2005 Pre-Spring Football News and Notes

There's plenty to be curious about as new Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham and his hand-picked staff of assistants go to work starting this Thursday to resurrect a once-proud football program mired in the depths of a 1-10 2004 fall campaign. Here's news and notes from Montlake as Willingham and company go about the task of bringing UW football back into the land of the living.

But for the first time in a while, there was the sense Tuesday that it was actually time for football, and not for something that was happening at Washington that had a tangential connection to football. There are no more lawsuits to talk about, no more internal probes into ethical or 'cultural' concerns to take away focus. As it is with D1 colleges across the country during this time of the year, the Huskies are set to buckle their chinstraps and worry about their job on the field for a change.

"It's exciting to be at this phase of our program," Willingham said. "When we started this, spring practice probably wasn't the last thing on my mind, but it was close. We're eager to get started, as I hope our young men are. They've been doing all the things you need to do to prepare for football and I hope they are eager to start up again."

First of all, here's the 2005 UW Pre-Spring Depth Chart, as announced by Willingham Tuesday.

2005 UW Pre-Spring Depth Chart

There are three players that are out indefinitely for spring because of injury: Erick Lobos (foot), Donny Mateaki (foot) and Trenton Tuiasosopo (injuries sustained during bike accident).

That means the rest of the team is healthy enough to take part in 'something' (Willingham's word).

Bobby Whithorne has left the program, but has not enrolled anywhere as of now. Clarence 'Dre Simpson is 'away from the team' (Willingham's phrase), and there is a chance he would be back with the team this fall. Nothing more is known than that.

The three main moves this spring are Ty Eriks (DE to FB), Joe Toledo (TE to WT) and Cody Ellis (CB to WR). Jason Benn is also at WT and Jordan Reffett was moved back to NT, backing up Jordan White Frisbee. "For the most part, those changes were made because the player asked

Cornerback Chris Handy, who is in the process of transferring from Nevada, was not able to make it in for spring practice.

Willingham also named former Notre Dame punter Joey Hildbold as a defensive graduate assistant, replacing Patrick Reddick and completing his 2005 staff. Kyle Benn, who was the offensive graduate assistant last year, was retained for the same position this coming year by Willingham. A 2003 graduate of Notre Dame, Hildbold will work with Washington's defensive coaches, preparing game plans and coordinating the team's defensive coaching efforts. Hildbold finished his career ranked sixth in Notre Dame history with a 40.3 yards-per-punt average. Hildbold twice earned pre-season All-America honors from Street and Smith's, and was a two-time semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top collegiate punter.

He also announced that Steve Emtman, who worked as Pete Kaligis' strength and conditioning assistant, would continue on in much the same role he's been doing, although Willingham stopped short of saying that Kaligis' position as head strength and conditioning coach had been filled.

"Steve has stepped into that role, but there hasn't been a final decision made," said Willingham. "We're being patient about the process. It's something that not only affects the football program but the whole Athletic Department, and we want to make a great choice. Steve has shown himself very well at this point, but we're not ready to make a decision yet."

Spring schedule: The Huskies will have practice on March 31st, April 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 19th and the 21st. Spring game will be Saturday, April 23rd at 12:45PM. The game will be broadcast by KJR Radio (AM 950). Weekday practices will be at 4PM, while Saturday practices will either be from 2-4PM or 11:30-1:30PM.

Simmons' extra duties: It was assumed that the final coach hired to Willingham's staff - Bob Simmons - would be coaching tight ends as well as coordinating the special teams, and Tuesday that was made official. Simmons was a Head Coach for Oklahoma State from 1995 to 2000 and was Willingham's linebackers coach the pas three seasons.

Early to rise: While practices will be during the afternoons, position meetings will not be. In fact, they will be held at 6:30AM. "It works well with their class schedules," said Willinham. "We have very few conflicts that early in the morning."

A closer look: While looking at the personnel breakdown, Washington lost only three starters from 2004's team - Ryan Brooks, Sam Cunningham and Derrick Johnson. The Huskies have 63 lettermen returning; 29 on offense, 31 on defense and three on special teams. They lost 17 from last year. They have ten players returning with three letters; QB Casey Paus, RB Chris Singleton, FB James Sims, Jr., FB Ty Eriks, OT Joe Toledo, C Brad Vanneman, OG Tui Alailefaleula, DT Manase Hopoi, LB Joe Lobendahn, and OLB Evan Benjamin. This year's team accounted for 205 of the 242 possible offensive and defensive starts in 2004.

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