Washington Huskies show a new look at receiver in Saturday's scrimmage
The Purple team, with the No. 1 offense, beat the White, with the No. 1 defense, 24-14
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The eyebrow-raising moment of Washington's football scrimmage Saturday wasn't so much what the starting offense did once it was on the field, but what it looked like as it took the field.
As the starters gathered for the first play, the group included sophomore receiver Jordan Polk and true freshman receiver James Johnson, the two having supplanted — for the moment, anyway — two of the three projected starters at that spot, Jermaine Kearse and D'Andre Goodwin. Goodwin, a junior, is the team's leading returning receiver with 60 catches but struggled early in camp to set aside a lingering hamstring injury. Devin Aguilar remained as the other starting receiver.
"I think James, Devin and Jordan right now are making the most plays," receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said after the scrimmage. "We are going to get the best playmakers on the field, that's what we've got to do. The guys who can make explosive plays happen, guys who can score touchdowns, that's what we are looking for. And guys who know what to do. They know their assignments right now the best, they are playing the most comfortably and they are making the plays.
"But we are evaluating every day and the kids know that, so if one of those guys came out here and didn't practice well for three, four days, we are going to change things."
Once the scrimmage started, however, Polk and Johnson did nothing to indicate they may relinquish their newfound spots any time soon, each turning in key plays as the Purple team (featuring the No. 1 offense), beat the White (featuring the No. 1 defense) 24-14.
Johnson, a native of Valley Center, Calif., who was the most highly-acclaimed of the Class of 2009, had two catches for 38 yards, one coming on a third down to keep an eventual scoring drive alive for the No. 1 offense. Polk had just one catch, but it was also a big one, a 16-yarder on a third-and-15 to keep the same drive alive. He had earlier rushed for 25 yards to key the 10-play, 80-yard march that was the best of the day for the first unit
Those two receptions each came on passes from Jake Locker, who was 12 of 19 for 181 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
"I just thought Jake was really good all day," said coach Steve Sarkisian, noting Locker's numbers are also dependent on the receivers. The Huskies have had issues with dropped passes throughout camp, one reason for the shake-up in the receiving corps.
"Part of [a quarterback's] accuracy is making catches," Sarkisian said. "Not every ball is going to be perfect."
Dougherty said that the promotion of Johnson and Polk doesn't mean that Kearse and Goodwin won't play as the team plans to rotate heavily at receiver.
And Kearse, a sophomore from Lakes, had the best overall day of any receiver with three catches for 62 yards, including a 20-yard TD grab from Locker.
"They are just putting whoever makes the plays out there, and those two are making plays right now," Kearse said of Johnson and Polk.
The defense actually had the better of the offense early, allowing only three points on its first three drives.
Sarkisian said he thought it took the Huskies a little while to get used to a game-like atmosphere.
"I thought in general, it took our guys, as a group, as a team, awhile to get adjusted to the fact they were out on the field on their own, and not out there with the coaches yelling and screaming and having everyone around," he said.
The plays of Johnson and Polk keyed the initial drive for the No. 1 offense in the third quarter, which ended in a 1-yard TD run by Johri Fogerson. The one offense then drove 63 yards in the fourth quarter, a 25-yard reception by Kearse and a 9-yarder by Johnson setting up Locker's TD pass to Kearse.
"I felt good with everything that we did today," Locker said. "I don't know if that's something that will carry into a game or not. The next couple of weeks will tell me that. But I felt good with everything we had on the play list today and was able to execute without thinking much."
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