Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia crafted aspects of their games around the receivers that came before them, players like John Ross and Dante Pettis. They learned the offense, the importance of competing during practice.
And they learned how to be leaders.
Fuller, a junior, and Baccellia, a redshirt junior, are now two of Washington’s veterans. As the Huskies prepare for the final stretch of the regular season, they’re both using the skills they took from Ross and Pettis to help guide a young group of wide receivers.
“Going through the game with those type of guys in front of you is always great,” Baccellia said. “You see the things that go well and don’t go well as well… craft your leadership around what they did and bring new things to it. Young guys respond to some things better than others.”
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UW will be coming off its second loss in three games when it faces Stanford at Husky Stadium on Saturday. The latest defeat, a 12-10 loss to Cal, was the Huskies’ worst offensive performance of the season.
Last week, UW was missing key pieces. Some of them will likely be back on Saturday — head coach Chris Petersen said Thursday that running back Myles Gaskin and tight end Hunter Bryant are “closer-er” to returning — but others have been lost for the season.
Two of those players are receivers. Petersen confirmed after the loss to the Golden Bears that junior Chico McClatcher would be taking time away from football. He said he doesn’t know when he’ll return.
Petersen announced in mid-October that Quinten Pounds, who injured his knee against UCLA, was out for the year. Pounds’ season was also cut short in 2017 when he tore the ACL in his left knee. In 2015, he tore the ACL in his right knee after playing in three games as a true freshman.
“Losing Quinten was big,” Fuller said. “When we first found out, me and (Andre) were actually crying. This is his third ACL. It hurts seeing a brother go down.”
And Fuller knows there’s not much he can say that will help him.
“I think more than anything is just keeping his spirits up, doing whatever you need to do to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere dark mentally,” he said. “Just being there for him mentally and physically, whatever he needs help with.”
Pounds, who had eight receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown in six games, was one of the missing players Petersen noted when discussing the Huskies’ struggling offense on Monday.
While Fuller and Baccellia will do what they can to help Pounds get through another injury, they also know UW has to fill the void as it takes aim at a Pac-12 North title that is still within reach.
“I feel like we always need to carry that flag,” Baccellia said. “(Pounds) was a big key in our offense. We got some young guys ready to take that next step and get in the game and do some awesome things.”
Both Baccellia and Fuller know what it takes to take that step forward. They did it themselves this year.
Fuller, who caught 26 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown in 2017, is now UW’s leading receiver. He has 43 receptions for 675 and three touchdowns. In eight games last year, Baccellia caught 16 passes for 187 yards. He has 24 receptions for 269 yards through nine games in 2018.
“He just got smarter within the game,” Fuller said of Baccellia. “He’s always been a very great athlete. He’s the fastest dude on our team and things like that.
“He kind of fills the game out a little bit better now. He’s got a savviness to him where he finds those holes in the defense and he got that confidence from over the years.”
Baccellia said Ross and Pettis instilled proper technique in younger players, including him. Now, he’s trying to guide the Huskies’ more inexperienced receivers, like redshirt freshmen Terrell Bynum and Alex Cook, in a similar fashion.
As UW’s offense tries to rebound from a poor showing, Fuller said the Huskies might need their help.
“Just making sure they know the plays,” Fuller said, “and helping them out with the game because they haven’t played too much.”