When fans talk about the Husky offense, the conversation usually ends up on the subject of either the play of Keith Price or the play of Chris Polk. While both rightly deserve the attention and praise of fans, the achievements of the Husky receivers so far this season can not be overlooked.
Similar to every other aspect of this offense, finding a weakness in the receiving corps is difficult. Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, James Johnson, Kevin Smith, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams and even Chris Polk all have contributed so far this season.
Surprisingly, the Huskies are in the lower half of total offense and total passing yards in the Pac-12, ranking tenth and ninth in the conference respectively at those categories. Despite this, the Huskies are third in scoring offense, averaging 37 points a game, only behind Stanford and Oregon. Putting up 37 points a game requires a complete offense and a competent receiving corps.
This year's group has hauled in 21 touchdowns through six games, while last year's team caught 19 total touchdowns the entire season.
Seven different players this season have caught touchdown passes: Aguilar (3), Kearse (6), Johnson (3), Seferian-Jenkins (4), Polk (2), Kasen Williams (2), Jonathan Amosa (1) .
Though this year's group of receivers is not racking as many yards as the other Pac-12 teams, the group has been part of a highly efficient offense — the fifth best in college football to be exact. After Saturday's effort, Price finds himself at fifth in all of college football with a 177.91 passing rating. Undoubtedly, the diversity of talent at the wide receiver position has made this Husky offense a challenge to defend. What factors have led to the increased production from the wide receiver position?
First, Chris Polk and the running game has been absolutely unstoppable so far. Having a player that has rushed for at least 100 yards in all but one game completely opens up opportunities for receivers to get open. Defenses have made Polk a priority to stop all year long, which has made it a lot easier for receivers to find holes and openings in the defense.
Secondly, the receivers are benefiting from Price's passing accuracy. While Locker did have a gun of an arm, his 55.4% completion percentage looks terrible when compared to Price's 69.4% rate. More experience and improvement from the offensive line has given way to less overthrows and less passing plays being given up on.
I touched upon this in a piece earlier about Price, but the sophomore quarterback's elusiveness in the pocket has bought time for receivers to get open. It is scary to think what this offense can do once Price is fully mobile again.
I must mention the genius of Head Coach Steve Sarkisian's play-calling so far too. Sark's playbook isn't asking receivers to make huge plays on a consistent basis. Rather, the offense can be effective by completing five to 15 yard completions throughout the drive.
By throwing shorter passes, the offense is allowing the receivers' play-making abilities to be shown. Williams is only averaging 7.9 yards per catch, but his speed and toughness has allowed him to find the end zone twice. On the same token, Seferian-Jenkins has been difficult to take down because of his large and agile body — he himself has found the end zone four times already this season.
While the youth have been a pleasant surprise, Kearse and Aguilar have been steady too. Kearse's numbers are down as a result of not being the only target like he was for Locker for the past three seasons. However, the senior is still leading the team with six touchdown receptions.
At the same time, Aguilar's numbers are all up; he already has 330 yards and two touchdowns through six games, last year he had 352 receiving yards and two touchdowns the entire season.
The biggest surprise so far this season has been James Johnson, the junior who basically disappeared last year, has reemerged as a legitimate threat. Johnson has been a steady presence in the offense, with over 20 receptions and 287 receiving yards, good for second most on the team.
While there is not one player that has stood out statistically, the Husky receivers make up one of the most dangerous groups in the Pac-12. Being able to depend on so many different options has been a luxury for the Huskies offense, but a nightmare for opponents.
Trying to guess who will lead the team in receiving yards and who will catch touchdown passes from Price on a week to week basis has proved to be a fruitless game this season. Husky coaches and players themselves probably don't even have an clue of who will lead in those categories. But that doesn't matter.
What does matter is that a lot of guys will be catching meaningful passes.
And these meaningful catches will lead to meaningful victories.