Offensive Coordinator Keith Gilbertson - Part II

Keith Gilbertson is a happy man, coordinating an offense that will feature a senior quarterback that has been a two-year starter, and will likely hold all of the major passing records at Washington by the time he leaves. Gilby has some areas that he feels Cody needs to improve on to have a successful senior season, however.


"In terms of what Cody Pickett has accomplished in two years and the numbers he's posted, he's a very veteran player now. He's won 15 games over the past two years, but he still has room to grow, learn, and become better. We need some real leadership in the offensive huddle," said Gilbertson. "I thought we really missed Willie Hurst a great deal last year. We need solid, positive, leadership in the huddle, and Cody can provide that."

Gilbertson will also need to groom Pickett's replacement, starting in April. "We'll spend a great deal of spring trying to find a backup to Cody. Casey Paus and Isaiah Stanback will compete and we'll see which of those guys that is ready to step in there and play."

With a new quarterback coach (John Pettas), does it change the dynamic of the quarterback mix? Not really. "The program is established, with Rick being here five seasons now. Who is number two and who is number three will be settled on the field. The coaching change won't impact that," said Gilby.


Will it be tailback by committee or will a go-to guy emerge? That is the question.

"It's a little difficult to establish who will be our number one guy with Rich Alexis out this spring, but it gives us a chance to see Chris Singleton, Kenny James, and Shelton Sampson and give them plenty of work at that position. We've done it a couple of different ways in the years I've been here with you at Washington. In 1989 and 1990, it was all Greg Lewis. In 1991 it was tailback by committee with Beno Bryant, Jay Barry, and Napoleon Kaufman. Then in 1999 it was Willie Hurst and Maurice Shaw. In 2000 Willie totally emerged, although it was a little bit by committee. In 2001 it was Willie again. What I'm saying is, if it turns out to be tailback by committee, so be it. But if one guy emerges and it looks like he is ready to step up, catch the ball, pass protect, and not be a detriment in terms of picking up the blitzes, great," said Gilbertson.

"I'm not sure how the rotation will work, but all of those guys will get lots of work. Chris probably has an edge this spring because he's played some in games. He's a little bigger physically than Shelton but I'm not sure he's bigger than Kenny."


"Zach Tuiasosopo got better and better as the year went on. He missed most of camp with an injury so he didn't really get into shape until about November. I thought he really played well in November. I thought he had a good sophomore year but I'm looking for more from him this year."

His chief competition will come from O'Dea grad Ty Eriks, now a redshirt sophomore. Eriks looks like he may finally get a shot to stay at one position for a while.

"Ty didn't come over to fullback until Monday of the Michigan game, so he kind of had to learn on the run last year. I'm excited to see those two guys compete for the job at fullback this spring," said Gilbertson.

"Ty is a nice player with good size and good vertical speed. Blocking and catching is a big part of it. It's hard to play in our offense if you can't catch. Ty needs to learn to be a little bit more consistent receiver out of the backfield, and if he does, he'll be right there."


A lot of depth here, but the top two centers are out for spring. Watch for Clayton Walker to get his chance to impress Gilby and new OL coach Dan Cozzetto.

"We'll look for a combination of who the best five guys are, as well as who is best at a particular position, but some of that won't be solved until the fall because of injury. Todd Bachert has missed two springs in a row, so he's missed 30 practice opportunities in two years to grow. It sets a guy back. I thought he played well at tackle as a sophomore and I thought at times at center last year he struggled because of his shoulder. Does that mean if he comes back with two healthy shoulders this fall that he is the answer at center? I don't know, but I know he's played well at both positions at times. We'll just see how he rehabilitates," said Gilby.

"I thought Khalif Barnes leveled off last year in terms of what I think he's capable of. I think Nick Newton had a real solid year, and Robin Meadow is an up and coming guy. I think Tusi Sa'au and Clay Walker are both coming on strong. All of them have talent, some quickness, and are powerful."

One of the major problems last year was keeping five guys healthy enough to work together.

"We need to find some continuity. Will it be eight or ten guys in the mix, we don't know yet, but we have to get it solidified. A year ago we thought it was pretty settled going into the season but then Zajac breaks his leg, then Todd hurts his shoulder. Next thing you know Newton hurts an ankle and missed two weeks, so we go with Meadow. He then dings an ankle and misses three weeks . . . we never established a solid week-in and week-out rotation at those positions and we suffered for it. It hurt us."

Look for Barnes to improve at the weak tackle, and Meadow and Newton can both play guard or tackle. Aaron Butler will obviously be another guard. If Walker impresses enough this spring, it may allow Gilby to move Bachert back out to tackle on the other side of Barnes. Vanneman has been impressive at center and his broken foot will heal quickly. Sa'au would add inside depth at guard.


"We've had a pretty good tradition of turning out good tight ends here, Dawgman," said Gilbertson as he pointed at the pictures on his wall above the window. Included in those pictures were Mark Bruener, Aaron Pierce, Ernie Conwell, Reggie Davis, Jerramy Brigham, Cameron Cleeland, and Kevin Ware.

"I think Joe Toledo will be a little different type of player than those real athletic guys. Joe is so much bigger than anyone that we've had there, he's got tackle size (6-6 290). But he has great hands, can run well, and played very well as a freshman. He had a serious shoulder injury and he wouldn't come out of the lineup. He played in every game and I thought he had an impressive freshman year. I have high hopes for him. He'll have to sit out this spring to rest his shoulder, it was a very serious injury. But he'll be ready to go in the fall if he stays in shape this spring and summer," said Gilby.

"Jon Lyon, I'm excited to see him in action. He's an athletic guy that is very smooth and a good pass receiver. Ben Bandel almost cracked our lineup last year. We debated putting him out there as a true freshman. He's 6-6 and 270 pounds, but then his knee started bothering him so we decided it would be better to give it a year of rest. Now he's ready. Andy Heater also returns and has played some at the position."

Gilbertson believes that Jason Benn may have a position move in store, and Rick Neuheisel said earlier that Benn would likely be tried on the offensive line.


Two returning studs, one guy returning from a two-year hiatus, and the rest of the jobs will be wide open. Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick will anchor down the flanker and split end positions, and Justin Robbins will certainly figure in that mix somewhere. Nate Robinson will most likely be the fourth receiver come spring.

"Justin Robbins had a good winter. He's had two years of injuries, and we're really excited to have him back on the field. I though he had a remarkable season in his freshman year, when we went to the Rose Bowl. If we were giving a "newcomer of the year" award in 2000, it would've gone to JR. He's a good runner, he's tough, and he can go get the ball. He's now getting his legs back under him and getting his speed back. I think you'll see a really fine player this year to go along with Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick. We obviously have high hopes for those two. They are different receivers but they both have ways of hurting defenses in their own ways. And if we become a better vertical running team, it will take some pressure off of those guys as well as our quarterback," said Gilbertson.
Link to part I of this interview

Next up: A discussion with co-defensive coordinator Tim Hundley Top Stories