August 5, 2008

Washington's Receivers Greener Than Grass

Washington's receiving corp unproven, and that's an understatement. Tight ends aside, the Huskies' returning wide receivers caught a total of 11 passes last season, six from sophomore D'Andre Goodwin and five from sophomore [/db]Curtis Shaw[/db]. And while experience is nice to have, so is pure talent, and this young group of pass catchers has a lot of it.

"I like the effort so far. I think they did some good things yesterday," said Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham. "Still a lot that they have to learn in a very condensed amount of time. So I feel comfortable that they'll get it done, but at the same time, there's still a lot to go."

Freshman Chris Polk may have the biggest impact of any freshman on the team. Polk, a one-time USC commit, was one of the Huskies' prize 2008 commits, and will look to make a splash this season after gaining 15-pounds from the end of his senior season. Polk is currently listed as a slot back on the Washington roster, but will more than likely act as a hybrid type of player, a la USC's Joe McKnight or Florida's Percy Harvin.

"I'll do everything, but I'm more comfortable at running back. I only played receiver two years my whole life, so I'm more comfortable at running back," expressed Polk. "When we did seven-on-seven's , I would do receiver and running back - work on the routes from the running back position."

Willingham acknowledges that the running back position is where Polk feels the most comfortable. However, Willingham also understands that Polk has an unquestioned athletic ability, which can be utilized in many ways.

"Obviously it's something that he did. He has a history there," said Willingham of Polk's familiarity with the running back position. "But at the same time, he has, we think, a great many talents. And what you want to do, is use those and maximize those to the best and the fullest for your football team and for him. There will be a lot of things that we'll be doing, but I think he does have a sense more of self at the tailback, at the halfback position, because that's where he's spent a lot of his time."

Polk got a big jump on the fellow freshman by enrolling in the spring, and the transition has been relatively easy for him. Redshirt quarterback Ronnie Fouch graduated Redlands (CA) East Valley High School the year prior to Polk, and has helped the young playmaker adjust to the next level.

"It's way easier because of Ronnie," exclaimed Polk. "Because he's a quarterback, he knows everything. When we go together, I just have to give him a look and he tells me to do this and that. So it's real cool to have someone like that."

Another true freshman that has been drawing praise from coaches and players alike is Jermaine Kearse. Kearse, and fellow Husky true freshman, tight end Kavario Middleton led Lakes High School to a 10-1 record last season. Kearse had an outstanding season, having caught 54 passes for 903 yards and eight touchdowns. Kearse earned numerous post-season accolades, including an invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Kearse attributes his initial success to his work ethic.

"Just my work ethic," responded Kearse when asked why he has been able to make an impact thus far. "I watch film on everyone. During lunch, I go into the offices and watch film. I study each play and see what I can do better or I ask questions to the coaches about the plays. I'm in the office a lot."

It is almost a certainty that Kearse will see the field this season - something that excites the young Husky.

"It excites me a lot," exclaimed Kearse. "I'm looking forward to practice every day. I'm waiting for practice, to go out there and show my ability and what I can do to help this team out."

Six catches for 29 yards isn't much for a season's worth of play, but it's enough for sophomore D'Andre Goodwin to be considered the veteran of the receiving corp. Goodwin, who is entering his third year in the program, has taken the leadership role to heart, but isn't worried about the youth of the receiving corp.

"I try to help as many guys as I can. I feel whether it has to deal with working on releases, plays - just teaching the little small things. And try to also lead by example," said Goodwin. "I feel like [Wide Receivers] Coach [Charlie] Baggett has been coaching us up since we've been here. We've been taking it all in, trying to do the best we can. We'll be able to use that technique come August 30th."

The relationship between a quarterback and his receivers is critical if a team's passing game is to successful, and Goodwin feels he and sophomore Jake Locker have built a good one so far.

"We came here in the same class and we reshirted together, so we were going against the first-team defense a whole year by ourselves," explained Goodwin. "We haven't perfected it yet, but we've been working together over the summer - seven-on-seven and eleven-on-eleven - things like that."

Freshman Devin Aguilar signed with Washington in 2007, but failed to qualify academically, and many wrote the chances of him ending up at Montlake off. However, Aguilar put in the necessary work, and now finds himself primed to make an impact as only a true freshman.

"It was hard fought deal I went through, going through the ups and downs and the motions. Once I qualified, I got here and got into the motions of the football program," explained Aguilar. "It came kind of easily just being around. Even though I wasn't here for the fall, I was still around. Everything kind of fell into place once I got here.

Like Goodwin, Aguilar feels the receiving corp, while young, will perform at a high level this season.

"I feel like it's a new thing coming. I think we're ready - we worked hard," expressed Aguilar. "Coach Baggett has given us the right fundamentals and techniques to get there, and all we've got to do is show what we have. We're just waiting until August 30th. We have the talent and determination to get up and get the job done."

Another of Washington's wide receivers that has struggled with academics in the past, is senior Chancellor Young. Young played his freshman season of football at Duke University, but failed to stay in shape academically. Since then, it has been a battle for him to stay on track. However, Young feels he has learned from his mistakes, and can be mentor for some of the younger players on the team.

"I'm willing to come up and impart some knowledge to some of the younger guys. These guys are very young and may not have as much NCAA experience, but to be perfectly honest, they have about as much as I do," explained Young. "But it's back and forth. Whatever way I can contribute, whatever way I can help, I'm willing to do. I never wanted to be the example of what was bad, but I already am, so I might as well look at it and gain from it."

Other wide receivers to keep an eye out for are freshmen Anthony Boyles, Alvin Logan/db] and [db]Cody Bruns.

Boyles was a highly touted recruit, who like Aguilar, failed to qualify academically initially, and enrolled this past January. Boyles participated in the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl, where he too home MVP honors for the West team. Standing 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, Logan is a big-bodied receiver who is looking to make a splash after redshirting last season. Bruns ended his Prosser High School career last season as one of the most prolific receivers in history. Bruns finished with 310 catches for 5,178 yards and 72 touchdowns. Bruns' receptions and yardage totals rank second in the nation all-time for 11-man football, while his touchdown total ranks third all-time.

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