From the coaches' mouths

For some reason, spring football always seems to be a time when fans become experts. At no other month in the year do you hear the rumors, the hype, and the predictions that you do in April. If you thought recruiting was over-dramatized by some, well, sometimes it can pale compared to the scuttlebutt revolving who the starters should be and what idiots the coaches must be.

Prognosticators drive me nuts.

Let's get real – nobody ever really knows what is going to happen in the fall until it happens. So to cut down on all the wishy-washy opinions and baseless predictions, let me just tell you what they coaches have been saying.

They may not be as up to speed on the team as joe-schmoe-dawg on the message boards, but what the heck (please allow me to remove the tongue from my cheek now, dawg fans).

These are the players that the coaches are talking about:

Jon Lyon and Ben Bandel - Neuheisel has spoken of these two after every practice, never mentioning one without the other. Both Lyon and Bandel have reliable hands and tremendous size. Lyon is more of a receiver with superb speed, but needs work on his blocking. Bandel, at 6-foot-7, utilized his redshirt 2002 season to become a more polished blocker. He can be a weapon as a receiver as well.

Evan Benjamin and James Sims – When asked of the players in the secondary who have impressed most thus far, coach Phil Snow mentioned only two – Benjamin and Sims. He said he sees big improvement in the angles Sims is taking to the ball from this time last year, and is impressed with Benjamin's toughness and tackling.

Tusi Sa'au – This offensive guard got much publicity in the fall for hurting himself while attempting an X-Games type stunt. This spring he's received the pub for his improved play and strength. Neuheisel has mentioned him several times as one of the surprises of camp. Currently, he and junior Aaron Butler are in a close battle for the starting job.

Shelton Sampson and Kenny James – Both second-year freshmen have impressed in their first spring camp, and got the attention of Neuheisel in the process. James, before his injury today, was the most balanced tailback on the team. Though not as fast as the others, he utilized his vision and instincts to chew up yardage on the ground. He's also a capable pass-catcher. Sampson is the deep-threat - everyone knew that coming in. But he's shown improvement from the fall, getting up-field faster and making defenders miss with great balance and quickness on his feet. The coaches hope he can continue to improve on blocking and taking care of the ball.

Jimmy Newell – When asked the question "Who stood out today?" Neuheisel has often muttered the name Jimmy Newell over the first week of the spring. With Sims now moved to strong safety, Neuheisel is banking on the oft-injured Newell to stay healthy and be the main man at free safety. So far, he's drawn rave reviews from the head coach.

Junior Coffin – I must admit, last week when I heard Neuheisel yelling "Good job Junior," I had to think who he was talking about. Junior Coffin is in his fourth year at the UW, and is easy to overlook. He's been injured for much of his Husky career. This spring he's bulked up – now the size of a house rather than just a condo – and is healthy. The results have been impressive, as Coffin has worked his way into the rotation. He is currently battling Jerome Stevens for the starting spot at defensive tackle.

Greg Carothers and Tyler Krambrink – Both seniors enter spring at SAM linebacker, one of the least glamorous positions in the Husky 3-4 defense. Neither has let it hurt their performance, though. In fact, both have thrived there. Carothers, a three-year starter at strong safety, has taken advantage of being closer to the line of scrimmage and had two or three memorable hits already this spring. Krambrink, a fifth-year player, has utilized his quickness to intercept two passes. Neuheisel has mentioned each of them several times.

Clay Walker – Walker has been the subject of hype since coming to Washington. The coaches love his tenacity on the line, and tough nature. He's been working out at center, and is learning how to snap the ball. After the scrimmage today, Neuheisel said of Walker, "He is learning, and we feel like he is going to be a good football player."

Matt Fountaine – After the first day of spring ball, I approached coach Snow and asked him his impressions his guys in the secondary. At that time, he was already convinced that Fountaine had a great future. He called him "a quick-learner" and "a true football player." Since that time, Fountaine has done nothing but impress. A player with great instincts and excellent closing speed, his future is as bright as any of the cornerbacks on the team. Top Stories