Looking at the current roster, with minimal attention paid to the 2012 recruiting class.
Who They Lose
Kearse had a very contentious career for a guy who is probably one of the five or so greatest receivers ever at UW. He made play after play and caught a huge amount of touchdowns. I can’t get the Husky record book to open right now, but he’s near the top in a number of categories. The consistent issues with drops plagued Kearse. More than a few had major effects on games and kept him from being a huge fan favorite. He was never quite what he could have been because of the drops, but he is still a huge threat to replace. Aguilar was a little more consistent but not quite the playmaking threat that Kearse was. Still, he made a lot of catches at critical moments. Replacing these two is a fairly tall order. They both had flaws, but they are clearly one of the better WR combos the Huskies have ever had.
Who Is Back
Kasen Williams- Sophomore
James Johnson- Senior
Cody Bruns- Senior
Kevin Smith- Junior
The saving grace in an otherwise lackluster group is Williams. It took him half the season to get going, but once he did, all the hype he brought with him seemed inadequate to the actual talent he possesses. He looked faster than expected, and his overall athleticism is ridiculous. His leap over a Cougar in the Apple Cup is already legendary. I expect Kasen will take a huge jump forward this year and be one of the best receivers in a conference full of good ones.
Kasen’s presence allows the rest of this group to be the solid supporting cast they are. Johnson still has come nowhere near to living up to the promise he showed as a freshman, but his junior season was a huge step up from a wasted sophomore year. If he can take another step he’s a solid second receiver. Bruns redshirted last year, in part to give them some depth for 2012 and in part to deal with the death of his father. He’s done a little of everything in his career, but as a receiver, he best fits the role of a reliable third down guy. I’m curious to see what the year off does to him. Hopefully he can close his career with a big year, especially after the tragedy of losing his father. Smith had a mixed year as a receiver. I can remember a few big drops and it didn’t always seem like he had the position mastered. At the same time, his athleticism is second only to Kasen and his kick returns showed that he has an ability in the open field that few others on the team possess. This year should show if he can be a consistent threat or not.
Who They’re Adding
DiAndre Campbell (Soph.), Jamaal Jones (Fr.) and Josh Perkins (Fr.) kind of blur together for me. They all fit the prototypical “Sarkisian wide receiver” profile: tall, lanky, decent speed. I don’t honestly know enough about any of them to say more, but I’d expect at least one to make a mark this year. They all bring more height than any of the upperclassmen except for Kasen.
Marvin Hall is a little different. Originally a 2011 recruit, he wasn’t admitted to school and sat out the fall getting eligible before enrolling this winter. He’ll be a true freshman. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he had an immediate impact, especially as a return man. He’s a smaller guy who is dangerous in the open field. It’s a profile that no other Husky receiver possesses. He’ll be in spring practice, which should provide an advantage over the other incoming freshmen.
The Huskies have a nice looking group of receivers coming in next fall, but none of them stand out as a guy who will demand playing time. The closest is probably Kendyl Taylor, a tall and shifty receiver from Arizona who seems like he’s been under the radar a bit. They’re still working on recruiting a couple of guys, most notably Jordan Payton, a current Cal commit who is reconsidering after the coaching moves. He is on campus for a visit this weekend. Scout.com has him as the 15th ranked receiver in the country. I would expect he’d play his freshman year, but whether that’s in Seattle or Berkley remains to be seen.
Kasen should keep this group from taking a big step back. He is far and away the most talented UW receiver since Reggie Williams. The other veterans are solid, but a breakout from Johnson or Smith would be huge. They’ll also probably need one of the younger guys to have an impact, but I’d be pretty surprised if that doesn’t happen. There aren’t a ton of playmakers here, at least not yet, but there are worse options than Kasen Williams and a bunch of solid role players.