Dawgbytes - 9/16

With a high of 62 and showers expected, UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell can be almost assured a typical Northwest greeting as his Bruins travel north to take on Washington in an early-season Pac-10 skirmish. But having been a coach at Washington, I'm sure Dorrell has his rain gear already packed.

"Whatever comes, comes," Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson said Thursday. "We've been out there all week in it. Does that help us? I couldn't tell you. Both teams have to go out and play in it."

One extra weapon Gilberton may have at his disposal is tight end Joe Toledo. The big man from Encinitas, California has practiced all week and is ready to get in his first football action in some time. He will move ahead of Dash Crutchley in the two-deeps behind starter Jon Lyon.

Joe Toledo will back up Jon Lyon Saturday. "I'd like to get him a few snaps, but I don't have a set number in mind. He's been here four years and is the most experienced guy at the position, so you'd like to play him. But at the same time, he's also missed a lot of work. He hasn't been able to stay healthy."

Gilbertson sees Toledo's presence as a bonus, not a given. "We played most of the year without him last year and we've got a lot of confidence in Jon Lyon too," he said. "And we think (Ben) Bandel will reappear here sometime."

The big offensive question-mark this week has been Isaiah Stanback. Will he play, won't he play? Will he even suit up? Gilbertson furnished one answer Thursday.

"He's hardly taken any reps, but he will suit up," he said of the sophomore signal-caller from Garfield.

With the tumultuous week-plus at quarterback, the play of the running game will be key. Can Kenny James be the workhorse Gilbertson envisions he can be? "I don't think he's had enough carries, he hasn't had enough games," Gilbertson said of James. "Rich Alexis was the starter last year and he and Shelton (Sampson) were the backups. He just hasn't had enough games under his belt. I think he's capable of carrying it a lot of times, but we also have capable backups."

Casey Paus will start the game at QB Saturday for the Huskies. That much is an empirical fact. But the 'x' factor will be (as it was against Fresno State) - who will step up at the wide receiver position to compliment Charles Frederick?

"One game is not going to give me all I need to know about them," Gilbertson said when asked about his receiving corps. "They are all young guys and it can take years to put it together unless you are a Reggie Williams. It takes them a while to mature, get stronger, be able to handle things like bump and run, reading coverages, adjusting routes, sight adjusts - I don't know if a guy can learn it in one year. Reggie was an exceptional guy, and not everybody has that kind of skill.

"I think Anthony Russo has some talent and I think Corey Williams does too. But they are both young guys who haven't played a lot."

While the wind and rain forcasted for Saturday afternoon could play havoc with the passing game, there's no question the special teams will be at its mercy.

"I think the weather may have an impact on the kicking game this weekend," Gilbertson said. "I know we have been out there practicing in it this week and there have been some really tough winds. Sometimes you're kicking with it and sometimes you're kicking against it."

Does Michael Braunstein, who is now the Huskies' number-one placekicker, have what it takes to make one from deep? "He's only kicked in one game," Gilbertson said of the redshirt freshman from Arizona. "He certainly has a good leg, but can he go back and kick like what John Anderson's range was? Probably not. John came in as a freshman and could make 50-yarders in the wind, and it was like ho-hum. Last year we were reluctant to try a lot of long field goals. But the weather will play a part in that. Mike's getting the ball up nice and has been consistent in practice."

Don't expect to see punter Sean Douglas - who has the strongest leg on the team - to get the nod if a try is out of Braunstein's reach. "We tried that last year several times and we had to try and get the ball removed from the backs of the offensive linemen," Gilbertson said with a smile. "The ball didn't get real high."

So when it comes to kicking and punting in less-than-ideal conditions, Gilbertson certainly looks toward kickers that have experience dealing with that kind of adversity.

"When I was at Cal I recruited a player named Ryan Longwell, who is still kicking (in the NFL)," he said. "He was from Oregon, and I watched him kick on Fridays in the Oregon weather and he was really impressive. Sometimes I think that if you recruit kickers from other areas it can be misleading. I think Braunstein has adjusted to it and Evan (Knudson) is from here so he knows it. And (Sean) Douglas is from Nebraska, and I know it can't always be a sunny day in Nebraska to kick in."

Those looking for sun inside Husky Stadium Saturday better rethink their choice of ensemble.

Dawgman.com Top Stories