Sep 17, 2011; Lincoln, NE, USA; Washington Huskies receiver James Johnson (3) catches a touchdown pass against Nebraska Cornhuskers defender Austin Cassidy (8) during the second half at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 51-38. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Josh Perkins and Dwayne Washington: the Gahr Connection

“If he were a car in a parking lot, he’d be a Porsche,” was how one of the two subjects of this article was described by his high school offensive coordinator, a former NFL quarterback.

With the departure of Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse, preseason pundits suggest there will be a drop-off at wide-receiver and that, consequently, Keith Price’s second year as a starter will not be equal to his first.
There will be no drop-off at wide-receiver.

Kasen Williams is still Kasen Williams; after a year’s experience, perhaps more so. Washington again has a healthy James Johnson who played considerably as a freshman but has been hampered by injuries since. Redshirt freshman Jamaal Jones played surprisingly well during spring ball. Kevin Smith, at 6’ 0” and 210 lbs., transforms into a tailback after catching the ball. And Cody Bruns has displayed great hands and route running since he arrived at Washington.

Williams is the preseason pick to win post-season accolades, stepping into Kearse’s role, and is the receiver that will generate the most interest – from both Husky fans and opposing secondaries. Apart from Williams, any of the other receivers mentioned above could break-out this fall.

There are two additional receivers, however, who could actually get fans excited – even though neither has yet to play a down.

Jon Nielson is the offensive coordinator for Gahr High School in Cerritos, Ca. and, having played QB in the NFL for seven years (teammates included Kevin Gogan, Napoleon Kaufman, Lincoln Kennedy and several other former Huskies), he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to wide receivers.

Two years ago, Gahr High School led the state of California in passing offense. The top receivers for Gahr were Josh Perkins, now a redshirt freshman at Washington, and Dwayne Washington, an incoming Husky freshman this fall.

“He’s actually taller, probably closer to 6’ 4”,” Nielson said about Josh Perkins, listed at 6’ 3” and 217 lbs. “And he’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Randy Moss [6’ 4” 210 lbs.] when the ball is in the air. His ability to adjust to the football is the best I’ve ever coached.”

Nielson emphasized that Perkins is an excellent combination of size, speed (22.19 second 200 meters), athleticism, desire and character. Video of Perkins also shows toughness, with Perkins having no reservations about really nailing a defensive back when blocking. As might be said of Kasen Williams, Perkins could be considered a football player first and a receiver second. The word “tough” applies to both players. And, of course, toughness wins football games. The combination of toughness, size, speed and Randy Moss-type catching ability will make it difficult to keep redshirt freshman Perkins off the field. That Perkins did well in spring ball came as no surprise to Nielson. “Just throw it to Josh; he’ll catch it.”

Dwayne Washington?

“He’s something special,” was Nielson’s initial description of 6’ 2” 210 lb. Washington, an incoming freshman. Nielson expects Washington to play right away, at least on special teams, but probably also on offense because of Washington’s explosiveness, size and violent style of play. Watching video of Washington shows a receiver with great hands who invariably gets yards after contact. “When he runs with the ball after catching it,” Nielson said, “he’s like [Minnesota Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson. He’s a violent runner.”

When asked if Washington’s purported 4.4+ 40 time was accurate, Nielson responded with, “He’s actually faster.” It was then that Nielson volunteered the comment, “If he were a car in a parking lot, he’d be a Porsche.”
Baring injury, Nielson expects Washington to show Husky coaches the “Wow” factor early on, and summed up Washington by saying, “Dwayne is the most explosive player I’ve coached in high school.”

Is it likely that two guys who haven’t played a down can come in and make a difference? No, it’s not likely. If Dwayne Washington brings the same toughness as Randy M…, er, Josh Perkins, however, the Huskies may have a repeat of Timu/Fuimaono – two unheralded, young guys from the same high school starting at the same position.

As always, it comes down to desire. When I first saw John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono, they were with a bunch of other recruits at a Husky basketball game. The other recruits were joking and talking, socializing like normal teenagers.

Timu and Fuimaono sat together in the middle of the row and, expressionless, said nothing to anyone, looking out at the basketball floor with a unique intensity. What I saw was “the eye of the tiger.” At the time, I thought to myself: those two guys are tough.

I haven’t studied Perkins and Washington up close but Jon Nielson has, and Nielson believes both young men, although they have yet to play a down, bring a level of toughness which, together with their size and talent, translates into the potential to 1) have an impact as early as their freshman year, as well as 2) become seasoned NFL veterans like Nielson.

So, between the returning veterans and the talented new guys, no worries, Keith.

Tags: Cody Bruns Dwayne Washington Gahr High School James Johnson Jon Nielson Josh Perkins Kasen Williams Keith Price Kevin Smith

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