Looking Ahead To Husky Spring Football
March 28, 2008
SEATTLE - It's not an unusual story in college football come springtime. The Huskies enter their off-season practice session with experience in some areas and a lack of it elsewhere. They have some starting battles that need to be settled and some holes that need to be plugged. Pretty much the same as most college football programs, really.
Here's a unit-by-unit breakdown of the offense as the Huskies enter spring practice:
The offense will center on a veteran corps of linemen and returning quarterback Jake Locker. In the meantime, a talented group of tailbacks will look to fill a void left by Louis Rankin, who rushed for 1,294 yards and started every game last year, while an even younger group of wide receivers will try to replace five departed seniors at that position.
The offense will also feature two of the three coaches new to the Husky staff. Brian White, most recently offensive coordinator at Syracuse, will coach the tight ends (and also handle special teams coordination) and Steve Gervais, who led nearby Skyline High to a state title last fall, takes over coaching the running backs.
Locker was a sensation during his redshirt freshman season of 2007. He rushed for 986 yards to set a new school and Pac-10 record for rushing by a quarterback. He also passed for 2,062 yards and 14 scores to go with his 13 rushing touchdowns.
It's no surprise that the Huskies will rely on his arm and his legs as a centerpiece of their offense, especially with very little experienced personnel at the other offensive skill positions.
The top backup to Locker is Ronnie Fouch, who spent his freshman season as the Huskies' No. 3 (and briefly No. 2) quarterback, making all the trips and suiting up for every game. He didn't see any game action, but enters the spring as the clear backup.
Also on the field in spring will be Taylor Bean, a walkon who also redshirted his freshman season in 2007. He'll compete with two incoming freshmen in the fall.
With Rankin gone, the inside track on the starting tailback spot would logically fall to sophomore Brandon Johnson, who was Rankin's backup last year and is the most experienced tailback on the roster. Johnson showed a convincing flash of what he's capable of when he ran for 121 yards on 23 carries last season vs. California.
The only other tailback on the team is fourth-year junior J.R. Hasty, who carried the ball six times last season. Two other tailbacks who redshirted the 2007 season will be given every chance to fight for playing time -- Willie Griffin and Brandon Yakaboski.
At fullback, the Huskies are considerably more experienced. Paul Homer and Luke Kravitz handled all of the fullback duties a year ago with Homer serving as the starter and in more of a blocking role and Kravitz in more of a running role. At times, they played in the same backfield. Also returning is walk-on Tobias Togi, who redshirted his first year at Washington last year.
Washington lost its top five wide receivers (in terms of 2007 receptions) off last year's team, all to graduation. Only two players with game experience at wide out return.
D'Andre Goodwin saw his first action as a redshirt freshman last fall. He caught six passes and also had four carries. Curtis Shaw, a true freshman in 2007, began the season as a tailback, but moved to receiver late last season. In his first game at his new position, he gave a preview of what he can do, catching four passes for 46 yards at Oregon State.
Other returners include Alvin Logan, who redshirted as a freshman last fall, Charles Hawkins Jr., a walk-on who earned a scholarship for last season, and Tony Chidiac. Both Hawkins and Chidiac played in 2007, but both are still looking for their first reception.
Three newcomers enrolled at the UW in January and will add to the group at receiver. Anthony Boyles and Devin Aguilar were both heralded recruits who originally signed as a part of last fall's freshman class, but didn't enroll until after the season (and will thereby enter the fall of 2008 with five years to play four). Another newcomer is Chris Polk, who graduated from high school early to enroll at the UW. One of the most highly rated players in his class, he's another pleasant early addition to a group that needs to bolster its numbers.
Last season, three veteran tight ends shared the position for much of the season. Two of those three veterans return in 2008, along with another senior and a redshirt freshman.
Fifth-year seniors Michael Gottlieb and Johnie Kirton are the Huskies' two most experienced tight ends. Gottlieb caught 12 passes last season, most among tight ends and fifth on the team, while Kirton caught 12 in 2006. Fellow senior Walt Winter also adds to the depth at the position after having spent time during his UW career at tight end and also on defense.
Redshirt freshman Chris Izbicki, rated as one of the nation's top prep tight ends in his high school days, and classmate Romeo Savant add to the mix as well this spring and will contend with their elder teammates for action at the position.
The Huskies' offensive line lost only one player who saw significant game action during the 2007 season in the form of two-year starting right tackle Chad Macklin.
However, the other four-fifths of the line return as six different players who started at the other four spots return in 2008.
The unquestioned leader of the unit is center Juan Garcia, who has started every game the last two seasons. Garcia opted to return after the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility. On either side of him are two returning starters, right guard Casey Bulyca and left guard Ryan Tolar. Both spent the vast majority of last season starting in those respective spots. When they didn't start, senior Jordan White-Frisbee filled in. He's also back.
At the left tackle spot, Ben Ossai (who started all but one game in 2006) and Cody Habben split time last season at left tackle. Both are back for next season with more than a year of eligibility remaining.
With six players with starting experience returning, competition among the remaining offensive linemen should be fierce. The most experienced of that group is Morgan Rosborough, who has seen time at guard and tackle. Matt Sedillo also spent the entire 2007 season on the depth chart, but saw only limited game time while veteran walkon center Gregory Christine backs up at that spot.