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Washington Huskies

No. 6 UW could surprise in passing game

Jake Browning’s UW Huskies enter the college football season ranked sixth in the nation. (AP)

The Washington Huskies enter the 2018 college football season ranked sixth in the nation and as the favorite to win the Pac-12 conference, but that’s mainly because the defense is expected to once again be a force. The offense, on the other hand, has one specific flaw that has been a cause for concern since last year: the passing game.

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Sure, the offense’s two best players, quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, are back for their senior seasons. But the wide receivers are a question mark, and there’s no telling whether any one pass-catcher will emerge as a reliable target for Browning.

Pac-12 Network analyst Evan Moore, a former Stanford and NFL tight end (including with the Seahawks in 2012), joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton to discuss UW’s upcoming season, and he was much more optimistic about the passing game possibly developing into a strength for the Huskies than others have been.

“I think there’s enough guys on that roster at the receiver position,” Moore said. “I think getting Ty Jones in the fold, who’s a big guy at about 6-4, and then getting Quinten Pounds healthy, hopefully they can get Hunter Bryant back at some point this year to have more weapons in the passing game to give Jake more chances to take shots downfield. As we know, (Browning’s) numbers were at their best when John Ross was there because John was such a dangerous deep threat, and they have to find a way to replicate that and give (Browning) a chance to throw the ball down the field a little more because that’s when I think they’re at their best.”

The Huskies could also have an X-factor in Chico McClatcher, who had 574 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2016 but had his 2017 season cut short due to injury.

“He made a ton of plays two years ago,” Moore said of McClatcher. “He kind of has that running back build and plays in the slot and does a really good job and gives them another option. Kind of a friendly target for Jake Browning.”

Looking over Washington’s group of WRs, Moore is actually intrigued by how they could fit together.

“I think we’ll see Jake play some of his best ball this year if those guys can all stay healthy because I think they kind of have a variety of skillsets at that position: bigger receivers, smaller receivers, guys that can stretch the field in Quinten Pounds,” Moore said. “(The key is) staying healthy, because as good as they’ve been, they really haven’t had all the best injury luck either over the last couple years.

“We know that Jake is very experienced, he’s played in a number of different venues, he’s played on the road, he’s won big games. Having a guy like that as your signal-caller as a senior is a pretty big advantage, so I expect them to surprise some people on offense this year.”

You can find the full segment with Moore in this podcast of Wednesday’s show with John Clayton.

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