Dawgbytes - 4/9

With nearly 140 former players invited through the Big W Club on hand, the Washington football team practiced under mostly blue skies. The team practiced with referees on hand, scrimmaging for most of practice, but also working on some special teams too. There's been former players at every practice so far this spring, but nothing even close to what Husky Stadium saw on Saturday.

The biggest news of the day was certainly the gathering of former Huskies, old and new. New Head Football Coach Tyrone Willingham wanted to impress upon UW fans right from the start his intent to forge a bond between his players and the players from the past. "In the past it took place in conjunction with the spring game, so there was no opportunity to be intimate with the team," he said Saturday before practice. "Today, it'll be just the players and the team...that's it."

And players from all eras were there, from the Bob Schloredts and George Flemings to the Khalif Barneses, spanning over 50 years of Washington football. Head Basketball Coach Lorenzo Romar was also spotted walking along the track and watching practic. Through an effort spearheaded by the Big W Club's Greg Lewis, the sheer number of players seen on Saturday rivaled any reunion or meeting ever put together to date. Here's a partial list of former Huskies in attendance:

Bob Schloredt, Spencer Marona, Spider Gaines, Steve Hoffman, Chris O'Connor, Leon Neal, Paul Arnold, Mario Bailey, Dennis Brown, Bill Cahill, Nesby Glasgow, Russell Hairston, Damon Huard, Brock Huard, Walt Hunt, Brad Hutt, Antwoine Richardson, Mark Lee, Lawyer Milloy, Charles Mincy, Jimmy Newell, Andre Riley, George Fleming, Tom Tenure, Marques Tuiasosopo, Zach Tuiasosopo, John Hart, Pat Conniff, Wes Call, Doug Clarke, Matt DeBoard, Brooks Beaupain, Lincoln Kennedy, Hugh Millen, Khalif Barnes, Warren Moon, Jeff Johnson, Leif Johnson.

Willingham talked about the importance of understanding the past and how it can help move his team forward. "We have a great program because of the former players," he said. "Our strength is our past, and you can't build a great future in my opinion unless you have a great past. Only they can pass on that history and those vivid memories. Our players need to see that, hear that and be a part of that. You want them back to pass on that tradition and be mentors for our young guys so we can have a connection and embrace what Husky football is all about."

While the past and present were heartily embraced Saturday, a possible glimpse to the future was also on hand, as many recruits also watched practice. Those there included Anthony Zackery, Cameron Elisara, Jared Prince, Joel White-Frisbee, Taylor Mays, Jeff Jack, Andy Mattingly, Marcus Rance and Ryan Tolar.

No additional injuries leading up to Saturday's practice, but fullback Dan Foafoa was wearing a neckbrace. Nathan Flowers, Kenny James and Dashon Goldson were new players that were not available.

As far as the present, there were a couple of offense players that took advantage of the stage given them to show what they are capable of. Junior QB Isaiah Stanback was the only QB of the four scholarshipped QB's available to consistently move the offense to scores, using his arm and legs with equal effectiveness. Sophomore transfer Johnny DuRocher had arguably the next best effort from the QB position, but couldn't find the end zone. Senior Casey Paus and sophomore Carl Bonnell each threw one interception, by Desmond Davis and C.J. Wallace, respectively. Paus also got off to a rough start with Mike Mapuolesega batting his first pass down at the line of scrimmage. If there appeared to be one quarterback that got short shrift on repetitions Saturday, it was Bonnell.

The play of Stanback was a little surprising, only because he hadn't been at one-hundred percent, often staying out of team drills up to Saturday's practice. "Even when he wasn't at full activity he was still participating in a majority of the drills," Willingham said of Stanback.

The second player to take advantage of favorable conditions was tailback Louis Rankin. The sophomore from Stockton took a lot of snaps Saturday, as Kenny James was on the sideline wearing red. He broke off a few nice runs off-tackle and seemed to have the best burst through the hole of any running back. Johnie Kirton also received a generous amount of snaps and the redshirt-frosh from Mill Creek showed a distinct propensity for always falling forward and gaining yardage. But in short-yardage situations, like a first-and-goal drill from the five, four Kirton runs could not dent the first-team defense.

New Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano had to be happy with how his offense kept the ball off the turf. The pigskin was dropped only once, on a poor exchange with number-five QB Felix Sweetman.

The first-teamers on defense looked a little different, as Joe Lobendahn, Scott White and Dashon Goldson were all unavailable. Manase Hopoi and Mike Mapuolesega were inside, flanked by Brandon Ala and Greyson Gunheim. The linebackers were Daniel Howell, Kyle Trew and Evan Benjamin. Roy Lewis and Matt Fountaine have the cornerback positions well in hand, while Wallace and Mesphin Forrester started out at safety. Ala and backup Caesar Rayford had very nice practices, getting around end or shooting through gaps with regularity. Backup DT Wilson Afoa also showed hints of brilliance with his play inside.

On offense, Rob Meadow and Chad Macklin were the number-one tackles, Tusi Sa'au and Clay Walker the number-one guards and Brad Vanneman anchored things at center. Sonny Shackelford, Charles Smith, Craig Chambers and Anthony Russo worked with the ones from their receiver spots, while Rob Lewis was the number-one tight end.

Willingham, when asked about the three major pre-spring moves - Cody Ellis to receiver, Joe Toledo to tackle and Ty Eriks to fullback - said that the jury is still out on Ellis' move, but that the moves of Toledo and Eriks are 'absolutely' the right moves for the team.

It's a circumstance Willingham is very familiar with, having been switched from quarterback to receiver just five days before the first game of his senior season at Michigan State in 1976. "It wasn't my choice, I was told," he said. "But it ended up being a big year for me." Besides catching passes, Willingham also was a return man for the Spartans, as well as holder and also tried to block kicks.

Special teams not-so special: The kickers had trouble today in the wind, as Evan Knudson, Mike Braunstein and Michael Book struggled for consistency. All missed from 39, Book twice from that yardage. On a kick from 48, Braunstein couldn't get the ball past the end-line. Knudson did make his second attempt from 39.

Not-so-special, part II: Shelton Sampson, Cody Ellis and Anthony Russo all took turns at punt return. Sonny Shackelford was also back there, but had to put on red after getting knocked out of practice earlier on. There was no work done on kickoffs. Mapuolesega, who worked as a short-snapper in 2004, did both long and short snaps during special teams work Saturday.

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