Coach's Corner

I went by for my first look at the 2005 Huskies and despite great anticipation rules are rules. Since I have gone over to the dark side (IE: "The Media"), I find myself adhering to the strict closed practice regimen that the Dawgs will follow this spring. I will share with you my glimpse of what Tyrone Willingham's team will look like, however, without giving away any trade secrets or competitive advantages.

The first thing I will tell you is that it is a hard reality for someone who just enjoys watching drills, organization, and the teaching techniques that are essential in coaching. It is hard to not get to watch all of the periods of practice. Where some would find it boring, I relish in it, being a former coach.

But I do understand that loose lips sink ships and the less people know about what is going on the lower the expectations are. Consequently, I have just a few things to offer from my observations thus far.

First and foremost; don't expect the quarterback controversy to be settled this spring. I just think it is way too close to call. None of the four or five candidates have separated themselves from the field and probably won't do so until all the variables are factored in. Oregon transfer Johnny DuRocher is right in the mix with Isaiah Stanback, Casey Paus, and Carl Bonnell.

I'm not sure Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano will like it, but I predict that spring will wind up and it will still be anybody's guess as to who will emerge as the starter behind center. It will probably go well into fall camp before the final decision is made. And it could take up to three games for the leader to establish himself. That is not Lappano's style, but that's my prediction.

I have heard a lot of mixed opinions with regard to DuRocher transferring in from Oregon, but I can assure you he is every bit as polished as the others. He also was a proven winner in high school. The argument normally goes, "Yes, but he wasn't even the starter at Oregon." Well, when Troy Aikman transferred from Oklahoma to UCLA, he wasn't the starter in Norman either. He proved to be a pretty good player. Not to compare DuRocher to Aikman, just pointing out similar situations.

The quarterback position is a very political one and there was no question that politics were at play last year. This year, the nod will go to the guy that can make the best decisions and put the ball into the right places as directed and taught by Lappano. It won't be the guy that throws the prettiest ball, but the one that throws the ball that makes the most sense.

Also, you have to believe that all of the quarterbacks will be considerably better simply because the wide receivers will be tremendously improved. New Husky Receivers Coach Eric Yarber will prove to be a really valuable addition to the Husky offense. After visiting with him I came away with the opinion that he is very pleased with the potential of his group of receivers. Most of them got valuable experience playing last season, even if they probably weren't quite ready to play. Corey Williams returning is huge and he is probably going to be the best of the group.

I wish I could say the same thing for the tight ends, but honestly that position is still very shaky at best. With the move of Joe Toledo and Jason Benn to tackle, I think this is a position that really needs some new bodies put into the mix. The kids who can catch and run have trouble holding the point of attack when blocking – that is where Toledo's move will probably hurt most.

I watched the offensive line through some drills and they all look bigger and stronger. They are obviously responding well to their new coach, Mike Denbrock. It would appear that there is adequate depth and that there is enough bulk and size to push people around in the running game.

In watching the backs, it became clear that all look much better than they were last year. Watch out for Louis Rankin and big Johnny Kirton. They look like they will be factors. Rankin has been the quickest back in the fold since arriving, and Kirton is a bus. I think both have a great shot of helping next fall.

I deliberately just watched the offense because that is the area where the Huskies are going to have to improve the most. In doing so, I can see that this Husky offense is not going to turn the ball over like they did last year. Fumbles and drops will not be tolerated.

Fumbling the football is almost the biggest sin in the Willingham program for skill position athletes. Drop the rock and you'll be standing next to the coach on the sidelines. Ball leverage is a big deal with Coach Willingham, and there is no doubt that the players are very aware of its importance. Fumbling is primarily due to a lack of concentration and I can assure you that there is much attention to detail with this coaching staff.

So what do I think we will see offensively come fall? That is the beauty of this. Lappano could run anything at defenses, but it's no secret that he's had success with a 1-back quick passing game, and would love to mix some two-back west coast-style running and passing. I would think that the shotgun will be more of a staple than it's been in the past as well. That would make this offense very much a hybrid of multiple styles, and very difficult to prepare for. I doubt you'll see much option, but you'd better be able to defend it or Lappano is liable to spring it on you.

Whatever they do, you can bet it will all be built around the concept of ball leverage first. And it is for this reason that I really think turnovers will be one of the true measurements of the Coach Willingham's first year. If Washington protects the ball and creates turnovers with their defense, then they will have a great chance at a winning season.

Next time, I'll watch the defense.


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