Spring Football Press Conference
March 27, 2006
HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham
General Comments: 'It's been a long time since we've been on the practice field. Considering the fact that we didn't have a bowl game, which provides a bonus for other teams to continue. So, I think we're eager to get out and get back to practicing. We will approach our practices with an open mind. When I say open mind I mean open minded to improve and get better. An open mind in terms of looking at all of our positions and to find out what best serves this football team to be the best we can be.'
On improvements from last year:
'I think the overall, general attitude has been an improvement. I hate to use the word improvement sometimes, but I think it's probably warranted. We have a better understanding of our young men, so I label that an improvement of where we were a year ago. I think that benefits us. I think I can be a better coach when I can better understand our guys. I think our players can be better players when they better understand what we're trying to do.'
On spring practice:
'When I use the term `open mind,' I think that is a term that I use for spring practice because I think that every position is open. And I think it provide you an opportunity to really solidify your team, if possible. In some cases, it doesn't happen in spring, some cases have to carry over. I think every coach would love to come out of spring practice and say, `this is our team, we're solid, and we're ready to go.''
On which positions are open:
'22 positions, with special teams included in there. We have to get the team solidified in terms of who's playing, who's not playing, etc. But I think we also have to deal with getting back to Husky football. I thought that there were some glimpses of that last season, but not enough, certainly, to put us in the winner's circle or among the elite teams of this conference.'
On assessing players:
'In some cases you anticipate based on what you've assessed of their skill level to be and you're able to factor it in. But in most cases they have to come in and earn it and prove it and show it. In some cases, we as coaches have to try to assist that along, put them in great situations and make them confident and assertive at those positions. So you use a combination.'
On workout improvements:
'We try to always improve. That's a constant that you're always trying to do. So we as coaches try to improve our workouts. Improve how we work with our guys this winter in order to start that process. So we had a few more workouts to see if we could benefit our players better. We think that that has paid off for us in some cases because it's added to our competitive edge and our competitive drive.'
On J.R. Hasty:
'In his case, I hope a lot of touchdowns. That'd get me excited. But that will be coming, what we see from those guys. That would be a guy that in the back of your mind you factor in as a big part of what's going on with our football team. Now he has to live up to those high expectations that we have.'
On quarterback position competition:
'As open as they come. And that would be the case every year. Even though (Isaiah Stanback) has the majority of the starts from last year, that experience should bode well for him, but he has to come out and play at an All-American level. That's what we expect. If you're a starter, you should play like a starter.'
On new players in spring practice:
'We do have a couple of JC transfers on the roster. I think (Danny) Morovick is classified as a junior college player as our long snapper. He is already here. We have Anthony Atkins that will be reporting shortly. Jason Wells will be joining us shortly for spring practice. As will Jordan Murchison. We expect those guys to add to our football team. Hopefully they can give us something that we didn't have last year.'
'Right now, I think you will see everyone on the roster to a full or limited degree. What that says is that, to some degree, everyone will be involved in spring practice. Some will do non-contact work, some will do limited drills, but everyone should be available for some type of spring practice.'
'I like competition at every position. I think that is a real strength of any football team. If I could make an analogy, it'd probably be like a good basketball team. They're deep. They can bring some guys off the bench and still play at a high level. So competition makes us a better football team. The more competition we have, the better we'll be.'
On offensive line:
'Our offensive line definitely had a lot of losses to it. We lost not only in talent, but in experience also. We had guys who had been around for a long time and played a lot of football. That's always difficult to replace. The guys we have returning, I think, offer us some athletic ability and some attitude that should assist us to be better than where we were.'
'That was one that was also hit pretty good, in terms of our starters. You're looking at (Scott) White, and the positions could vary depending on how we get in and out of spring practice.'
On Jordan White-Frisbee:
'The first question will be which side of the ball is he on. He's on defense, so he'll be an inside tackle or nose guard. He should be, at some point, healthy enough to do all of the things in spring practice.'
On new secondary coach J.D. Williams:
'There's a lot there. He brings pro experience as a player, he's played it at the highest level that you can possibly play the game. He brings experience and he brings knowledge of helping assist a program make a resurrection. Those are all great qualities to have. And on top of that, he's an excellent person. I think our young men will benefit from his coaching skills, will benefit from him as a man, and what he brings to them as a leader and as a football coach.'
On Marlon Wood:
'Marlon should be back. He'll be hobbling just a little bit and be limited to a degree, but I would say that Marlon is 70 percent and above.'
On adjusting to players' strengths or making them fit scheme:
'I've always said that it's a little bit of both. You have to have a foundation to build on, but that foundation should be strong enough that it has the ability to stretch, that you can handle the skills and talents of your team. The things you don't do well, you don't do, even though I might like a particular play or scheme. You adjust those simply because you have to because of the players.'
On making adjustments:
'I would say that's a daily occurrence and a daily game occurrence. From quarter to quarter, to half to half, to game to game. You're constantly trying to adjust your system so you can be flexible enough to do what it takes to win.'
On kicking competition:
'I have no idea how that will shake out. I'll let those young men determine that. If you base it on what I saw from those guys last year, we had a pretty good competition between three guys and it came right down to the wire with those guys. It should be exciting and interesting for that competition this spring.'
On potential leaders:
'Your quarterback has to take a tremendous lead in any leadership that has to do with your team. If you fail to have good leadership at your quarterback, then you'll probably have a tough time with your football team. I think, in Isaiah, we have a young man that wants to lead, wants to lead the right way, and is dedicated to making himself a great player. I feel the same way with Johnny Durocher who finished up as our number two guy. I like his toughness, I like his drive, and I like the way he demands more of his teammates. I think we have some leadership at our quarterback position. We have to find out linebacker, defensive lineman, offensive lineman, preferably a center, that takes control of things up front, we need a wide receiver. We just need one at probably every position to really take their position and become a leader of this team. So I'm hoping we can get that, and I think we will get that.'
On running backs:
'We need to get improvement in the big play area from both our running backs. We saw some of that from Louis Rankin early in the year before his injury. He gave us some big plays and seemed to be one of those guys who can stretch the field on occasions. We need to get more of that from him and from all of our running backs. Kenny James needs to step up and be a force for us. I think from the winter that he had that we're going to see some thing out of him.'
On ignoring last season and starting fresh:
'I don't think you take the approach that you act like it didn't happen because that would be naïve on my part to think that way. I think you have to face the facts. It happened. But that does not alter what can happen in the future. Right now, everyone in our conference is 0-0, so that to me says that we have just as great an opportunity right now as any other team. If you allow our guys to grow and develop to their full potential, it'd give us the greatest change to be the team that we need to be.'
On UW's system:
'We have, what we think, is a wonderful system. I think you have to be careful sometimes because when you're always making total adjustments, that sends a signal that you may not be sure of what you're doing. I think we're confident in what we're doing with the package that we have. Now, let's tailor that to the talent we have and utilize their skills and the skills of the system. We're constantly doing that, and always trying to do that. We don't have to do one of these total makeovers.'
On making excuses for last year:
'It would be outside of my makeup to provide our young men with excuses. That's not to say that that may not have some weight, but you have to play or perform. That's what it's about. I'm not into making excuses. You have to play and perform and that's what we expect from our guys.'
On success of other UW teams:
'We've had a fair amount of success around this program. You had the young man who won the national championship in golf, the young women who won the national championship in volleyball, and the basketball team that has made back-to-back Sweet 16s. So, to me, that's what we expect of the program here and football is no different. I expect us to be a very, very successful program. The by-product of their success is that it should keep the Washington Husky name out there on the tongue of people throughout the country. That this is a place where you can have great teams and great programs. That should help us.'
On setting goal to make a bowl game:
'Our players have to make those, not just the coach because that would be one-sided. You have to have buy-in from the players. I think that our players want to be in a bowl game next season.'
On players who have worked hard on their physical appearance during winter:
'I'm hoping that one of those is Anthony Russo. He had an excellent winter and really prepped himself and put himself in position to be a much improved player and hopefully one of those playmakers that we talked about.'