By the end of this August, new coach Tyrone Willingham will have awarded the starting quarterback position to one of four listed QBs on the roster. As for the wide receivers, talent is severely lacking amongst the upperclassmen; therefore it will be incumbent upon the youngsters to step up and make an impact.
Last year the Husky offense supplied a decades' worth of wrong routes, dropped passes, horrible throws and agonizing interceptions. Oftentimes, the chaotic attempts to simply complete a pass seemed akin to the old cinematic Keystone Cops.
But sophomore wide receiver Cody Ellis is one player who feels ready to step forward and make a contribution in 2005. With blazing speed that in high school won him the state 4A 200-meter title with a time of 22.29, Ellis has seen evidence within himself that he can be a factor on the offense.
"Against Notre Dame I played some special teams," he said. "I was running by their corners, and I could see that there was no difference between them and me in terms of athleticism. Now that I'm playing wide receiver (after switching in mid-season from cornerback), I can say my best attribute is that I've got speed and I can break away from defenders. And my hands are an advantage- I feel I can catch anything thrown to me. All I need now is some more practice and experience."
Ellis also feels very high on fellow wide receiver Craig Chambers, who emerged late in the season and provided a spark of life to an offense that was hideously anemic.
"I think that when Craig came to Washington he just got off on the wrong foot. He red-shirted and wasn't doing a lot in practice. He didn't workout with the others during the summer, and I think he felt like an outsider for awhile… But there was that game against Oregon, when he caught the long pass down the left sideline then jumped up holding the ball above his head, you could see that he got some confidence from plays like that. He's getting better and better. I think we're going to see great things from him."
With the arrival of new head coach Tyrone Willingham, Ellis feels great optimism for the future.
"At times last season I felt a bit forgotten. I felt like I could be doing something for the team but wasn't getting the chance. When coach Willingham was hired, I knew I had to talk with him. But when he first met with the team, I was really nervous. I had seen him on TV as the Notre Dame coach and he always looked so serious and like he never talked or anything. So I was scared that I would say something and he would just glare at me like OK-- What are you gonna say now? But after he met with us I really liked him. He laid down the new team rules right away but you got the feeling that he also has your best interests in mind too."
It was during Willingham's third day on the job that Ellis went to him for a meeting.
Cody Ellis felt edgy as he took a seat across from his third coach in two years and inquired as to what his position would officially be.
Willingham looked directly across the desk at Ellis and spoke with a tone of benevolent authority.
"Well Cody, what position would you like to be at?"
"I can play corner or receiver, it doesn't matter," said Ellis.
"What do you want to do?"
"It doesn't matter coach, I just want to help the team in any way I can."
"Cody, what do you want to do?"
"Uh, well I can play either corner or receiver. Wherever you need me at coach."
"Cody, what do you want to do?"
"Like I said, it really doesn't matter coach, I just want to help the team and to have some certainty. I need an area to focus on this summer in order to get ready for the season."
Willingham was still training his steady gaze upon him, but then altered his approach and asked a different question.
"Well Cody, when you were a little kid, what did you dream of doing on the football field?"
After thinking for a moment, Ellis had his answer.
"Well… I dreamed of catching touchdown passes."
Willingham smiled and nodded. "OK then. We'll start you out at wide receiver. There are no guarantees of course, but this is where we need to have you at right now."
While there are several players still on the Husky team that are feeling some pessimism, Ellis is one of many who are feeling jacked for the season to begin.
"Coach Willingham brings a lot things to our program that I really like," said Ellis. "He brings discipline, which will be good for us. And he's fair. Plus, he's incredibly organized. He posts everything up on the walls for everyone to see what's coming up. He has already given us a schedule for the rest of the year-- everything from spring practice to fall camp and through the regular season schedule to the bowl game practice schedule. We know absolutely everything that will be happening, and I like that. I like to know what is going to be happening ahead of time."
Did he just say bowl game practice schedule?
"Yea, Coach Willingham has got the bowl game practice schedule already planned ahead of time. He's getting us into the mindset that we're going to a bowl game."
Derek Johnson is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Visit with Husky receiver Cody Ellis
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