Washington Huskies

Five questions facing UW football as they begin spring practices

UW kick returner and wide receiver John Ross III, foreground, returns a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against UCLA in 2014. Ross missed last season due to a knee injury but returns in 2016.
UW kick returner and wide receiver John Ross III, foreground, returns a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown against UCLA in 2014. Ross missed last season due to a knee injury but returns in 2016. AP

A look at five questions facing the Washington Huskies football team as they begin spring practices Monday:

1. Who emerges at wide receiver?

This was by far Washington’s most disappointing position on offense in 2015. So much so that Huskies coach Chris Petersen decided to fire receivers coach Brent Pease after two seasons and promote quality-control assistant Bush Hamdan.

Petersen lamented the group’s inability to create plays in 2015, and it wasn’t hard to see why — too often, passes weren’t caught unless thrown perfectly.

But there is some promising talent here. Washington returns juniors Dante Pettis (eight starts in 2015) and Brayden Lenius (six starts), and the Huskies are set to regain fourth-year junior John Ross III, who missed last season due to a knee injury.

Ross was hand-timed at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Husky Combine earlier this month, and his return gives the Huskies a true deep threat at receiver that they simply didn’t have last season. Also expect bigger roles this season for sophomores Isaiah Renfro and Federal Way native Chico McClatcher.

2. Can Darrell Daniels take over as the Huskies’ go-to tight end?

Joshua Perkins, a fifth-year senior in 2015, finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards.

With him out of the picture, it seems senior Darrell Daniels is the logical option to replace Perkins as the No. 1 tight end.

Daniels has a big body (6-foot-4, 237 pounds) and good speed, too — he was recently hand-timed at 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He caught 19 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown last season, but has made plays the past three years that have hinted at his potential as a playmaker.

Also, there are new faces to watch: former quarterback Jeff Lindquist is trying his hand at tight end this year, as is defensive lineman Will Dissly, in addition to returning tight ends Drew Sample, Shelton grad David Ajamu and Michael Neal.

3. Who replaces Travis Feeney?

One year after Hau’oli Kikaha set every significant UW season and career record for sacks, Feeney slid over to the buck linebacker position and gave the Huskies consistent speed chasing the quarterback off the edge.

With Feeney graduated, who takes over at the popular pass-rushing position this season?

Psalm Wooching backed him up last year, and figures to get a crack at it. Senior defensive lineman Joe Mathis is now listed as an outside linebacker, and he briefly dabbled at the buck in the spring of 2015, so maybe he gets a look, too.

Also keep an eye on redshirt freshman Benning Potoa’e, a Lakes High product. He has the body of a grown man and was a touted recruit.

4. What did an offseason of conditioning do for Jake Browning?

The sophomore quarterback said after UW’s Heart of Dallas Bowl victory that he hoped to put on some muscle this offseason, and Monday’s practice will be the first chance to see him on a football field since then.

Browning, who started 12 games in 2015 and enters spring as the unquestioned starter at quarterback, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. He should also have a better rapport with his receivers after spending a full offseason throwing passes to them, though Petersen said Browning already had a pretty good grasp of the Huskies’ offense last season.

5. Any changes on the offensive line?

The Huskies lost fifth-year senior Siosifa Tufunga, their starting center last season, but return everyone else who contributed.

The list includes Trey Adams (left tackle), Jake Eldrenkamp (guard), Shane Brostek (guard), Jesse Sosebee (guard), Andrew Kirkland (tackle), Matt James (tackle), Kaleb McGary (tackle) and Coleman Shelton, who served as a bit of a Swiss Army knife last season but will begin the spring as the team’s starting center, offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith told KJR 950-AM last week.

With so many regular contributors coming back, competition at guard and right tackle should be particularly stiff.

Christian Caple: @ChristianCaple

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