Who is the last Rick Neuheisel recruit remaining on the Washington roster? I think that is a pretty easy question to answer because it is fan favorite Juan Garcia.
Juan was on all the national watch lists this year because he is rated as the #2 center on the West Coast behind California's Alex Mack who may just be the best center in the country. Everything was looking pretty good for the 6th year senior who had battled plenty of adversity to overcome injuries, and potential academic hurdles to last this long. Juan in fact didn't even have to come back this year because there was a pretty good chance that he would have been drafted last spring. After the Hawaii game he decided to come back for one more year to boost his draftability, and also help the Huskies get to a bowl game and save Coach Tyrone Willingham's job which was in jeopardy.
Everything was going on schedule until one afternoon in the Dempsey this spring when he was carted off the field after suffering the dreaded Lisfranc injury that ended Isaiah Stanback's career early at Washington. He had two options, have surgery which would have ended his career, or hope for a miracle that it would heal on it's own. As we near the end of the first week of camp all signs are encouraging that the miracle is close to happening as Juan has been able to participate in most non contact drills.
This week has been a big test because it has been the first time he has participated in contact drills to test the foot to see how it is doing. The coaches of course will be closely monitoring him and limiting his reps, but if all goes well we can expect to see Juan back in action for the BYU game even though his goal is to play against Oregon. If he doesn't have any setbacks that goal may just be a reality.
Right now he is inspiring everyone around him and making them work harder. Coach Denbrock said the other day that the conditioning of his line is excellent this year. Juan has inspired guys like Casey Bulyca to really turn it on this year. Most of these kids are in the best physical shape of their life.
As for 2008 Juan has a few things to work on other than his foot. He needs to improve his snapping in the shot gun formation. Too many balls were errant last season forcing Jake Locker to lose a fraction of a second fishing for the ball. The best thing Juan can do for the offense this year besides returning is improve in that area.
You really have to like this kid because he has made the most of his opportunity at UW after arriving in the program as what they used to call a Prop 48 kid. He has earned his degree, he has been an exceptional student, and most importantly whether he plays football in the NFL or not he has a bright future which will allow him to accomplish all his personal goals.
I don't think a kid ever failed at Washington who was a Prop 48. LB Anthony Kelley comes to mind who arrived the same way, last time I heard Anthony was considering going for his doctorate. The lesson to be learned is test scores, and GPA are not absolute guides when it comes to determining a future students ability to learn and achieve success.
Juan Garcia is a difference maker for Washington even if he doesn't play a single down in 2008. With the positive reports coming out of camp that is beginning to look very doubtful. Any player that inspires his teammates to push it to a new level is a difference maker in my book.