Dawgman.com Diary - 08/25

The excitement and buzz is back at Montlake as the Washington Huskies get set to kickoff the 2003 campaign in a big way this Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. It seems like it was just yesterday I was watching Purdue take the Huskies to school in El Paso.

But now we start with a clean slate and kickoff is just days away and we will finally see if all the hard work in the offseason and a new man at the helm will result in a better product on the field. Yesterday, we heard from Keith Gilbertson and so today, we will hear what the players have to say about the upcoming game as well as the upcoming season.

As I was waiting for people to talk to, I began looking through some facts and I noticed a startling trend. The last game of the regular season last year closed on the road against the No. 3 team in the nation and this season will open with the No. 2 team on the road. Also, last season opened up on the road in a hostile stadium that seats over 100,000, and so does this season. Is this a big conspiracy? All kidding aside, these are all facts that the players are fully aware of as they step onto the field in the "Horseshoe."

As I was looking for the first person to grab, I saw that new team captain Greg Carothers was standing around with nobody to talk to so I thought I'd head over there and be his new friend for the next three minutes.

"I thought training camp went really well," said Carothers about the week in Olympia. "We got a lot out of our practices and got all the things that we were looking to be getting out of the camp."

As Carothers enters into his senior year at his new SAM position, he knows that the team has a long ways to go to regain the form that can once again make them an elite team. He also knows that even with the absence of Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett, that should now and will not have any effect on how the defense plans on playing on Saturday.

"I think that our plan that we have in is good and we have to practice as if we are defending the entire game and not just one person," Carothers said. "They've got a lot of great running backs so nothing gets easier for us in any way."

However the game turns out though, Carothers knows that it is how you play in your first game that could set the tone of how the next 12 games are going to turn out.

"I think we are mentally a stronger team than we were last year where when we lost to Michigan, it effected us. I don't think that will happen again but if we leave with a win, it'll be a huge win for us."

While the atmosphere and the hostile Buckeye Nation crowd may affect the younger Dawgs, Carothers pointed out that he has worn the purple and gold long enough to not let those things intimidate him anymore.

"It's my senior year and I've been doing this for a while," said Carothers. "I really don't get nervous very easily anymore. I've seen a lot of things and I've played against a lot of great players and so I'm just trying to prepare myself to go in there and do my job."

Huskies cornerback Derrick Johnson has been named to several All-Pac 10 teams by various preseason publications and is anxious to get it all started.

"I'm excited about it," Johnson said about opening things up against such a highly ranked team." I came to Washington to play big-time football and they're giving me an opportunity to play great teams.

"They're a big-time program but they have to realize that we're a big-time program too. It's what the fans like and that's why we like playing big-time football."

Speaking of preseason publications, some people might have thought that Johnson and teammate Roc Alexander may have taken offense to being called "average" by an anonymous Pac-10 source in the Sporting News, but DJ won't let those words interfere with his concentration.

"I don't really read into that kind of stuff," said Johnson. "They're basing those comments off their opinion so I'm just going to go out there and play my game."

Neither Johnson or Alexander will handle Buckeyes two-way superstar Chris Gamble exclusively, and will line up against whoever stands in front of them. With Clarett out of the game, there is some thinking that the Buckeyes will take to the air just a little more than usual to spice things up.

"In the Pac-10, they like to throw the ball anyways so I think we'll be ready to take on anything that they have to offer," said Johnson.

So as I was looking around looking for my next subject, I noticed that Jerome Stevens was wrapping up his conversation with the previous reporter so I had to move in quick before he could sit down and get to his lunch. Because once a hungry lineman gets his hands on some food, no army on earth can get him to completely give his attention to an interview. (I'm kidding Jerome!)

All jokes aside, we all know that this is a HUGE game. You know it, I know it, the Buckeyes know it, and you can bet the Huskies know it as well.

Rich Alexis knows a thing or two about big games. He's played in big games against Colorado, Michigan (twice) and Miami (twice). If anything, Alexis has that experience that none of the other tailbacks have.

"I feel really good going into this season," said Alexis. "I just want to live it up and enjoy every minute that I'm on the field. It's what you work for. We're here now, and we just have to go finish it."

Alexis has had a rough offseason to say the least with the law and even being publicly demoted to as far as the fourth string tailback while in Olympia. Alexis responded well by working hard and reclaiming the top tailback spot to start in Columbus this Saturday.

"It just told me to ‘wake up,'" said Alexis of the demotion. "They (the coaches) are not playing around. If you don't start out fast and get ready to go, you're going to miss the boat so I just knew I needed to pick it up or I'll just be watching so I just had to get myself in shape and just get going.

"I know I was never considered a captain or a leader like that, but I'll always be there for my teammates. I'm just trying to step up and lead by example to the young guys because we are trying to get back to the Rose Bowl. I want to get back there and hopefully we can show that."

With all the hype surrounding the Reggie Williams – Chris Gamble match-up, there is a chance that some people may forget that we have another dangerous receiver playing on the opposite end of Williams. Charles Frederick does not mind at all.

"To me, it's a good thing because they may not know about me and they may not know what I can do," Charles said. "But I know what I can do and the coaches here know what I can do. So I think this is my chance to show everybody what I can do when they man me up one-on-one."

Let's not go too far when we say nobody else knows what E.T. can do. In fact, I have a sense that Gamble himself is pretty familiar with E.T.'s talents.

"He knows what I can do," laughed Frederick. "We played on the same all-star team and we hang out together and talk a lot but I don't think the Buckeye coaches know about me that well but they'll find out soon." (You've got to love the confidence!)

The common theme was that the players have never felt better about a big game and Frederick believes that can be attributed to the fact that the players came out of Olympia feeling better than ever.

"I think this was the best camp that we've had since I've been here because we really got out there and worked hard with everybody going very fast as if it was a game so I think everybody felt that this was a great camp," he said.

"The team has been working very hard for this and my feeling is that it's going to work out for us at the end at Ohio State."

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