Pac-10 Football Media Day Notes
July 30, 2001
Upcoming Schedule: Washington's newcomers report to the UW campus Tue., Aug. 14. The freshmen will workout for the first time on Wed., Aug. 15. The UW veterans return to campus officially on Fri., Aug. 17, when the team travels to the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. The next morning, the team begins workouts at Evergreen State. Washington will hold morning and afternoon practices each day (specific times TBA) before concluding the fall camp with a scrimmage on Sat., Aug. 25. The Dawgs will then return to campus, where they will practice at Husky Stadium. The season opener is Sept. 8 at 12:30 p.m. against Michigan at Husky Stadium.
Media Events: The annual freshman press luncheon is Wed., Aug. 15, at the Crewhouse cafeteria, beginning at noon. Coaches and all Husky newcomers will be available. Fri., Aug. 17, the annual media day will take place at the Don James Center at Husky Stadium. Head coach Rick Neuheisel will address the press and key players will be available. Media day begins at noon. The annual Picture Day will take place Aug. 31 at Husky Stadium. Gates open for the general public at 5:30 p.m.
Head Coach Rick Neuheisel: Husky head coach Rick Neuheisel is in his third year at the helm of the Washington program. In two seasons, Neuheisel has led the Huskies to an 18-6 overall mark and a 13-3 record in Pac-10 play. Last season, Washington posted an 11-1 overall record, a 7-1 conference mark and shared the Pac-10 Championship. After beating Purdue, 34-24, in the Rose Bowl, the Huskies finished with a No. 3 ranking in the final national polls. In his first season at Washington (1999), Neuheisel led the Huskies to a 7-5 overall mark, a second-place tie (6-2) in the Pac-10 and a trip to the Culligan Holiday Bowl. Neuheisel became the first Husky coach in history to lead the UW to a bowl game in his first season as head coach. Prior to coming to Washington, Neuheisel served four seasons as the head coach at Colorado, posting a 33-14 (.702) overall mark with the Buffaloes. His career record, in six total seasons, is 51-20 (.718). Neuheisel worked for six seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, UCLA, before joining Bill McCartney's Colorado staff in 1994 as the quarterbacks coach. Originally a walkon at UCLA, Neuheisel won the starting quarterback position as a senior and led the Bruins to the 1983 Pac-10 championship. He was named the MVP of the 1984 Rose Bowl that saw UCLA defeat Illinois, 45-9. Washington fans remember Neuheisel's tremendous performance in Husky Stadium when he completed 25 of 27 passes to set an NCAA record that was only recently broken by Tennessee's Tee Martin. Neuheisel, a member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, still holds the Bruins' single-season (69.3) and career (68.3) completion percentage records.
Coaching Staff: Eight of the nine members of Washington's 2000 coaching staff return for 2001. Seven of the nine have been on the UW staff since Neuheisel's arrival prior to the 1999 season. The only change from last year was the departure of former running backs coach Wayne Moses, who left the UW to join the USC staff. Tony Alford, who spent the last four seasons as running backs coach at Iowa State, was hired to replace Moses. Another loss to the staff was that of graduate assistant coach Tarn Sublett, who largely oversaw the wide receivers last season. Sublett moved to take a full-time job at Idaho. The UW coaching staff includes eight coaches that have served as coordinators and two (Keith Gilbertson and Steve Axman) that have been head coaches. Gilbertson served as the head man at Idaho (1986-88) and California (1992-95) while Axman was the coach at Northern Arizona from 1990 to 1997. Axman also once served as offensive coordinator at UCLA. Defensive coordinator Tim Hundley was been a coordinator at Oregon State and Idaho while defensive line coach Randy Hart was the defensive coordinator at UW from 1995-98. Special teams and safeties coach Bobby Hauck headed up the special teams at Colorado before coming to Seattle while Chuck Heater (cornerbacks/recruiting) was the defensive coordinator at Colorado State (1991-92). Myers was offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona under Axman and spent two seasons as offensive coordinator at Boise State. Tom Williams, who oversees the outside linebackers at Washington, was the defensive coordinator at Hawai'i for one season.
Defending Champs: Having won a share of the Pac-10 Conference championship last season (splitting the crown with Oregon and Oregon State with 7-1 conference records), the Huskies (and the Beavers and Ducks, for that matter) have a chance to become the first team in nearly a decade to repeat as conference champion. Not since 1992, when the Huskies shared the title with Stanford, has a team repeated , even by tying for the top spot. In 1992, the Huskies' championship was their third in a row after having earned sole possession of the title in both 1990 and 1991. USC, incidentally, won outright championships in both 1988 and 1989 after having shared it with UCLA in 1987. In terms of going to the Rose Bowl (or this year, perhaps the Fiesta Bowl) two seasons in a row, no Pac-10 team has accomplished that since Washington went to three straight from 1991-93. USC went to the Rose Bowl the three consecutive years prior to that. Washington has also repeated as conference champion in 1980-81 and 1959-60. In Pac-10 history (including the Pacific Coast Conference, Athletic Association of Western Universities and the Pacific-8), California, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington have won back-to-back championships during their history, while Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington State have not.
Dempsey Indoor: On September 8, prior to the season opener vs. Michigan, the UW will officially open the new Dempsey Indoor, a massive indoor practice facility located at the northeast corner of Husky Stadium. The Dempsey Indoor will provide the UW football team, as well as all of the other Husky teams (primarily track, baseball and softball) with an large, state-of-the-art practice site. The facility includes a full-size, FieldTurf football field and a four-lane track. Over the summer, the East Practice Field, located just to the south of Dempsey Indoor and east of Husky Stadium, was completed, giving the Husky team three full football fields' worth of practice space. Last year, FieldTurf was installed in Husky Stadium prior to the season and received rave reviews from players and coaches alike.
Sharing With the Seahawks: For the second straight year, the Seattle Seahawks will play at Husky Stadium for the 2001 season. The Seahawks are using the UW facility while their new downtown stadium is being completed. The Seahawks open their home exhibition season Sat., Aug. 18, at 6:30 p.m. against the Arizona Cardinals. In 1996, the Seahawks played two exhibition games and four regular-season games at Husky Stadium while repairs were made to the ceiling of the Kingdome. The Seahawks will play two preseason games and eight regular season games (plus any home playoff action) on the UW campus this year.
Preseason Pundits: Washington has been fairly highly regarded in the various reputable preseason college football preview magazines, ranging from a national ranking as high as No. 12 (in both Lindy's and Street & Smith's) to No. 21 (Athlon's and Sporting News). Here's a rundown of where the various magazines rated the UW, with national ranking, Pac-10 place, preseason All-Americans and all-conference players:
Magazine Rank Pac-10 Preseason All-America Preseason All-Pac-10Athlon's No. 21 No. 4 Stevens (1st), Stevens (1st), Tripplett (1st) Tripplett (1st)
Lindy's No. 12 No. 3 Stevens (1st), Stevens (1st), Tripplett (1st) Tripplett (1st), Benn (2nd), Roberson (2nd)
Preview Pub. No. 18 No. 2 Stevens (1st) Anderson (1st), Tripplett (1st) Stevens (1st), Tripplett (1st)
Sporting News No. 21 No. 4 Tripplett (1st) Anderson (1st), Stevens (1st), Tripplett (1st)
Street & Smith's No. 12 No. 3 Stevens (1st), Stevens (1st), Tripplett (1st) Tripplett (1st)
Hello Larry: According to the preseason magazines and on-line previews, senior nose tackle Larry Tripplett is not only one of the best defensive linemen in the country entering the 2001 season, he's one of the best football players at any position. Tripplett is a unanimous preseason All-America first-teamer and has been rated as high as overall No. 8 player in the nation (Mel Kiper, ESPN.com). Tripplett capped his strong junior season in 2000 by earning first-team All-America from ESPNmag.com, second-team selection by The Sporting News and third-team status from Football News and the Associated Press. He was an All-Pac-10 first-team pick and served as one of three captains. After the season, Tripplett considered leaving Washington early to play in the NFL, but decided to remain in school. Tripplett has started the last 22 straight regular-season games (plus two bowl games) and is a top candidate for the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy as he enters his senior year.
Stevens is Solid: All but one of the five primary preseason magazines picked junior tight end Jerramy Stevens as a first-team preseason All-American. Only a junior, Stevens, who initially came to Washington as a quarterback, is considered the top player in the nation at his position and is ranked the No. 27 overall player in the country by Mel Kiper (ESPN.com). Stevens, who made second-team All-America on several lists after last season, posted the best season by a tight end in Husky history, in terms of his receiving. Stevens, 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, hauled in 43 catches for 600 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the UW tight end mark of 38 catches, set in 1965 by Dave Williams. Stevens has more career receptions (64) through his first 22 games than NFLers Mark Bruener, Ernie Conwell, Aaron Pierce, Cameron Cleeland and Jeremy Brigham had, combined, through their first 22 games. Stevens, who has started 20 of a possible 22 career games at the UW, is fourth on the all-time Husky tight ends list with his 64 catches.
Ducks Not in Season: For the first time since 1944, the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks will not meet on the football field this year, breaking a string of 56 annual meetings. Only World Wars I and II have kept the two Northwest rivals from playing one another each season since the 1903 season. The Huskies and Ducks first met in 1900, then picked up the annual series in 1903. Due to the wars, the UW-UO game did not take place in 1917, 1943 or 1944. In 1945, they played twice, once in Seattle and once in Portland. This year, the two foes won't meet due to the Pac-10's scheuling system, which calls for each Pac-10 team to play eight league games, thus 'missing' one of the nine possible opponents. The only games exempt from this are the natural rivalry games played on the last weekend of the season (e.g., UW-Washington State, Oregon-Oregon State, etc.). In 2002, the Huskies will miss Stanford. The last two seasons, it was USC.
Squad Breakdown: Washington returns a total of 49 letterwinners (24 offense, 23 defense, 2 kickers/punters) from last season's squad, while 26 letterwinners (12 offense, 13 defense, 1 punter) have departed. Officially, five offensive starters, six defensive starters and the starting kicker (John Anderson) return in 2001. On offense, returning starters include TB Paul Arnold (now a WR), WR Todd Elstrom, WR Justin Robbins, TE Jerramy Stevens and C Kyle Benn. However, two other players (TB Willie Hurst and WR Chris Juergens) who were considered the regular starters at their position in 1999, are also back. On the defensive side, the returning starters are DE Marcus Roberson, NT Larry Tripplett, ILB Ben Mahdavi, OLB Jafar Williams and CBs Omare Lowe and Chris Massey. Although not considered 'regular' starters, 11 other Huskies that started at least one game in 2000 return in 2001: WR Wilbur Hooks, TB Rich Alexis, TB Braxton Cleman, FB Ken Walker, TE Joe Collier, DE Jerome Stevens, OLB Anthony Kelley, ILB Jamaun Willis, S Greg Carothers, S Owen Biddle and CB Derrick Johnson. Combined, those 11 players started a total of 25 games last season.
Signalcaller Inexperience: Washington enters the 2001 season with less experience at the quarterback position (in terms of total career pass attempts) than any season since 1958. Husky sophomore Cody Pickett has attempted a grand total of six career passes entering the upcoming season and no other quarterback the UW squad has ever thrown a pass for the Huskies. In 1958, the Huskies entered the season with no quarterback on the roster ever having thrown a pass. That year, Phil Borders (115 attempts), Bob Hivner (30 attempts) and Bob Schloredt (18 attempts) would share the job -- but none of the three had ever played previously. In 1993, the Huskies entered the year with a total of six pass attempts among their quarterbacks, same as this season. As a redshirt freshman in 1992, Damon Huard had thrown five passes (5-for-5, 108 yards) while classmate Eric Bjornson didn't compete his only career try. Pickett, who has served as the No. 2 quarterback for the better part of the last two seasons, played in only one game in 1999 (0-for-4, one interception at Oregon State) before missing the second half of the year with a back injury. After getting a medical redshirt season for 1999, Pickett backed up Marques Tuiasosopo last season, but thanks to the fact that so many of Washington's games last year went down to the wire, only played in two games -- Idaho and Washington State, totaling one completion on two attempts for 12 yards.
Experience Abounds at WR: Last season, 13 different Huskies caught at least one pass during the season. Of those 13, only fullback Pat Conniff and receiver Terry Tharps are not returning for the 2001 season. Combined, Husky returners recorded a total of 153 of the 171 total receptions (89.5 percent) made last season for 2,110 of the 2,158 total receiving yards (a stunning 97.8 percent). All 14 touchdown receptions in 2000 were made by receivers that are once again on the squad in 2001. Last year, the Husky receiving corps included eight players that had ever caught a pass during their career, but two of those eight were tight ends and four of them were running backs. Of last year's active wide receivers, only Todd Elstrom and Patrick Reddick had ever caught a pass in a game prior to last season, and all four of Reddick's previous receptions had come in 1997. The 2001 receiving squad is also bolstered by the return of 1999 receiving leader Chris Juergens (who sat out last season with a knee injury after catching 42 balls for 516 yards in 1999), the conversion of speedy tailback Paul Arnold to receiver, and by incoming freshmen Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick, both Parade All-Americans and both ranked the No. 1 high school receiver in the nation last season by one or another of the numerous recruiting services.
RB Talent Pool is Deep: Last season, probably not by design, the Huskies ended up with a running-back-by-committee as four players -- Paul Arnold, Willie Hurst, Braxton Cleman and Rich Alexis -- all saw significant time at tailback. Though none of them rushed for 1,000 yards and none were widely considered for all-conference, they were a force as a foursome. Combined, those four tailbacks rushed for 1,682 yards on 290 carries, good for an outstanding 5.8 yards per carry. That foursome also accounted for 18 touchdowns and even caught 38 passes for 316 yards. All four are back for the 2001 season, though Arnold has moved to wide receiver.
Benn and the Boys: While Washington's receiving and running backs corps are awash with experience, the offensive line is another story. Last season, Washington used a rotation of seven linemen through most of its games, with five starters (Elliot Silvers, Chad Ward, Matt Fraize, Wes Call and Kyle Benn) and two reserves (Dominic Daste and Matt Rogers) seeing almost all of the action. Of those seven players, only senior center Kyle Benn returns for the 2001 season. Benn has started every game of the last two seasons at center, giving him plenty of experience, but his burden will be higher than usual as he'll lead a very young group. Only three other players (Todd Bachert, Nick Newton and Elliott Zajac) have seen any action at all in a Husky uniform (with Zajac having earned two letters, largely thanks to his special teams play). The two-deep is also likely to include five redshirt freshmen (Khalif Barnes, Ryan Brooks, Aaron Butler, Dan Dicks and Andre Reeves) as well as a junior college transfer (Francisco Tipoti).
Pope John Paul II Pipeline: In 2001, the Washington roster will include three players from Pope John Paul II High School, which is located about 3,000 miles from Seattle in Boca Raton, Fla. So far, the remote high school has been very kind to the Huskies. In 1999, kicker John Anderson arrived in Seattle and became a first-team freshman All-American, booting three field goals of 50 or more yards in his first season and establishing himself as probably the best Husky placekicker in a decade or more. Last season, tailback Rich Alexis first gained noteriety by rushing for a 50-yard touchdown against hometown foe Miami on the seventh carry of his career. Alexis would eventually become the starter and earned first-team freshman All-America after leading the Huskies with 738 yards on 118 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry, as well as with nine TDs. This season, WR Charles Frederick will get his chance. Frederick comes to Washington after earning prep first-team All-America status from several sources and seems likely to get a shot at returning punts and kicks very early in his UW career.
Curtis Williams Fund Update: At latest tally, the Curtis Williams Fund has raised a total of approximately $310,000. The fund was established to cover those expenses not covered by insurance for safety Curtis Williams, who suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury in last season's game at Stanford. Williams is living in the Fresno area with older brother David, and David's wife and children. The family was the subject of a feature on HBO's 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel' over the summer. Those wishing to make a contribution to the fund may send donations to:
The Curtis Williams Fund
c/o The University of Washington
1200 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98101
RANDOM NOTES: After four straight seasons beginning the schedule on the road, Washington will open at home for the second straight season in 2001 ... the Huskies have won seven straight opening games at home since falling to Oklahoma State, 31-17, to open the 1985 slate ... Washington has also won 14 of its last 15 home openers (whether the first overall game of the season or not) ... the usual UW schedule calls for two non-conference home games and one non-league road game, this year that road game is at Miami ... during the last 11 seasons, Washington has gone only 5-5 in such games (there was no non-conference road game in '92), but the list of opponents is a strong one: Purdue (1990 win), Nebraska (1991 win and 1998 loss), Ohio State (1993 loss and 1995 loss), Miami (1994 win), Notre Dame (1996 loss), Brigham Young (1997 win and 1999 loss) and Colorado (2000 win) ... linebacker Anthony Kelley spent the winter quarter studying in South Africa, having departed the U.S. right after the Rose Bowl ... last season, Washington led the Pac-10 in attendance for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons, averaging 71,638 fans per game ... not bad, considering that Washington has a smaller capacity than five of the 10 conference schools (Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA and USC) ... Washington has lost only six games under coach Rick Neuheisel, with four of those losses coming by a touchdown or less: BYU (35-28), UCLA (23-20), Kansas State (24-20) and Oregon (23-16) ... lest you think that the Huskies don't win the close ones, 10 of the UW's 22 wins (including seven of 11 last season) under Neuheisel have been by seven points or less.
The Schedule & TV Appearences: Once again in 2001, the Huskies will face a rugged schedule. Out of conference, the Huskies will have to contend with home games against Michigan and Idaho, while travelling to the Orange Bowl to face highly-ranked Miami in what will surely be one of the season's most widely anticipated games in the nation. In the conference, Washington must travel to play both UCLA and Oregon State, two teams that have received preseason consideration for Pac-10 title contention. The Huskies, however, don't play Oregon, another of the preseason picks. Following is a look at the 2001 Washington football schedule with television coverage. More live television dates will be announced as the season goes on, as early as six days before each game (but usually two weeks). All UW games will air on tape delay on Fox Sports Net, Sundays at 3:00 p.m. with Tod Pickett and Sonny Sixkiller calling the action. Here's the schedule (all times Pacific and subject to change):
Date Opponent Time Stadium TelevisionSept. 8 MICHIGAN 12:30 p.m. Husky Stadium ABC-TVSept. 15 at Miami, Fla. 12:30 p.m. Orange Bowl ABC-TVSept. 22 IDAHO 12:30 p.m. Husky StadiumSept. 29 at California 12:30 p.m. Memorial StadiumOct. 6 USC 12:30 p.m. Husky StadiumOct. 13 at UCLA 12:30 p.m. Rose BowlOct. 20 ARIZONA 12:30 p.m. Husky StadiumOct. 27 at Arizona State 6:00 p.m. Sun Devil StadiumNov. 3 STANFORD 12:30 p.m. Husky StadiumNov. 10 at Oregon State 1:00 p.m. Reser StadiumNov. 17 WASHINGTON STATE 12:30 p.m. Husky Stadium
Note: All UW games will air on tape Sundays at 3:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Net Northwest.