Season Grade: Passing Game

Kasen Williams (US PRESSWIRE)

Washington's passing game dropped off significantly from 2011 to 2012. In 2011, the Huskies were the 35th-best pass offense in the country, averaging 255 yards a game through the air. In 2012, UW only averaged 210 yards a game, sliding them 53 spots down the FBS ladder to the spot occupied by the double-snowman (88). Frosty, indeed.

The Good - You can't talk about the receivers and tight ends without talking about sophomores Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. The two combined for 77 catches for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011; this year they bumped their numbers up considerably; 134 catches for 1572 yards - but still 12 touchdowns. So they increased their production by well over 50 percent, but couldn't crack the end zone in the same fashion. Seferian-Jenkins became the only sophomore to make the John Mackey semifinalist list, and then the only non-senior to make the final three. That's an incredible accomplishment, and there's nothing to suggest that ASJ won't be the head-and-shoulders best tight end in the country for 2013 and is well on his way toward becoming a first-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And while the competition at receiver will be a lot greater for Williams in the Pac-12 with guys like Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks and Austin Hill coming back, I believe Kasen has a great chance to make first-team all-pre-season Pac-12. In many cases over the course of the year ASJ and Williams were able to bail out the offense with great plays in jump ball situations, using their size and athleticism to their advantage. You can't underestimate the impact these two made to the offense in 2012.

The Bad - It was supposed to be another strong year catching the ball at Montlake based on pre-season predictions. Seferian-Jenkins and Williams were going to take the place of Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, UW's two top receivers in 2011. James Johnson and Kevin Smith were going to continue their ascension up the ranks by providing veteran guile and athleticism to the mix - thereby allowing talented true freshmen Jaydon Mickens, Kendyl Taylor and Dwayne Washington time to find their niche in a potent UW passing attack. It never really happened. Smith's knee injury suffered in preparation for the 2011 Alamo Bowl was significant enough that it affected him for the entire season. He caught only six passes in 2012 and was barely a threat in the return game - something he was a beast at just a year earlier. Johnson broke his arm in fall camp and decided to utilize a redshirt season still available to him. Washington was not cleared to practice until the season had already started, so he redshirted. That left Mickens and Taylor alone to find their way with a couple more receivers in DiAndre Campbell and Cody Bruns that have never really factored into the mix before - and by the Stanford game Taylor was pressed into action as a running back, thinning the herd even more. So all of a sudden what looked on paper to be a receiving corps as strong or even stronger than a really good 2011 group was completely decimated. The loss of Johnson and inability of Smith to fully recover was something that would come back to haunt the Huskies all year long.

The Ugly - The numbers don't lie - as good as Seferian-Jenkins and Williams were for the Huskies, Washington had basically no one else step up to give Keith Price other options to throw to. Seferian-Jenkins and Williams accounted for 134 of the Huskies' 246 catches (54 percent), while Kearse and Aguilar had 88 of the Huskies' 267 catches (33 percent). So one theory suggests that the reason Price had a substantially better 2011 than 2012 was because he had a lot more options on the field to throw to than this past season. While Marqise Lee and Robert Woods represented a whopping 68 percent of USC's receiving attack, the numbers at UW back up the idea that an effective but limited receiving corps doesn't work that well. In 2011 Washington had six receivers with 28 or more catches (Kearse, Aguilar, ASJ, Williams, Chris Polk and James Johnson). In 2012 that number was two (ASJ and Williams). Running Back Bishop Sankey had 27 catches out of the backfield, and he was Price's third option by a country mile after Williams (71 catches) and ASJ (63 catches). UW had four receivers that had anywhere from 13 to 18 catches (Jaydon Mickens, DiAndre Campbell, Kendyl Taylor and Cody Bruns) and the Huskies' next two tight end options - Michael Hartvigson and Evan Hudson - caught 11 passes between them. When you're averaging a catch a game it's hard to make anything really happen, let alone get in a rhythm and become a legitimate game-breaking option.

The Grade: C This grade is somewhat similar to the run game grade in the sense that two players carried a large part of the workload and really didn't have anyone behind them to take their share and provide significant options to force defenses to think. If this grade was just based on what ASJ and Williams did in 2012 it would be A's across the board. You couldn't have asked them to do more than they did, and while Williams caught 71 passes I would argue he could have caught at least a couple more passes a game without breaking a sweat, getting him close to 100. They weren't underutilized per se; there were certainly other factors that came into play when talking about how the passes were getting to them. But the passing game grade falls off a cliff when you take those two out of the equation. It was ASJ and Williams or Scramble Right Dump, and as a result the lack of choices invariably hurt the Washington offense because it made them completely one-dimensional in the pass game. Defend ASJ and Williams - even double them if you have to - and the rest will take care of itself. It was an easy scout. No one else was able to provide that needed third (or fourth) receiver in an offense already suffering from a lack of options in the run game - and the predictability is one of the big reasons for the significant drop-off in production from 2011 to 2012. And that made the pass game in total very average, especially given expectations. Whether by bad luck with injuries or other factors, the pass game never came that close to fulfilling their potential as a unit.

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