Sa'au hopeful as spring approaches

Will 2004 be the year of the injury? Seems hard to believe this coming season could be any worse than it has been the past few years for the Washington Huskies, but early returns suggest that it's going to be a trying year for Keith Gilbertson and crew to keep the Huskies healthy. And a group that has already been hit hard is the offensive line.

With Dan Dicks announcing his retirement due to bad knees and Robin Meadow already out for spring rehabbing a torn ACL, new OL coach Charlie Dickey is going to be scrambling to find enough big bodies for spring game.

Tusi Sa'au is another offensive lineman that has been battling the injury bug the past year. Ironically enough, the Rainier Beach grad moved from defense to offense right before the 2002 Michigan game because of an injury to another offensive lineman - Elliott Zajac. He battled injuries of his own in 2002, but emerged as the top weak guard on the roster, beating out incumbant Aaron Butler - who eventually left school.

And then it hit again, although this time it was his own back - his lower back - to be exact. After starting 6 of the first 8 games, Tusi's back could no longer go. He was shelved for the Oregon game and eventually the rest of the season, per Gilbertson's fear that any more stress on Sa'au's back could cause permanent damage.

"I'm not really doing mat drills too much, more just rehab," Sa'au told "I'm just trying to get it healthy. It's slowly healing. I just have to get my rehab in and get my muscles strong to keep my back stable."

But don't think Tusi is down about things. In fact, he's more determined than ever to prove he can play through anything. The redshirt junior-to-be knows that he'll be counted on for experience on the line. New OL coach Dickey has already taken the group a step back in their development so that they can take a few steps forward when it comes time to put the pads on in a couple of weeks.

"We've been focusing more on fundamentals, getting back to basic football - grinding, hitting each other, getting our base down - keeping it simple," Sa'au said of the OL's off-season workouts. "So by the time we get there we have it down and have our fundamentals straight. We have to stay tough and we have to hit. We'll be straight.

"The younger guys are putting in the work too, trying to get a spot out there."

So what was Tusi's first impression of the former Arizona line coach? "I think he is a good coach, solid," said Sa'au. "My first impression of him was that was kind of shy, kind of like me."

For Tusi, there's only one more question that remains - is he healthy for spring? Unfortunately for Husky fans, Sa'au can't give them the answer they were hoping for. "All I can do is rehab right now and see where it goes, but I'm hopeful," he said. Top Stories