Chandler was a high school All-America whose arrival at U-Dub from nearby Everett was loudly trumpeted. In fact, the Everett paper put out a 16-page tab section on Chandler after he graduated from high school. (One part of this collector's edition was called The Early Years. Chandler was 17.)
Despite his sterling notices, Chandler struggled, developing a reputation as a poor practice player. He redshirted one year and rode the bench for nearly two more. But he replaced the injured Hugh Millen in the final three games of 1985, engineered a dramatic win over USC and earned the MVP award in Washington's Freedom Bowl win over Colorado.
Chandler finished with 13 completions in 22 attempts for 202 yards with no interceptions, but Washington has a balanced attack: In two games, the Huskies have rushed for 406 yards, passed for 415. They have an interior line that averages 278 pounds, making it just smaller than its Seahawk counterpart. Fullback Rick Fenney is 6'3", 241 pounds, and runs a 4.55 40. But it is the reed among these redwoods, the 205-pound Chandler, who makes the offense go.
Hill, Chandler's favorite receiver, has already caught four touchdown passes this season. He learned to catch from a tough taskmaster, his father, former NFL wide receiver J.D. Hill. Hill's nickname, Mo, is a childhood shortening of his middle name, Ramon. The name also stands for M.O.E., Master Of Everything, a tag he picked up in second grade from a playground counselor. The name helped toughen him; in high school, he rarely went to the foul line at a road basketball game without hearing the taunt, "You can't make a mountain out of a Mo Hill."
Just now James and his Huskies are reluctant to make a mountain out of the season. They face unbeaten USC this week. And a feeling lingers that the team was burned reading its clips last year after SI ranked the Huskies No. 1 before the season. "Let's play a little longer," James says. "Let's see how good BYU is, how good Ohio State is, how good we are."
With the Huskies reluctant to talk Rose Bowl and rankings, they could do worse than to pick up Hill's watchword. At spring practice he wore a headband with KAATN emblazoned on it. He said the letters stood for his goals for '86, but he was keeping them secret. It is, however, a matter of public record that last weekend Hill and the Huskies, for the second week running, "kicked ass and took names." So far, the names have been Ohio State and Brigham Young.
Angry? Right now, the Huskies are frightening.