We're continuing our Pac-12 triplet rankings with No. 2 Washington. Here are the parameters: We’ve selected a trio of skill players from each team in the conference.
The rules: Each player comes from a different position group, so the offensive version of this series features a quarterback, running back and wide receiver. We then ranked each program’s troika against the others in the Pac-12, and we’ll be unveiling each in reverse countdown order.
QB Jake Browning: No, Browning isn't going to blow you away with his arm strength or his measurables, but everyone knows the equation some might be projecting for him: "Coach Chris Petersen + Browning at Washington = Petersen + Kellen Moore at Boise State." The only difference is that the undersized, underrated Moore got a redshirt season while Browning, less undersized and underrated, was forced into action as a true freshman. And, as a true freshman, Browning played solid football, completing 63.3 percent of his passes and averaging 246.2 yards per game. His TD to interception rate -- 16 to 10 -- won't wow anyone, but he was the very young leader of a very young offense and by season's end, it was not difficult to imagine a great leap forward in 2016.
RB Myles Gaskin: Gaskin finished fifth in the Pac-12 last year as a true freshman with 100.2 yards rushing per game. His 14 touchdowns tied for second. He also averaged a stout 5.7 yards per carry. With a maturing QB and offensive line offering support, Gaskin is the sort who could get an All-American turn this fall. But first he's got to find a way to steal the spotlight from Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and Oregon's Royce Freeman. A good way to do that is outplay them head-to-head while boosting the Huskies in the North Division pecking order.
WR John Ross: Oh, don't start with your faux skepticism. If you were around in 2014, you know about Ross and his potential. But go ahead -- trash talk him now. Sure that won't come back to bite you on your rear. To refresh: In 2014, Ross started on both offense and defense. He scored seven touchdowns. They came from 91, 20, 55, 75, 86, 100 and 96 yards, an average of 75 yards per TD play. What? What? Getting a bit quiet there aren't you? You're remembering, eh? Ross, who sat out last year after blowing out his knee in spring practices, has returned three kickoffs for TDs in his career, thereby accounting for two of the five 100-yard plays in UW history. Is Ross a sure thing at receiver? Heck yeah he is. If -- IF! -- he stays healthy.
Evaluation: When one analyzes a season yet to be played, it's always a projection. There is no guarantee a player improves from one season to the next. In fact, the whole "Sophomore Slump" is a thing because sometimes touted freshmen take a step back after first-year success, something that can happen for a variety of reasons. So our extremely positive projection for a pair of true sophomores and a player who sat out last year is obviously leaning on an optimistic assessment of their projected mental and physical improvement. None of these players have "arrived." But all three seem well on their way, which is pretty much how folks are stacking up the Huskies heading into the 2016 season.