If you are a Husky fan, you have obviously seen Keith Price’s resurgence. Through four games, 81 of 112 passing (72%) for 1044 yards and nine touchdowns against two interceptions, and that includes Price’s statistically unimpressive performance in the stormy win over Arizona. If you’ve been watching all of Washington’s games, you probably have some idea as to why Price is playing so much better this year compared to 2012. The offense is much, much faster, the offensive line is actually playing with a level of consistency, and last but not least, the stable of wide receivers is incredibly deep.
It isn’t shocking that the Huskies are deep at receiver. After a 2012 that saw no real receiving threats develop other than Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, it was expected that a combination of talented newcomers and developing returners would provide Price some quality targets. Anyone who claims not to be surprised by the current makeup of that deep rotation would, however, be a total liar.
Through four games, all wins, Price’s top target has been senior Kevin Smith, with 15 receptions for 269 yards and a touchdown. He also leads all wide receivers in yards per reception (second only to Bishop Sankey on the team) with 17.9, as he’s served as a primary target on deep balls thrown downfield.
Smith’s sudden production was not expected. If anything, freshmen like John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow were expected to eventually leapfrog the veteran by late in the season. That doesn’t look so likely now, even though Ross has been a valuable contributor. 2013 is already Smith’s most productive season, beating out his 15 catches for just over 200 yards in 2011. That season was cut short by an ACL tear just before the Alamo Bowl, and in hindsight it now appears that Smith’s unproductive 2012 was a result of his gradual recovery from that injury.
Now fully healthy, Smith is edging out Kasen Williams (16 for 255 and one) and fellow surprise Jaydon Mickens (21 for 214 and one) for the title of most productive pass catcher. Even more surprising is that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is only Washington’s fifth most productive receiver, with only 10 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns so far.
It’s unclear whether this balance of production will be maintained throughout the entire season. It’s likely that ASJ will shake off his slow start, and it stands to reason that the super-talented Williams may pull away from the pack as the year goes on, but Smith, Mickens, Williams, ASJ, and Ross should all expect a healthy number of targets in this balanced passing attack, especially as long as the offensive line continues to give Price the time he needs.
For Smith, the biggest question is whether or not he can continue to serve as Price’s most important and perhaps most trusted target against tough, highly-ranked conference foes like Stanford and Oregon. On the road at Illinois Smith exceeded 100 receiving yards. In terrible conditions against Arizona, Smith caught four for 68 yards and a score, making up a large chunk of Price’s total production. Will Smith continue to find space in big moments on the road this week in Palo Alto?
Smith’s success moving forward is not guaranteed, but for now he is clearly Washington’s top wideout.