By Connor Doyle
By Chris Jordan/The Daily (UW)
Quarterback Cody Pickett scrambles away from pressure last week against California. Pickett had 401 yards in UW's loss to the Golden Bears and leads the Pac-10 in total yards.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday October 10, 2002
UW's Pickett to Williams has become one of the top passing tandems in Pac-10 conference
When Arizona travels to Seattle Saturday, the defense will have to be on the lookout for more than just rain falling out of the sky.
Washington's quarterback-wide receiver combination of Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams has developed into one of the top tandems in the conference ÷÷ if not the nation ÷÷ and they will likely be the Wildcats' No. 1 priority this weekend if they want to remain in the game.
After catching 55 balls for 973 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman last season, it was widely believed the 6-foot-4 Williams would be the top wide receiver in the conference and a sure-fire NFL draft pick if he decided to leave after his second season.
Williams is third in the conference with an average of 94.2 receiving yards per game, but expectations were higher for a player who's often been described as a "freak" by opponents for his combination of size, breakaway speed and leaping ability.
"I still don't think (Williams) is at the level of consistency he's capable of and I'm anxious to see the development as we go further into the season," Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel said.
While Neuheisel said a combination of early-season injuries and lax conditioning on the part of Williams have been the major factors contributing to the not-so-stellar numbers, he also said that opposing teams have resorted to sometimes illegal tactics to slow him down.
"Obviously, he's gained a lot of respect around the league, because people are designing coverages around him, and he was harassed by the California coverage. At times it resembled a mugging," Neuheisel said.
The extra attention has clearly been difficult to overcome for Williams, who wasn't usually the focus of defensive schemes in his first season.
"I'm not sure teams were as ready for him last year, they played him sort of one-on-one ¸ ╬he's a freshman, let's see what he can do,' UA head coach John Mackovic said.
And while Mackovic, like most other coaches, said he plans to key in on Williams and try and reduce his touches, he also said it's not always that easy with college-level defensive backs.
"In the college game, maybe you don't have the talent to (double-team) all the time. Sometimes, talent-wise, he's just head and shoulders above someone trying to cover him," Mackovic said.
While Williams has struggled, to the surprise of many, it's been Pickett putting up the big numbers this season. The junior from Caldwell, Idaho leads the conference in passing yards per game with a 381.2 average, which is almost 100 yards per game better than the No. 2 quarterback, Arizona's Jason Johnson. He also leads the Pac-10 in total yards and places third in passing efficiency.
"We're all looking at the numbers and saying that he's playing outstanding, and we're excited about Cody. Cody's a big-time player, and we're excited that he's playing for us," Neuheisel said.
Despite suffering from a separated shoulder for the final six games of the season, Pickett threw for over 2,400 yards in 2001, his first season as a starter. It was against Arizona last season that the injured Pickett really turned some heads around the conference. He threw for 455 yards and three touchdowns in addition to a key rushing touchdown to tie the score late in the fourth quarter en route to a comeback win over the Wildcats.
"It was a great performance if he had been healthy," Mackovic said. "But it was a terrific performance for a guy coming off a shoulder separation."
Mackovic has been so impressed with Pickett that he said Williams shouldn't be the only one with aspirations for a NFL career.
"I know he's only a junior, and I don't expect he'll come out early," Mackovic said. "But I would think that next year when he's a senior that he might be the top quarterback in the draft. I think he's that good."