Dawgbytes - 9/29

The face of UW football continues to change. At the beginning of the season, it was clear who was up front - Charles Frederick, Zach Tuiasosopo among the players expected to lead. After an injury-riddled performance Saturday at Notre Dame, new players will be expected to step up on the road at Stanford, and it won't be easy.

Case in point - redshirt frosh receiver Charles Smith, inserted into the two-deeps Monday, dislocated his finger during the very first period of practice. "We popped it back in and he was fine, but that's the way it's been going," Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson said Wednesday afternoon.

The last time the Huskies tripped to Palo Alto, Marques Tuiasosopo engineered a miraculous comeback win. There will be no Tuiasosopo mojo to rely on this coming weekend, as both Zach and Trenton Tuiasosopo will not travel with the team. Zach broke his fibula Saturday and an MRI came back showing severe tendenitis in Trenton's knee. "It's kind of like what Derrick (Johnson) and Jimmy Newell have," said Gilbertson. "It flares up from time to time."

Johnson and Manase Hopoi were expected to practice Wednesday after sitting out earlier in the week. Offensive lineman Tusi Sa'au had a normal day off Wednesday, while Mike Mapuolesega and Eric Roy were also held out. Juan Garcia is not improving like the trainers want him to, so he will not travel.

"It was a pretty serious injury and he's trying like heck to get back, but he reached a plateau," Gilbertson said of Garcia. "He wasn't really getting any better, so the trainers have held him back."

Frederick, slowed by a hamstring injury, is not expected to travel. "I'm going to say it's 99.9 percent sure he's out," Gilbertson said of the senior wideout from Florida. "If a guy doesn't get good reps by Thursday he won't be ready to contribute and play, and he's not there. He still looks awfully stiff and sore to me."

One player that could see action is quarterback Isaiah Stanback. "He still limps when he practices, but he'll be available Saturday," Gilbertson said of Stanback.

In a strange twist, nearly all of the major injuries have been to offensive players. "We aren't going to run a whole new offense," Gilbertson said, when asked how those injuries will affect Washington's gameplanning. "We aren't going to be something you've never seen. I think when you watch us, you'll see what you've been seeing. You hope that plugging new guys in will be sufficient."

The back end of the playbook won't be looking very dog-eared this week. Apparently the Huskies' new offensive strategy is based on the KISS method - Keep It Simple, Stupid. "I think you kind of have to, for a lot of reasons," Gilbertson said when asked about simplifying the offensive strategy. "One is the age of the people you have. I don't think you can go with the kind of playlist we've run the last couple of years. The amount of offense we have is considerable, and to expect them to be good at all of it is not reasonable. We are trying to get good at a few things so when they leave the practice field they feel like they can go to a game and perform elements of your offense."

Stanford played toe-to-toe with the number-one team in the country - USC - last week. Gilbertson saw some things the Trojans were able to do to come back in the second half and pull out a 'w'.

"Their skill kids, particularly (Steve) Smith, made some big plays," he said. "And the second half, SC's defense stepped up. When they say it's time to stop, they are talented enough to make that happen. They are very impressive. I also thought SC's offensive line played very well in the second half."

Is it a blueprint for success? Maybe if you are wearing red and yellow. For the men in purple and gold, some new names will have to emerge. One of them just might be fullback James Sims. The junior from Las Vegas will play a key role in any offensive success the Huskies hope to have. He's shown he can handle it in scrimmages - can he step up to the next level and prove that success wasn't a fluke?

"I think he's a tailback at fullback," Gilbertson said of Sims. "He's going to have to develop, he doesn't really have a choice. He's playing."

The other keys offensively will rest in the hands of a quarterback making his first start, as well as a receiving corps that just became a heck of a lot younger with Frederick and Corey Williams not available.

Sonny Shackelford or Bobby Whithorne will start at the 'z' receiver, Quintin Daniels at the 'x', and Anthony Russo leading the way from the slot. Craig Chambers and Charles Smith are also traveling and just might see the first action of their young careers.

Chambers has been the real enigma at receiver. The redshirt frosh from Mill Creek was the top-rated recruit at that position two years ago, but has done little since arriving at Montlake to think he's the next Reggie Williams. "He hasn't perfected his routes probably as rapidly as other people and hasn't made the plays that others have made," Gilbertson said when asked why Chambers' development hasn't been as fast as some expected it would be.

But the biggest question mark remains at quarterback. Carl Bonnell will make his first career start on the road, something that has produced mixed results in the past. Billy Joe Hobert is the only QB in recent UW history to make his first career start at Stanford, and he played like he owned the place. Bonnell doesn't possess Hobert's trademark cockiness, but Gilbertson believes the redshirt frosh from Kent won't be awed at all by his surroundings.

"He'll be excited about playing, but he's a pretty steady guy," Gilbertson said of Bonnell. "And I'd say the same about Casey (Paus). I think he'll grow with this experience. He'll be going up against a good defense, and it'll be good for him."

Other UW quarterbacks that have won their first starts on the road include Cary Conklin (at Purdue), Steve Pelluer (at Oregon), and Tom Flick (at Washington State). Those who weren't as successful include Warren Moon (at Arizona State), Shane Fortney (at Arizona State) and Bob Schloredt (at UCLA).

There might be a shakeup on special teams Saturday. Evan Knudson, feeling one-hundred percent after being diagnosed with mononucleosis, will travel with Mike Braunstein and Sean Douglas. "He's been kicking the ball really well on kickoffs and I have confidence in him punting the ball too," Gilbertson said of Knudson. "And he just looks a lot healthier. He's got some bounce back and he's kicking a lot better."

Gilbertson loves the way Douglas can create touchbacks for the other team, but is also concerned with his inconsistency. So far the Huskies have given the opposition three possessions starting at the 35-yard line, something Gilbertson wants to avoid in the future. "Sean will kick off first, and if we feel like Evan can give us what we are looking for, I won't hesitate to give him a chance to kick," he said.

Dawgman.com Top Stories