Post-spring awards

Well, after numerous recounts (with a few dangling chads for good measure), has come up with their post-spring awards. We have 10 categories and only two unamimous choices, so the opinions here vary just a little bit. What are your picks?

Joe Kaiser - Contributing writer

1) Most Improved Offensive player - Tusi Sa'au, guard. Sa'au moved himself into the starting role at weak guard during much of the spring, ahead of Aaron Butler. He missed some action due to a slight injury at the tail end of the spring, but managed to open the eyes of the coaching staff with his strength and determination.

2) Most Improved Defensive player - Junior Coffin, defensive lineman. Coffin, who had played very little in his first three years at the UW, came on this spring while Josh Miller was out with a back injury. He impressed head coach Rick Neuheisel enough to work his way onto the first-team unit at times, playing ahead of senior Jerome Stevens.

3) Biggest surprise Offensive player - Ty Eriks, fullback. Eriks was able to play at what he calls his 'natural' position, and excelled. In his two years at Montlake, Eriks has already seen time at running back, safety and linebacker, but given the chance to return to fullback, his high school position, he did a terrific job blocking, running up-field and catching the ball out of the backfield.

4) Biggest surprise Defensive player - Jimmy Newell, free safety. Finally healthy this spring, Newell came on like gangbusters. As one of the veterans of the secondary, he came up with several big hits and also put his hands on display with quite a few interceptions. His starting job at free safety appears as safe as ever heading into 2003.

5) MVP Offense - Reggie Williams, receiver. Reggie is Reggie. He never seems to slow down or go half-speed no matter the circumstance. That was no different this spring, as the junior brought a more outspoken approach to the field and simply couldn't be stopped. He led the team in receptions and yardage in each scrimmage, and came down with the catch of the spring on a diving, one-handed grab amidst double-coverage.

6) MVP Defense - Matt Fountaine, cornerback. It's scary to hype a redshirt freshman, but Fountaine simply stood out far more than any other player on the defensive side of the ball. He had the most pass breakups among those in the secondary, and seemed to come down with an interception in each practice. His play this spring indicates he's just about ready for the big time.

7) Coach MVP for spring - Phil Snow, cornerbacks, co-defensive coordinator. Snow's new disciplinary measures and organized approach was the talk of the spring for those lucky enough to be inside the 'Husky circle.' The defense, particularly the secondary, raved about the new ideas that Snow was implementing. He, more than any player, could be the biggest difference in the Husky team in 2003.

8) Hustle award - Tyler Krambrink, SAM linebacker. Krambrink left it all out on the field in his final spring as a Husky. The fifth-year senior always seemed to be a the right place at the right time. In the first practice where the backup quarterbacks were fair game, he raced around the edge to blind-side Casey Paus for a big-time sack. He also proved to be a nemesis to the quarterbacks in the air, coming down with at least two interceptions this spring.

9) Big hit award - Greg Carothers, SAM linebacker. A new position for Carothers didn't prevent him from living up to his reputation as a hard-hitter. He laid several of the best hits of the spring - some legal, some extra-curricular - at his new linebacker position. Though not crazy about his new spot on the field, he didn't let that stop him from dipping his shoulder pads down and knocking players on their cans.

10) Biggest impact redshirt-freshman come fall of 2003 - Matt Fountaine, cornerback. Fountaine's stock did nothing but rise this April and, with the ever-present injury concerns to cornerbacks Roc Alexander, Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham, he figures to see plenty of action this fall.

Henry Han - Intern

1) Most Improved Offensive player - Ty Eriks, fullback. The knock on Eriks was that he had a hard time catching the ball out of the backfield. Eriks has not only improved his pass-catching abilities, but he has gotten a lot bigger and looks like a natural at fullback. He may have dropped a pass in the Spring Game, but during practices, Eriks was nearly perfect in his fullback plays. While he was only seen sparingly last season, he is definitely due a lot of playing time this season as he splits time with Zach Tuiasosopo.

2) Most Improved Defensive player - Junior Coffin, defensive tackle. Siitupe "Junior" Coffin is definitely ready to be a regular contributor. The emergence of Coffin has made an already talented defensive line much deeper. Coffin sat out of the Spring Game due to a neck injury, but before that, he was earning rave reviews from the coaching staff. It was a back and forth battle between Coffin and Jerome Stevens all spring for the starting DT spot opposite of Terry Johnson. Stevens may be starting now, but Coffin will provide a solid backup in case something does not go as planned.

3) Biggest surprise Offensive player - Tusi Sa'au, guard. During one of the practices, I was looking at the big boys doing their O-Line drills and I couldn't help but notice an unfamiliar number. "Who the heck is # 61?" Tusi Sa'au had overtaken incumbent starter Aaron Butler at the guard spot and looked terrific. Dick Baird, who happened to be at practice that day, was very excited about Sa'au's development. Sa'au injured his ankle during the second scrimmage which may have slowed him down a little, but you can bet the coaches won't forget about him in the fall.

4) Biggest surprise Defensive player - Matt Fountaine, cornerback. Nate Robinson's departure at the beginning of spring drills left a huge question mark at the corner. Matt Fountaine came out of nowhere to have a fantastic spring. Whether he was returning kicks or gunning for the opposition's punt returner, Fountaine had me impressed and excited about his potential. If there is any question to his confidence and skills, you should have seen him routinely match up against Reggie Williams and coming out on top in certain battles.

5) MVP Offense - Reggie Williams, receiver. Williams was the most consistent offensive player all spring. Even when it seemed that all the receivers forgot how to catch a pass on certain days, the Heisman candidate Williams was the one pulling in everything within reach. There was a world of difference in the play of Isaiah Stanback and Casey Paus when they had Williams to throw to. He makes his quarterbacks look so much better and makes defenders look so bad.

6) MVP Defense - Terry Johnson, defensive lineman. The Tank was tearing the offensive line up like a weak Kleenex all spring. If Johnson wasn't going toe-to-toe with guard, he used his lightning fast quickness to already get behind the line of scrimmage. On a certain one-on-one drill, Tank was matched up against Khalif Barnes. It had the makings of an old school Japanese Monster flick. Tank bulldozed Barnes back and had everyone amazed. It is great to see Johnson stepping up as the leader of the defense.

7) Coach MVP for spring - Phil Snow, cornerbacks, co-defensive coordinator. With the exception of Rick Neuheisel, there was no man on the coaching staff that was more visible and had the most intrigue than Phil Snow. The new co-defensive coordinator is a tough cookie. I mean, he wore shorts everyday to practice – even when it felt like Finland outside. Besides his tough wardrobe, he brings toughness to the team and it is starting to rub off. During the spring game, I could hear him bark out assignments to his players from the press box. Snow is a ball of fire that is just what this team needs.

8) Hustle award - Scott Ballew, athlete. He just may be a future "walk-on to scholarship" story in the making. Ballew did nothing but do everything that was asked of him to do. Whether he was playing safety, wide receiver, tailback, or punt returner, Ballew went out there and played like it was his last down. In fact, he was the second leading rusher for the Spring Game with 40-yards on 13 carries. The Austin, Texas native may be lost in the shuffle when all the recruits arrive in the fall, but I am sure he will earn his dues and become a contributor before his career is over.

9) Big hit award - Evan Knudson, placekicker. No joke. Actually, I only listed Knudson because I had nowhere else to list him but felt he needed to be mentioned. Knudson had a great spring. It sure did not look like Knudson has no game-day experience because as Neuheisel mentioned after the Spring Game, the first unit of the field goal team was nearly perfect all spring. Incoming Michael Braunstein may be the starter in fall, but I feel comfortable that Knudson can step up when the freshmen jitters takes a toll on the recruit.

10) Biggest impact redshirt-freshman come fall of 2003 - Kenny James, running back. I am torn. The two freshmen I was most excited about for the spring were both injured. Kenny James and Donny Mateaki will be stars for the Huskies. However, I feel that due to the weakness of our running game and the strength of our defensive line, James will get his chance to shine before Mateaki this fall. His knee will be perfectly fine before Columbus, and even if he does not start that game, James will certainly be back there sooner rather than later.

Chris Fetters - Editor

1) Most Improved Offensive player - Francisco Tipoti, tackle. In terms of improvement, Tipoti emerged from the netherworld known as 'Adis Davtyan Land' to seriously content for the strong side tackle spot. If Tipoti, who came to Washington two years ago after a downright nasty recruiting battle with USC, can contribute at all it would be a turnaround of epic proportions.

2) Most Improved Defensive player - Junior Coffin, defensive lineman. A popular pick. The void left by the back injury to Josh Miller allowed the junior from Silverdale an entire spring to prove his worth and he did. He needs to stay healthy to provide the same backup punch in the fall.

3) Biggest surprise Offensive player - Evan Knudson, placekicker. I remember years ago seeing Evan kick in the Tacoma Dome for North Thurston, wondering who the kid with the leg was. I know now. Evan will give Mike Braunstein all he can handle this fall after going 5-5 this spring and perfect on PAT's. Before spring, the job was Braunstein's by default.

4) Biggest surprise Defensvie player - Ben Warren, MIK linebacker. Ben who? After seven stops in the spring game, hopefully Husky fans got the clue that the RS frosh from Vancouver, Washington plans on hanging around for a while. With Tim Galloway out, Warren showed that he can more than fill a backup role.

5) MVP Offense - Cody Pickett, quarterback. In terms of being the most valuable, is there any question?

6) MVP Defense - Joe Lobendahn, MIK linebacker. This one was harder, because there wasn't that one player that truly made themselves 'valuable' in the Cody Pickett-sense of the term. Lobendahn gets it because of his steady-Eddie approach, his hustle on every play and his ability to make those around him (Carothers and Scott White) a lot better as a result of his play.

7) Coach MVP for spring - Phil Snow, cornerbacks, co-defensive coordinator. Snow has brough the intensity up several notches. Between him and new OL coach Dan Cozzetto, there's been more hitting during this last spring than in all the other springs under Neuheisel combined. And when it comes to the secondary in particular, the tackling, pursuit and communication in the back is 100 better. That's all Snow.

8) Hustle award - Jerome Stevens, defensive lineman and Owen Biddle, strong safety. I pick Jerome and Owen because they are doing their utmost to not only solidify their own spots but also have taken upon themselves the daunting task of picking up the slack in the snapping department. With 'Sauce' on the short snaps and Owen on the long ones, the Huskies may be able to make a smoother transition from Elliott Zajac and Ben Mahdavi than originally thought. THAT'S hustle.

9) Big hit award - Felix Sweetman, quarterback. Very reminiscent of Pat Conniff in the '99 Holiday Bowl, Sweetman literally ran over a UW linebacker during the Spring game and did it with such a resounding thud as to get the whole offense geeked up at his 'sudden impact'. Felix, at 6-2 and 240 pounds, is really a linebacker in a QB's jersey, and he showed why last Saturday. The walk-on from Lakes is one tough hombre.

10) Biggest impact redshirt-freshman come fall of 2003 - Matt Fountaine, cornerback. Big consideration to Brandon Ala here in my opinion, but Fountaine has earned his stripes this spring. He's tenacious, quick, physical, and loves to compete. All the ingredients you need to be a top-notch cover corner. If he doesn't have at least two or three picks this fall, I'll be shocked.

David 'Dawgman' Samek - Publisher

1) Most Improved Offensive player - Tusi Sa'au, guard. Tusi is now a starter and can perhaps introduce that road grading mentality that's been missing. Tusi's emergence was a nice surprise.

2) Most Improved Defensive player - Junior Coffin, defensive lineman. Jerome Stevens needed someone to push him, and Junior did it. With Josh Miller's back on the fritz, Junior picked a great time to step on the gas pedal. Health has been a concern, but no longer.

3) Biggest surprise Offensive player - Ben Bandel, tight end. Big target that moves well. I thought Ben would be a surfer dude and soft. Well, he ain't soft.

4) Biggest surprise Defensvie player - Scott White, WIL linebacker. This kid was supposed to be too small, not fast enough, and not strong enough. While his speed and strength numbers may lack behind the upper classmen, this kid showed that he's a football player and made plays.

5) MVP Offense - Reggie Williams, receiver. This guy will carry the offense until the running attack arrives. Reggie is the best the Huskies have ever had, and he continued to show it all spring.

6) MVP Defense- Terry Johnson, defensive lineman. If this guy were consistent, he'd be all-american. He's fast, strong, and quick as a cat. Now it's time for him to be consistent. This is the year, because it's probably his last one, but the defense will go as far as Tank can take it.

7) Coach MVP for spring - Phil Snow, cornerbacks, co-defensive coordinator. The corners can play a cover-two zone without looking lost now. Communication and accountability have returned to the secondary, thanks to the new co-defensive coordinator.

8) Hustle award - Scott Ballew, athlete. He played safety, wide receiver, and finally running back. He did all three well and with no complaints. He's ensured that he'll play special teams, at the very least, in 2003.

9) Big hit award - Jim Newell, free safety. Newell belted wide receivers all spring, looking healthy and fast. He is the glue of the secondary. Derrick Johnson was slowed by a nagging injury so Newell assumed the leader role, and did it effectively and with his pads.

10) Biggest impact redshirt-freshman come fall of 2003 - Matt Fountaine, cornerback. He is the number three corner. He's fast, confident, and heady. He'll play a lot and will face a lot of great receivers in the Pac-10. Top Stories