Three true freshmen wide receivers, each four-star high school recruits out of California, usher different skill sets into the University of Washington football team.
John Ross is shifty and nimble, Damore’ea Stringfellow is bigger and stronger and Darrell Daniels possesses height and linear speed.
With their addition and the development of returning players throughout the offseason, coach Steve Sarkisian is confident the Huskies can soften the workload of Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who were often targeted last year by quarterback Keith Price.
“The wide receiver spot is a strength on this team,” Sarkisian said. “With this style of offense we are running, we are going to need a number of options who can go play wide receiver and do it fast, and we are fortunate that we have that.”
That has a lot to do with the emergence of Ross, Stringfellow and Daniels.
Ross might have the best shot at starting right away as the slot receiver and has impressed offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau with his quickness and understanding of the routes. He also has worked with special teams, often returning punts in practice.
“I think he’s pretty exciting and electric,” Kiesau said.
Just one thing – don’t tell Ross he’s under 6 feet.
“Because he gets all mad,” Kiesau said.
Ross is listed at 5-foot-11, 173 pounds, and was 5-9 when UW recruited him out of Long Beach, Calif., but Kiesau said Ross recently measured at the 6-foot mark.
“He ran to my office when he found that he was 6-foot,” Kiesau said, laughing. “He was really excited.”
Stringfellow’s frame is a bit bigger at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and Kiesau said he has great hands and catch radius.
“He can catch anything around him,” Kiesau said.
But what might stand out more is his willingness to study.
Kiesau said he was impressed with an encounter they had earlier in the week. He and Kiesau were talking off the field, and Kiesau said he noticed a paper littered with highlighted markings. It was part of Stringfellow’s notes from practice and meetings.
Learning the team’s up-tempo schemes has been a challenge, just as it is for any freshman, but both Kiesau and Sarkisian said Ross, Stringfellow and Daniels have done a decent job of catching on.
“The first five or six days of practice they were getting hot because there were small pieces of instillation, but now we’ve got the whole package in and now there’s kind of a dip because there is so much information,” Kiesau said. “But they are starting to get back into their groove since we’ve pared things down a little. I really think they are doing a good job, all three of them.”
Even if none of them starts Washington’s season-opener against Boise State on Aug. 31 – the first game at the renovated Husky Stadium – they will see plenty of action with Sarkisian’s need to keep Price’s targets fresh in the no-huddle offense.
“I’m not looking for one or two starters,” Kiesau said. “I’m looking for six or seven guys. With the way we are going to go no-huddle, you need that many. You can’t rely on one or two. It would be silly in this offense.”
“I think they will all contribute in some fashion for us,” Sarkisian said. “They are nice prospects, and to think we have them not only for this fall, but for the next four years is pretty cool.”
A LEGEND RETURNS
Sarkisian gathered his team at midfield during practice, spoke and pointed upward to the years “1960” and “1991” imprinted on the inner rim of the upper deck seats at Husky Stadium.
He preached how inspiring it is to see those two championship years. Then he introduced more inspiration and gave way for legendary UW coach Don James to enter the huddle and speak to the players.
James spoke briefly about Boise State and his 1991 championship before the team went back to practice.
Williams approached James individually before heading to a drill, shook his hand and spoke with him further. Aaron Williams, a Wilson High graduate and Kasen’s father, was a star receiver for James from 1979-82.
GAME OF CATCH
UW’s Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins each ranked in the top 10 in the Pacific-12 Conference in catches last season. The next UW wide receiver, Jaydon Mickens, ranked 66th.
Player, Rec, Yards, TD
Kasen Williams, WR, 77, 878, 7
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, 69, 852, 6
Bishop Sankey, RB, 33, 249, 0
Jaydon Mickens, WR, 20, 190, 1
DiAndre Campbell, WR, 16, 167, 2