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Huard: UW Huskies don’t have a replacement for John Ross, but watch out for Dante Pettis

Brock Huard believes Washington's Dante Pettis will make an "excellent" NFL receiver. (AP)
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Perhaps even more than this time a year ago, the Washington Huskies have tremendous expectations being levied upon them for the upcoming college football season by experts and pundits. And as is typically the case, head coach Chris Petersen is trying to temper those expectations.

“We’re excited about what we have, we really are, but everybody needs to understand we’ve got huge holes to fill,” Petersen told “Brock and Salk” on Tuesday.

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One particularly big hole has been left by the first of five Huskies taken in the NFL Draft two months ago: John Ross, the lightning-quick wide receiver and kick returner who went No. 9 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I mean, the things that John Ross did for our offense … How are we gonna recreate that? He changed the game,” Petersen said.

Brock Huard tackled the question of how the Huskies will replace Ross on Friday’s Blue 42 segment of “Brock and Salk,” and he didn’t exactly have an answer. But that’s not to say he doesn’t think there’s another wide receiver who will step up in 2017 much like Ross did in 2016.

“That guy is not on this roster, that guy who puts the fear of God into any defense,” Huard responded when asked about a replacement for Ross. “But the guy who is coming back, that’s one of the top 100 players in football, that I think is going to be an excellent pro, is Dante Pettis.”

Pettis had a strong junior season, hauling in 53 receptions for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns. Even more important than the numbers to Huard is the fact that Pettis proved to have a strong rapport with quarterback Jake Browning, and the results he put up in some of Washington’s biggest games. He had 60 yards and a score on four receptions in a win over Stanford. He caught seven balls for 105 yards and a touchdown in a must-win game late in the season over Arizona State. He had two TDs and 86 yards on three catches in the Apple Cup. And he was the recipient of a 16-yard TD pass from Browning that opened the scoring in the Peach Bowl against Alabama.

“When the stage got big, when the lights got bright, who emerged? Dante Pettis did,” Huard said. “Now, he doesn’t have the fear-inducing speed. It’s not as if you need to tilt your defense and play a safety over the top and everything else. But when he’s in a one-on-one, Jake trusts him immensely, and more often than not he wins it with a 40-plus-inch vertical jump.”

Put that all together, and it adds up to a skill-set that Huard believes will have Pettis playing on Sundays just like Ross in 2018.

“I think he’ll be an excellent NFL wide receiver,” Huard said.