiver out of St. John Bosco (California) was still recovering from a thumb surgery when the Huskies started workouts in the spring. While he rebuilt his hand strength, he focused mostly on running routes instead of catching passes.
Flash forward to a few months ago, and Bynum was working at full speed. He made an impression, too. During one 11-on-11 period, the 6-foot-1 Bynum made a leaping grab along the sideline, wrestling the ball away from redshirt freshman cornerback Kyler Gordon as they both crashed to the turf.
But Bynum, along with UW’s other young receivers, faded away once the season started and the majority of targets went to starting seniors Aaron Fuller, Andre Baccellia and Chico McClatcher. Bynum has been listed as McClatcher’s backup all year, but entering the Huskies’ game against Oregon, he only had three receptions of the season. Two of them came in the season opener against Eastern Washington.
“I think everybody wants to play in any position at any school,” Bynum said. “It depends on how you deal with that. Are you going to get better or are you going to pout about it? I think I decided I was going to try to get better regardless of what the circumstances were and try to find an opportunity.”
That opportunity came two weeks ago against Oregon. Fuller, UW’s leading receiver, was limited with an injury and only appeared on two kickoff returns. Then, in the third quarter, McClatcher limped off the field. He was later seen wearing a walking boot.
The door opened for Bynum to make an impact, and he had the best game of his career. He finished with six catches for 46 yards in UW’s 35-31 loss.
“He was really in the mix last year even though he really didn’t get a ton of snaps,” said head coach Chris Petersen. “There were situational things that we put him in. But he was one of those guys that we keep talking about. He gets a lot of reps in practice, and then just kind of waiting for him to do something when we gave him an opportunity.
“He’s had a couple opportunities this last handful of games, and every time we do something he’s done a nice job. He made a couple really nice catches, even though they weren’t downfield a bunch. But they were back shoulder, on his hip. Sometimes those are hard — those little crossing routes — if they’re not (on the numbers) they can be hard to catch. He’s done a really good job with those things.”
It hasn’t always been an easy road for Bynum, and he admitted to some frustration as he waited for a chance. He played in 10 games last season and started against UCLA, but he still finished the year without a single catch.
“Everybody comes from being the best personal their high school team,” Bynum said. “You kind of have to work through it. If you’re mad, you have to be like, ‘Why am I not playing? This is what I have do better to get on the field.’”
So Bynum took stock, hoping to pinpoint what he needed to change to get more snaps. He settled on this: Consistency. He had shown flashes of play-making ability — like that highlight-reel catch during spring practice — but those moments had to be routine, not anomalies. Petersen has routinely said his players need to perform well in practice to get chances in games. Bynum confessed that was occasionally his downfall. That’s changing now.
Wide receivers coach Junior Adams, who took over the job this season, wasn’t at UW for the beginning of Bynum’s career. But he’s noticed his progression throughout this season. For much of this year, Adams said, the younger receivers like Bynum spent most of their time on the field doing what he called “the dirty work” in the run game.
But when Bynum got the chance to shine in the Huskies’ biggest game of the season, he took advantage. Behind that success, Adams said, is the consistency Bynum set out to find.
“Terrell has been really awesome,” Adams said. “He’s been consistent. It’s not just about being consistent, I think, on the field. It’s the things that you do behind these walls. He’s consistently coming to work every day. He’s consistently taking notes. He’s consistently understanding what we’re doing and studying every day, which leads to the reason why he’s being consistent on the field. I’m really pleased on the progress he’s making.”
Now, with a career game and a bye week behind him, Bynum will look to build on his recent success when the Huskies face No. 9 Utah on Saturday.
“It boosts my confidence a lot,” Bynum said of his performance against the Ducks. “Before I was kind of playing a little timid, trying not to make mistakes. Now I feel like I want to make more plays instead of playing not to mess up.”