By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – John Ross is fast.
Though only a true freshman, he is probably the fastest Husky. He may be the fastest player on any field he walks onto this season.
Yet he admits it took him a bit upon his arrival to UW this summer from Long Beach Jordan High School to realize how fast he needed to be as a Husky.
"In high school I never really had to run full speed," Ross said following practice Wednesday morning for Saturday’s 5 p.m. game at Husky Stadium between Washington (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) and Colorado (3-5, 0-5). “And that was a problem when I first got here because I thought that I didn’t have to run full speed.
“Now that I know I have to run full speed I understand I can actually run past guys, if I just trust myself."
He’s trusting himself even more this week, days after coach Steve Sarkisian declared “We have to continue to find ways to get John Ross the football.”
The 5-foot-11, 173-pound Ross has 13 catches through eight games. But Saturday is the first game for the Huskies since top wide receiver Kasen Williams broke his leg and was lost for the season two weeks ago during the win over California.
Ross’ one touchdown this season went for 57 yards against Idaho State in September. He streaked to the wowing score as if lightning had struck down the home sideline.
His speed is reported by scouting services to be 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash. It’s what makes him difficult to defend. It’s what made quarterback Keith Price say of Ross during the preseason, “Every time he has the ball in his hands you kind of hold your breath.”
Asked the difference between Washington and Long Beach Jordan, Ross said: “The speed of everyone, just the speed of the game. Everyone. There are kickers now flying down!
"The coaches. The game plans. It’s a different speed to everything."
With Williams out, Ross will be getting ample chances to show off what he’s learned.
"I honestly didn’t think I would come in and play as much," Ross said. "But now I have the confidence. And I know it’s not like high school. It takes a process.
"I’m just growing."
All signs point to Ross and fellow freshman Damore’ea Stringfellow, who has three catches through eight games, having a much larger role in the offense Saturday against Colorado — and beyond.
For Ross, his realization to go fast all the time could be a rocket-like boost for the Huskies over these final four games of the regular season.
Stringfellow looks even bigger than his listed 6-3 and 225. Price and Sarkisian both said Wednesday they believe Stringfellow can make the same physical plays and contested catches that have become Williams’ hallmark. That was after Stringfellow made three catches in practice with first-team defensive backs all over him.
"He might be a bit stronger than Kasen was as a freshman," Price said.
“He has tremendous strength,” Sarkisian said. “He is catching the football with guys on him. Without a doubt (he can make the catches Williams does). It’s a natural fit. It plays to String’s strengths.”
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Sarkisian said Ross and Stringfellow are going to be the primary kickoff returners against Colorado, and that Marvin Hall — another wide receiver whose prominence will likely grow with Williams out — will be the primary punt returner. Sarkisian is pulling Kevin Smith off of most of his kickoff-return duty because Smith is now even more vital to the offense. The senior is UW’s second-leading receiver with 30 catches, 15 fewer than Jaydon Mickens. ... UW officials are expecting a crowd around 65,000 for the next-to-last home game of the debut season of new Husky Stadium.