Spring Practices To Spur Competition

April 10, 2007

By Joshua Mayers
The Daily

They say practice makes perfect.

For the Washington football team, that practice officially started yesterday. The goal of being a bowl team hasn't changed, but the patience surrounding the program is growing thin.

'We have got to get to [a bowl game], and the time is now,' coach Tyrone Willingham said. 'There is no better time than now.'

The Huskies will have 15 practices over the next three weeks, and the spring will culminate with Washington's annual Purple and Gold game April 28.

In a spring season of optimism and expectations, there is no greater buzz than that around sophomore Jake Locker.

Without hesitation, Willingham made it known how highly the coaching staff regards the blue-chip talent from Ferndale, Wash.

'If we had to play a game today ... Jake Locker would be our quarterback,' Willingham said.

For fans, it was sometimes painful to see the youngster on the sidelines toward the end of the season, but now it appears the Husky faithful will get their chance to see him in action.

But first, there is work to be done.

The team enters the spring with a few goals: stay healthy, and develop as many players as possible, making them bigger, faster and stronger.

'It is one of the best opportunities for an individual player to make his statement to establish his position,' Willingham said.

The coaches hope for healthy competition at every position, including quarterback, where Willingham warns, 'it's not Jake's yet. He will go out and earn it.'

Positions like the offensive line and the secondary have been repeated concerns from the coaching staff.

'We can't waste a practice,' offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said in an interview with KJR. 'It is important that we go out and get something done everyday.'

Washington will have four fresh faces join them for spring practice: Ronnie Fouch, Austin Sylvester, Jared Ballman and Chandler Clemons all enrolled at the UW spring quarter.

Combine that with now-healthy veterans and hungry underclassmen, and the Huskies will have plenty of bodies available to seek its first winning season in five years.

'The reality is, I probably haven't equaled where I hoped we would be -- I thought we would be that bowl team by now,' Willingham said. 'The reality of where we can go is still very much out there. We can get to be a very, very good football team again.'

For months, the team has been working on its winter conditioning program.

The players have been itching to get back on the field.

'I'm just excited to get playing with everyone,' defensive end Greyson Gunheim said.

And excitement is the best way to describe spring football.

Confidence and the promise of potential can't help but swirl around Husky Stadium as Washington focuses on drawing nearer to the Pac-10 elites.

'Closing the gap is about learning how to win,' Willingham said.

For now, that means getting out and practicing hard -- and seeing what Locker can do.

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