2007 Football Preview: Offense
July 9, 2007
GoHuskies.com and Coach Tyrone Willingham take a look at the Husky offense in the second installment of a three-part season preview.
Prior to the start of spring practice, Willingham named sophomore Jake Locker his starter,with the usual caveat that any and all starting positions on the team are always up for competition.
While Locker, who traveled to every game but didn't see any game action as a true freshmanlast season, didn't do anything to lose the job and enters the fall still atop the depth chart, seniorCarl Bonnell, who started the last five games of 2006, provides stiff competition.
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'The first thing is that we're always in a position of competition,' Willingham confirms.
'Someone had to start at number one. That said, we think the guy who started the spring at numberone [Locker] has an opportunity to be a heck of a quarterback. We want his growth to continueand we think it will because he's very dedicated to himself and to his team. He wants to be good.
'We're blessed in that Carl has playing experience,' Willingham continues. 'He also hasreally improved his overall commitment to being a great quarterback. I think that showed in thespring. I thought his play was significantly better in the spring than I had seen.'
The only other QB on the roster is freshman Ronnie Fouch, who completed his senior yearof high school early in order to join the Huskies prior to the start of spring practice.
'It was really exciting to see Ronnie Fouch work,' Willingham says. 'In the spring game, heshowed some emotion. He showed the ability to take a group and make them successful against verydifficult odds. I was impressed with him from day one in terms of jumping in and learning the system.'
The Huskies have only two returning tailbacks - senior Louis Rankin and junior J.R. Hasty- and two returning fullbacks - senior Luke Kravitz and sophomore Paul Homer. Rankin is the onlytailback with game action and the only running back on the team ever to carry the ball in a game.
Last season, Rankin led the team with 666 rushing yards on 142 carries, good for a 4.7-yardaverage. He's the obvious No. 1 at tailback.
'I'm excited about Louis Rankin,' says Willingham. 'When people go back and look at hiscareer here, it may seem like he's slipped under the radar a little. But in the two years that I'vebeen here, Louis has five 100-yard ballgames. That jumps out at you that you have a back that'scapable of that. I thought last year he grew a lot. We need him to step up. If he has a great summer,I'm quite sure he can be the type of back we're looking for.'
While Hasty provides promise, Willingham will also rely on Kravitz and Homer to occasionallyact like tailbacks. He's also counting on any number of the five incoming freshmen tailbacks.
'We're blessed that our fullbacks understand the system, but they don't give us the explosivenessand breakaway ability that Louis and J.R. can give us,' Willingham says. 'We're goingto find either one or two of our freshmen to give us assistance. I'm excited because at least acouple of those guys have `football player' written all over them.'
The coach is also happy with Kravitz and Homer in their more traditional fullback roles.
'In our system,' he says, 'the fullback is very important since it's kind of a hybrid positionbetween a back and a tight end. We have great depth with those two guys. They're tough andsmart, and they have a lot of versatility. We need them to set a tone.'
Much like last season, the Husky wide receiver corps is a veteran group, but one that is stilllooking for a big-play type of player to jump to the fore.
Five seniors comprise the large group of experienced receivers: fifth-year men QuintinDaniels, Cody Ellis, Anthony Russo and Corey Williams, along with Marcel Reece, in hissecond season at the UW after two years in JC ball. The other returner on the two-deep at thethree positions is sophomore D'Andre Goodwin, who didn't play in any games a year ago.
While Willingham would love to find a clear big-timer at the position, he'd prefer two.
'Once you have two, it really puts pressure on the defense,' Willingham explains. 'Wewant to have Marcel Reece really come on and be the player he can be. We want Cody Ellis, whohas made some big plays in his time here, really step up and have a breakout season. We needCorey Williams and Quintin Daniels to fulfill the potential everyone envisions them having. I'malso excited about D'Andre Goodwin.
'I think our receivers have a good chance to be an even better group than people anticipate,if we can focus on our intensity and development,' Willingham continues,' and I haven't evenmentioned Anthony Russo, who has already proven that he can be a good Pac-10 receiver.'
Much as he stated in the spring, the tight ends position continues to be a competition asfour veterans - all with game experience - compete for snaps there. Four seniors are in the hunt:Michael Gottlieb, Johnie Kirton, Robert Lewis and Walt Winter.
'If you had to say that there's one position on our team that is a committee position, you'dlook at the tight ends first,' Willingham says. 'We have a bunch of guys who have played for usand shown themselves to be pretty good. All of them can help us be a solid group, but we wouldlove to have one guy step up and say he's going to be our all-star.'
Last year, three of Washington's five offensive linemen played every snap of the season. Twoothers missed no more than one quarter of play. While two of those five have graduated, threereturn: left tackle Ben Ossai, center Juan Garcia and right tackle Chad Macklin.
'I think that's all positive. Any time you can have five guys play that many snaps, it's a goodthing from a health standpoint,' Willingham says. 'It means they're tough and they can weatherthe physical challenges of football. And hopefully, it means they got a lot better taking that manysnaps.'
The competition for the two starting guard spots will continue in the fall. Among those competing,only senior right guard Casey Bulyca has ever taken snaps in a game (left guard candidateJordan White-Frisbee has played extensively on defense and special teams, but never onthe offensive line). Bulyca and sophomore Ryan Tolar are the candidates to start at right guardand White-Frisbee sits behind junior Morgan Rosborough at left guard.
Senior Eric Berglund(left tackle), sophomore Cody Habben (right tackle), sophomore Matt Sedillo (center) and seniorRyan Bush (center/guard) are top candidates to fill out the two-deep in the other spots.
Having the two tackles and center in place should make things easier for the two newguards, with a veteran player to either side of both of them.
'Any time you can solidify your edges, it's a plus,' says Willingham. 'Filling in the interior isimportant, but I think it's a far more difficult process to rebuild the edges. Those guys are critical.'
Additionally, the anchor of the line, center Garcia, is one of the team's top leaders.
'Juan has demonstrated that he's the leader of that area,' Willingham says. 'He's shown thetoughness. He's shown the intelligence to get the line moving in the right direction. He's shownthe work ethic. He comes in and watches film and spends time with his coaches. He does all thelittle things to make himself a great player.'