Choosing a UW Starting Lineup: Breakout Wide Receiver is Hard to Find

In the history of Husky football, breakout receivers have been few and far between.
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Reggie Williams and Mario Bailey, as University of Washington wide receivers, received first-team Associated Press All-American selections. As collegians, they were the best at what they did.

As NFL players, however, Williams didn't last long in the league and Bailey couldn't get out of camp.

OK, name the last Husky pass-catcher to earn All-Pro honors. 

Right, there's never been one.

Wide receiver remains one of the underserved positions in UW football annals. Few players have dominated at the college level, none have made a huge dent in the pros.

Can you name the most productive NFL receiver to come out of Montlake?

Yeah, it was Williams.

Dave, not Reggie.

How about the most decorated pro football receiver from the UW?

That would be Tommy Scott, Sonny Sixkiller's No. 1 target, with all 5-foot-9 of him making it into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame.

Just three Husky pass-catchers have been drafted by the NFL over the past 22 years. 

John Ross, Dante Pettis and Reggie Williams.

Williams last played for a United Football League team named the Locomotives.

Ross and Pettis remain subs, likely looking for new NFL homes.

The Huskies have had great tight ends, offensive linemen, quarterbacks and running backs, but mostly functional or inadequate wide receivers to go with them. 

In recent seasons, the UW coaching staff has made it a priority to find some guys who can catch just about anything thrown their way and find a lot more separation against Pac-12 secondaries than their predecessors. 

Hands down, it's been a problem. It's been hard. It's been frustrating.

As the Huskies wait out the conference's pandemic pause, Husky Maven/SI picks the team's next starting lineup, wide receivers included, just to have it ready when the all clear is given. 

There might be a catch to it — and that's a good thing

No. 1 WR candidates: Puka Nacua, 6-1, 210, sophomore; Ty Jones, 6-4, 210, junior; Terrell Bynum, 6-1, 188, junior; Jalen McMillan, 6-2, 182, freshman; Jordan Chin, 6-0, 171, senior.

WR starting experience: Bynum 9 starts, Jones 8 starts, Chin 5 starts, Nacua 3 starts and Alex Cook 1 start (now a DB).

Our selection: Pacua. There were glimpses of greatness in this young Utahan before he snapped a bone in his foot at practice. The true freshman scored on the first pass he caught, a 28-yarder against Hawaii. He hauled in three passes for 97 yards against Arizona and his coaches named him the UW's offensive player of the game. He caught another instant-strike score against Oregon, a 33-yarder. With his size, speed and swagger, he looked like he was extremely hard to cover. He was done after eight games played and three starts, forced to ride around with his hinge immobilized on a scooter, made to look mortal again. Keep him healthy, and he might make the new Husky starting quarterback, whoever that is, look really good. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, but he just might get the NFL excited about him.

Other options: Jones, another Utahan, had a similar season to Pacua's as a sophomore in 2018. Yet it was just a snapshot. He started eight games and caught 31 balls for 491 yards and 6 touchdowns. Greatness though is double those numbers across the board. The 2019 season for him was a total washout, as injuries sent Jones to the sidelines for all but four games. He didn't catch a pass. He has two seasons to get it back. It shouldn't factor in, but Jones made himself a leader in the Pac-12 players movement, which didn't get the traction the dissident group wanted before the season was postponed, and that could prove to be an obstacle for him. Chin is better served as the second starting receiver. 

Greatest Husky WR: Mario Bailey. This might be a controversial choice for some, considering that Reggie Williams set school records with 243 catches for 3,598 yards compared to Bailey's 141 and 2,306. Yet two things put Mario No. 1 here: He had more catches that counted, pulling in a school-record 30 touchdowns to Williams' 22. Bailey also did his thing in two winning Rose Bowls while Reggie was limited to losing Sun and Holiday bowl appearances. Mario was a consensus All-American while Williams only came close to winning everyone's approval. One more thing: No one in the program has ever topped Bailey's Heisman pose that came against Michigan and trophy winner Desmond Howard in Pasadena. 

Other legendary UW WRs: Spider Gaines, was a 1978 Rose Bowl standout and averaged 23 yards per catch in his career; John Ross, caught 17 TD passes in 2016 and was a second-team All-American; Jerome Pathon, caught 73 passes in 1997, 138 in his career; Dane Looker, had 72 catches in 1998; Dave Williams had a school-record 257-yard game in 1965; Tommy Scott, was Sonny Sixkiller's top passing target in 1971. 

The UW Starting Lineup:

Left tackle — Victor Curne

Left guard — Ulumoo Ale

Center — Luke Wattenberg

Right guard — Corey Luciano

Right tackle — Henry Bainivalu

Tight end — Cade Otton

Tight end — Jacob Kizer

Wide receiver — Puka Nacua 

Wide receiver

Running back

Quarterback

Kicker

Punter

Outside linebacker

Defensive tackle

Defensive tackle

Outside linebacker

Inside linebacker

Inside linebacker

Cornerback

Cornerback

Nickel back

Strong safety

Free safety

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