Monday, August 06, 2007

The Monday Morning Wash

It's hard to believe, but the long wait is finally over, and college football has started once again. It has been a challenge keeping the blog going during the Summer, but somehow I found enough to write about each week to keep it interesting.

The Huskies will be starting the second day of practice when you read this, the testing will be completed, and we will have a good read on the conditioning of this team going into camp. If these guys's have been working as hard as I think they have that can only mean good things for a team that will be better, but is still a couple of recruiting classes away.

This is now Willinghams team, 49 of the 77 scholarship players expected in camp today were signed by Willingham according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. This was always going to be a five year rebuilding program, but at the start of year three I see definite signs of the old Husky swagger returning.

Ty Willingham starts his third season as the head coach at Washington and his team plays what ESPN calls the toughest schedule in the country. In my mind Washington always plays a tough schedule, and I think that is what the program is all about. If you want to play the best you play football at Washington, if you don't you go to Oregon, OSU, or WSU.

I am pretty optimistic headed into the year, and feel the Dawg's will win more than they lose. this season and head to a bowl for the first time in four long years. My optimism is based on the fact that I think we have a chance to win every single game on the schedule. I'm not predicting we will win every game, but the days of being over matched, and blown out are over in my mind. Why all the optimism when UW still looks like they need a couple more recruiting classes to get whole again? Well conditioning and attitude are first and foremost on my mind. I believe Ty and his coaches now have their culture firmly established at Washington. I believe this team is the best conditioned Husky team we have seen since Lambo left.

Did anyone happen to catch Molly Yanity's article on what the Huskies have been doing over the Summer? It was pretty impressive, and the best way to dig yourselves out of a hole is to outwork your opponents in the off season. Coach Greener has made considerable progress since he arrived on campus, and testimony to that is the downward spiral in the number of injuries the team had last season. You can't get better when you are on crutches. For example Morgan Rosborough lost more weight this summer but still has a way to go since he weighed in around 370 on Sunday. A key concern on the offensive line will be how much stamina the guards are able to maintain. Can they play four quarters?


The health of the 2007 team will be key in how many games they win this season. As I said earlier this program is still a couple recruiting classes away from being all the way back, but I truly believe we can compete with anyone on the schedule if we stay healthy.

Words on Willingham

I have always been a big fan of Ty Willingham. That admiration started when he was at Stanford, I liked the way he ran his team, and the respect his players had for him. When he went to Notre Dame I was happy for him, and when it didn't work out I was pretty surprised.

I live in Chicago and had the opportunity to get close to that program while he was at South Bend, and I can tell you that he was held to a much different standard than past Irish coaches. Call it whatever you want, but most observers, including the President of the school felt he got the shaft for one reason or another.

When Washington was looking for a head coach Ty was not on the top of my list, in fact he really wasn't on my list. Most of us were thinking Urban Meyer, Jeff Tedford, Steve Spurrier, Jim Mora Jr, or even Pac Ten hater Les Miles. None of the aforementioned are here today because they simply didn't want, or couldn't take the job.

Todd Turner picked Willingham to coach the Huskies, and while he wasn't our first choice, I felt he was a solid choice, and that he would bring respectability back to the program. I have always felt that this would be a five year rebuilding program no matter who took the job. Detractors will say that other coaches have done it quicker, but realistically there aren't a lot of quick fix options at UW since it is so hard to get JC players into the school.

One knock on Willigham is his relationship with the media. Willingham by most accounts is a terrible interview. If you meet Ty in private that is hard to believe, but Ty the head coach is one tough nut to crack. At UW we always have had colorful coaches. Jim Owens absolutely charmed the Northwest, and Don James was a straight shooter who everyone looked up to as a father figure. Lambo was pretty colorful too, and always good for a quote. Rick Neuheisel was a reporters dream, and Jim Moore of the PI will never forgive the university for dismissing him because he made his job a whole lot easier.

Ty is who he is, and for better or worse he isn't going to drastically change his shtick. He believes that the best way to promote a program is to graduate your players, keep them out of trouble, prepare them for a future without football, and win on the field. Pretty boring stuff, but if you had a son, I think you would want him to be mentored for four, or five years by this man. Players describe Ty as a man's man who they respect and try to emulate. Isn't that exactly what we are looking for from the leader of our football program?

This is year three, and the program, and Ty's tenure are at the crossroads. Despite the difficult schedule the future of the program hinges on winning now. Winning now will insure that this big in state recruiting class stays home. Winning now means that kid's up and down the coast will look at Washington as the place to be. Winning now means that Willingham and his staff will be around for the long term. It is a tall order, but that is what coaching at Washington is all about. Ty Willingham and his staff understands it, and I truly believe that they are going to surprise a lot of people this Fall.

Jake Locker

It seems like it has been a long time since Washington had what you would call a great quarterback. We have had a long line of QB's make it in the NFL, and we always seemed to have someone on the team to hand the legacy to until Cody Pickett graduated. Isaiah Stanback who ended up being the guy who emerged from the pack never did really get it till his senior season, and just when he was starting to assert himself as a serious threat, injury nipped his senior season tragically short, and nipped bowl hopes in the bud.

The Husky coaches have to be commended for not going with the Locker last year even though it cost us a bowl bid in hindsight. Losing to Stanford is what did it, and if we had a healthy QB that day the loss would have never happened. A year later that sacrifice seems worth it because now we will have Jake Locker running the attack for four straight seasons.

A lot of pressure is being put on Locker going into the 2007 season. Most fans look at him as the potential savior of the franchise even though senior Carl Bonnell out played him in the spring. I like the fact that we enter the season with the heir, and the spare ready to go.

Locker possesses all the intangibles. ASU's Dennis Erickson said he was the best he had ever seen coming out of high school. Dennis isn't the type of guy who just throws accolades like that around for fun, Jake has the tools to be the best Husky QB ever. The only question is how long it takes before the game slows down for him. That is what happens with the great one's, everything slows down around them which allows them to see what the others can't see.

Jake is similar to Marques Tuiasosopo, they are great leaders, both can really run, and both were ready to play in their first year. Who can ever forget what Marques did to Nebraska when he threw away his redshirt and came in to play against Nebraska? I believe Montlake Jake is going to have a similar impact early in his career.

We didn't see a lot of great things from Jake this Spring, and Carl Bonnell clearly outplayed him, but UW was only showing about 10% of their offense during the Spring game. Ty isn't going to unveil the real Jake Locker until the team hits the field on a Friday night in Syracuse, New York. For the first time you will see what this kid can do. Like Isaiah he will confound defenses, and turn mistakes into big gains.

Key's by position for a successful season

Quarterback

It all starts with Jake Locker, and the sooner he is comfortable, the sooner the Huskies will win the games that nobody thought they would. Locker and Bonnell are mobile QB's, and mobile QB's make up for a lot of problems as we say early in 2006 with Stanback. Jake is an absolute horse who should have the durability we have lacked at the position since Marques graduated.

Running Back

Louis Rankin looked like a stud this spring, and behind him is the most heralded stable of running backs recruited in the last decade to back him up. The three frosh are ready to play, and don't count out JR Hasty who should be able to provide some solid time in a back up role this Fall. I predict that Rankin will go over 1000 yards in his senior season!

Fullback

When was the last time we had a real fullback? I don't think we have been adequate at the position since Pat Conniff graduated. That all changes this season when Paul Homer, and Luke Kravitz hit the field. Homer is a very physical player, and one to keep an eye on. Luke has been in the program for awhile and was read to break out last season until felled by an injury. the full back is back a UW, and it is another reason for increased optimism.

Wide Receiver

Marcel Reese is going to be the man this season. If you get this kid the ball he is going to do great things with it. We are talking at TE type body with great speed. This guy can take it to the house. I can hardly wait to see this kid run over and intimidate cornerbacks. Beside, and behind him is a lot of experience, but the kid you will see emerge into a big time threat will be the D'Andre "The Flea" Goodwin. That kid has some serious wheels. Don't worry about the guys that didn't get in, ya we could have really used them, but let's just hope they pass the test on September 15th. I think Corey Williams is going to return to form and open some eyes in the Fall. Don't forget about Anthony Russo, the kid is going to be real consistent this year, and from what I hear he is a very hard worker. Anthony will always be a step slow, but he has made a decent career of it at UW and will be counted on in 2007.

Tight End

Let's talk about mediocrity, because it has become the trademark of this position. We all know?Johnnie Kirton is superman ready to emerge, but if he doesn't get more consistent a true frosh by the name of Mike Izbicki will play early. Gottleib is probably the most consistent guy coming back. Robert Lewis has had his moments too, but injuries held him back last year. I am betting the coaches get impatient early and Izbicki enters the mix. You hate to play the true frosh, but if they determine that he is a difference maker you will see a lot of him in 2007.

Offensive Line

Despite the fact that we are starting over at guard I think the entire line will be much stronger and deeper this season. Morgan Rosborough is really going to surprise some people in Fall camp if he can maintain his stamina. I'm not worried about the line at all, I think Denbrock is an excellent coach who will have more pieces to work with this year. I liked the guttiness of last years iron men, but even iron men wear down as the season progresses. This year they are going to be able to keep these kids a lot fresher by rotating them in and out of the lineup. I am excited to find out how they test on Sunday, and if the rumors of an excellent summer of work is true.

Defensive Line

Afoa, Reffett, Gunheim, and Teo Nesheim need to have standout years if this team is going to go anywhere. UW was solid inside last year, and I think the ends are ready to bust out and have a stellar season. I would put UW's front four up against anybodies in the conference. The front four is also blessed with plenty of depth. and talent behind them. this is a unit that isn't going to wear down during a grueling 13 game schedule.

Linebacker

This is one of the most solid areas of the team going into 2007. Daniel Howell is going to be all conference. Donald Butler is one of those players where the sky is the limit, and EJ Savannah, and Chris Stevens will be one of the best outside tandems we have had in years. Tormey has brought this unit back to the level of the days of old. These guy's have the right blend of size, experience and speed.

Cornerback

I'm not worried about cornerback, am I crazy? No, Roy Lewis is an all conference talent, and out of a group of Byron Davenport, Matt Mosley, and Jordan Murchison we are going to have the depth and talent to do well in 2007. Behind these guys are some talented true frosh, and look for Vonzell McDowell to push for playing time from the get go.

Safety

I like Mesphin Forrester, the kid has a nose for the ball, makes big plays, and forces turnovers. Jason Wells is hard nosed kid that the coaches just love. they have the biggest shoes to fill on the team in 2007. Goldson, and Wallace were excellent athletes, and it is too bad we don't have them for another year. I think Wallace ends up sticking with the Hawk's. It was nice to see Darin Harris return to full speed this past Spring. Most of us had written him off because of a back injury, but the kid has experience, and he is going to be a very valuable player this season. this is the position that scares me, behind these three you have nothing but true freshmen. I think the best opportunity for early playing time will be at this position, and I am positive at least two frosh will play right away.

Specialties

What a mess! I didn't see anything about Washington special teams I liked this Spring other than the fact that Ryan Perkins is a courageous one legged stud. Let's hope this kid can come back from major knee surgery because we are going to need him. If there is one thing that can derail a successful season in 2007 it is going to be special teams. Keep an eye on frosh Erik Folk, no pressure here, but Erik you need to be the second coming of John Anderson from the get go.

One thing the Huskies do have going for them is a lot of new speed being added to the roster. Look for the frosh to take prominent roles on the return teams. It will be fun to see who emerges out of the pack and takes the opportunity. I'm thinking Vonzell McDowell is a pretty good bet.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

alyeopOverall nicely done with one glaring exception: you should back up your unsupported assertion that Ty was "held to a much different standard at ND" with at least one fact (and you conveniently leave out ANY facts related to this attack on ND in your post). You say "I can tell you"....well then please tell us - how was TY held to a different standard at ND?

Because you lived in Chicago - is that the foundation of your presumably "inside" knowledge on this situation?

Fact is, if you lose (and recruit poorly) as a coach at ND, you get fired. That's all there is to it.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Thanks for the compliment on the column.

You are spot on, and I chose not to go into a long drawn out discussion on why Ty was fired at ND, or why he was the only coach in the history of the school ever fired before completing his contract.

"Fact is, if you lose (and recruit poorly) as a coach at ND, you get fired."

However, every previous coach in the history of the school was let go at the end of his contract.

The outgoing President of the school, Father Joyce, was very vocal about his dissapointment in that decision.

Without going into more detail, that right there was a completely different standard than any previous ND coach was ever held to.

Yes, I live in Chicago, and because of that I became associated through business with some very important supporters of the program. Because of that I had a pretty good view of what was going on during Ty's tenure.

If I was having cocktails with Ron Crockett, and Rick Redman on Fridays after work in Seattle I would have the same first hand look at the UW program.

Charlie has put together a pretty good record with Ty's players by the way.

The post isn't an attack on ND, I happen to like ND, and will attend a couple of ND games in South Bend this year.

I don't like the way Ty was dismissed at ND, and there are a lot of ND fans who feel the same way. It is all water under the bridge at this point.

UW plays ND in 2008, and 2009. The two schools have built a good relationship and will continue to play each other in future years. Since UW has never beaten ND, and is considered a high profile opponent, it is a good deal for ND.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Health Insurance Expert:

Minor nitpick--the outgoing president of ND was Fr. Malloy, not Joyce.

Second, your post said that the formula for Ty's success was to "graduate your players, keep them out of trouble, prepare them for a future without football, and win on the field..." How has he done, even so far this year on that front?

This blog, upon even a cursory review, reveals players who are academically ineligible, in trouble with the law (and skipping court appearances), and showing up to camp so out of shape that they are being demoted behind players with zero experience.

I don't see the coach, to borrow one of his own phrases, "working the plan", do you?

Yes, the schedule is tough; and yes, rebuilding is a challenge; but overweight linemen, players skipping court dates (and apparently not even knowing the extent of the charges), and players flunking their way off the team doesn't sound like a turn for the better, no?

Health Insurance Expert said...

A ND player just got in trouble with a lady of the evening in South Bend, now is that the coaches problem, or the players problem?

How the coach handles it, and follows up on it is the standard you look for.

Honestly, Ty is a couple years away from his final grade. We are starting year three, so sit back, enjoy, and see how he, and the team does.

I try to stay positive with the blog, but I am not going to ignore the obvious either, when I feel the staff, and the team are screwing up I will be objective in pointing that out too.