Rested Huskies Embrace New Beginning

Sept. 26, 2008

by Jeff Bechthold

• Gameday Central

For the more optimistic among Husky fans, today's game vs. Stanfordrepresents a sort of second opening day. In a lot of ways - if you don't mindtrying to look forward rather than back - it is indeed a new start.

For one thing, the off week since the Huskies' last game has hopefullyprovided a chance for the team to catch its breath. It has given the youngDawgs time to heal, as well as more time to learn.

For another, Stanford will be the first opponent the Huskies have facedthis season not ranked in the top 25.

And, as far as new beginnings go, today's game is also something ofa re-start to the Pac-10 season. With one league game under its belt, theHuskies have eight more to go in what is always an unpredictable titlerace. But that one league game (Aug. 30 at Oregon) is also a four-week oldmemory and with two non-conference games and an off week in between,it certainly feels like Pac-10 play has yet to begin in earnest.

With their one remaining non-league game still three weeks away, theDawgs can now concentrate on its conference slate for the time being.Sometimes fans underestimate the resiliency of the athlete. That appliesall the more so to the college players and even more to the younger ones.And, with the lineup that the UW is sending out on the field these days,hopefully that will work in the Dawgs' favor.

In this same space a few weeks ago, the point was made that theHuskies are playing more freshmen than nearly ever before. That contentionhas grown since.

While commonly freshmen who play see most of their action on specialteams or in backup roles, this year's 10 freshmen who have played have alldone so in important capacities.

Against Oklahoma, three freshmen (tailback David Freeman andreceivers Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse) started the game on offenseand two (safety Johri Fogerson and Senio Kelemete) started on defense.Earlier this season, tight end Kavario Middleton and tailback Chris Polkstarted games in their first college seasons, bringing the total to sevenfreshmen starters this year.

Last year, by contrast, only three different freshmen started a gamefor the UW. Two years ago, only two pure freshmen saw playing time andneither ever started.

What does any of that mean? For one, it means that with each passingweek, the team grows in experience and understanding in a way a veteranteam can't. While a week's practice represents only a tiny fraction of theexperience a senior player gains during his college football career, eachweek of playing and instruction represents a large portion of time for aplayer who has only been on campus for seven or eight weeks.

How much time and experience will it take to push these youngpups over the hump and into the wins column? That's what we're hereto find out today.

As it seems that we all rediscover each Saturday of the fall, it'sdifficult to predict what might happen on a given day in the Pac-10. Andisn't it that lack of predictability that, at least in part, brings everyoneout to Husky Stadium seven Saturdays a year?

In other news, something else that happened since the last gamewas the naming of the UW's next full-time director of athletics, ScottWoodward. After having spent the last seven-plus months as the actingAD, Woodward was appointed to the job on a full-time, permanent basisa week and a half ago.

So, welcome to him and to all the UW freshmen who begin their firstcollege classes this coming Wednesday. To all of you: Go Dawgs!

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