Dawgbytes - 9/28

The Washington Huskies went back to work again this week, this time in preparation for another road battle - this time a conference tilt in Palo Alto, California against Stanford. A win for the Huskies would quell dissention in the fan ranks, as the spectre of 1969's 1-9 record hangs precariously in the distance.

And a lot of pressure has been put squarely on the shoulders of freshmen - redshirt and true - that will be playing against the Cardinal. Fourteen first and second-year players are currently in the Huskies two-deeps, and with injuries to Charles Frederick, Zach Tuiasosopo, Mike Mapuolesega and Corey Williams the team becomes even younger.

"You go to church hoping that there really is a heaven," UW Head Coach Keith Gilbertson said Tuesday about the dilemma faced when playing so many inexperienced players. "You hope that when you play young guys and don't have a lot of success that they are resilient enough to come back, keep at it and maybe by going through some adversity they become a good group. There's no substitute for experience in this game. The experience pays dividends down the road. We have good young players. There are some areas where we need to improve personnel-wise.

"Kids don't come to Washington to play football not expecting a degree of success, and these guys are no different. They are working like crazy to be good players and are not giving in. No one promised them it would be easy."

The irony of playing Stanford this weekend is apparent. Just three years ago, Buddy Teevens was hired in the hopes he could keep things going after Tyrone Willingham went to Notre Dame. What happened was two sub-par seasons and not a ton of hope that Teevens was the man for the future on the Farm.

But right now, the Cardinal are 2-1, losing a close contest at home against number-one USC this past weekend. Their confidence appears high and Gilbertson knows they have a lot of weapons surrounding QB Trent Edwards.

"You can see three years of recruiting and hard work paying off," he said when asked about Stanford. "I know those guys went through some tough times and for two years people doubted whether or not they knew what they were doing or could get it done. Now you see a fine-looking football team."

His own team went through a non-padded practice with emphasis on offensive, defensive and special teams gameplaning introductions. "Since we practice late Monday night, the coaches go Sunday night until late and they get all day Monday until 6 to work on it, so we get a lot of hours to work on a gameplan prior to showing it to the athletes," said Gilbertson.

On the injury front, Derrick Johnson and Manase Hopoi are a little dinged up but are expected to be ready Saturday. Trenton Tuiasosopo had an MRI on his knee Monday, the results of which should be known after practice Tuesday. "As he was getting on the bus I noticed that he was limping pretty heavily," said Gilbertson. "We want to be very cautious about it."

Will the true frosh from Mariner High have an opportunity to get his year back? "You can never say one-hundred percent, but I'm guessing he and Corey (Williams) would both have an opportunity to use their redshirt years," Gilbertson said. Williams broke his wrist against Notre Dame and has already had season-ending surgery.

Because of Williams' injury, expect Craig Chambers to travel with the 64-man squad this weekend.

Don't be surprised to see Evan Knudson punting or kicking-off Saturday, as Sean Douglas has not been able to successfully duplicate his practice punting prowess in real-game situations. Right now Douglas is 87th in the country with a 36.22 yard-per-punt average. "Sean continues to impress the hell out of us in practice with towering, booming punts with 4-plus (second) hang-time," said Gilbertson. "We really haven't seen it in a game. Since it's his first year as a punter, we think it will come, but don't be surprised to see Evan do some punting or kicking off like he did at Notre Dame. It was a good kick, down to the one-yard line."

In Gilbertson's mind, is it mechanics or mental for Douglas? "He's improved his mechanics a lot," Gilbertson said. "It'll come. He's a young guy. We would have loved to have redshirted him last year, but he was our best kickoff guy by far. Also, if you have never sat back there and had eight to ten SOB's comin' at you - it's not a lot of fun."

With Carl Bonnell being named the starting quarterback Monday, Gilbertson said that former starter Casey Paus should also expect to play. "Casey will get lots of reps," he said. "He's ready to play."

Isaiah Stanback is still a question mark. "He says he's ready to play, but I don't see it," Gilbertson said. "I still see a noticeable limp when he runs. He says he feels better on it, but he still looks injured to me."

Even though Bonnell will be starting his first game for the Huskies this Saturday, Gilbertson doesn't expect the redshirt frosh from Kent to be rattled. "He seemed more nervous during the first couple of scrimmages than he was Saturday at Notre Dame," Gilbertson said. "I think that experience will be good for him. We are looking for a steady performance. We're looking for a spark and some energy in our offense. With his ability to run and his quick release - he can do it. But he's also a redshirt freshman and there's going to be some moments where it won't be comfortable for him, but I have a lot of faith in him and a lot of faith in Casey, and when Isaiah is healthy he will improve. I'm not panicked about it."

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