Dawgbytes - 4/11

As happy as Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham was with the turnout of former UW players Saturday to their scrimmage, it didn't translate to what happened on the field. But as he would be quick to point out, rare is the day when he leaves the field during spring ball satisfied. When asked how he felt after Saturday's scrimmage, Willingham summed it up in one word - upset.

"I'm usually the one guy who walks off the field unhappy every day," he said. "If the offense does well I'm really not all that excited because that means our defense didn't do that well. If the defense does well I'm pissed that our offense didn't do much. That's just a normal occurance during spring practice, and I'll accept that gladly."

He went a step further, noting that it was the mental mistakes he was most displeased with. "There were far too many of those," he said.

But it was clear that quarterback Isaiah Stanback and running back Louis Rankin had performances that were clearly above their compeition. "He's had a good spring," Willingham said when asked about Stanback. "I was pleased with what Isaiah did. I'm pleased with the progress that he's made while nursing a hamstring. So I'm pleased by that commitment and also his ability on Saturday to get some things done."

And Rankin? "He's explosive, he has speed and quickness," said Willingham. "He's a guy that can shorten the field, and that's what you need on offense - guys that can shorten the field. He's doing things well. But the biggest thing - and this is for all our players - is that they truly understand what they are being asked to do, not just how they do it. I think we're getting a lot of players closer to that point.

"We've still got too many errors, but we like what we're doing and we like the pace that we are on. The goal is perfection. We want to do it right every time. It's impossible for a young man to play with any speed or any confidence if he doesn't know the system. So the first thing we have to do is get them understanding the system. Then they have to execute in the system and then they have to be consistent in that execution. Then we have to start adding in the physical attribute that we need. If we can do that, we can put the package together and we have a chance to be very successful."

Respect for the team at large will have to be earned in the fall, but Willingham and his staff are making sure that the needed in-house respect takes place right now. "We're not going to be out there for five hours," he said. "We're going to be out there for a set period of time, and when you're out there you are expected to hump it. I mean flat-get after it, no matter who you are. Because your coaches are going to do the same thing. We are going to go out there for two hours, we are going to have a plan, we are going to work our plan. That's respect. That's respect for those that play, those that coach and respect for our system."

As disappointed as Willingham may have been with what occurred on the field, he couldn't have been happier about the gathering of former players that went all the way back to the 30's. Those former players got a chance to meet and talk with the current team over barbeque after the scrimmage, and that bonding session had the desired effect.

"It probably exceeded my expectations," Willingham said. "To have upwards of 150 former players come back - and some of them flew in simply for that block of time - illustrated their pride, their confidence and belief in their role in helping these young men be successful. I was extremely pleased with what happened off the field."

Willingham is hoping that those former players that did take the time to see the team know just how important their involvement to the program was, and is. There's no question - there's a rich and proud tradition of football at this university," he said. "And those players represent it. We went back to the 30's (Bud Erickson). That's a real testament. It can't get much better than that."

The head coach hoped that the current players would take their guests' words to heart. "There are so many things that pass you by at the time, you really don't understand what's taking place until it's 10, 15 years down the line," said Willingham. "Those guys can relate to them in such a manner that they don't miss the moment."

And as the afternoon went on, it was clear to Willingham that the former players were truly getting a kick out of the experience. "My first concern was that they wouldn't leave," he said jokingly. "They had a lot of fun and their interaction with this team was something they sought. They are eager to come back and be a part of what takes place in the program."

And the one thing he took from meeting all the former players? "Pride," he said, without hesitation. "You could just feel it, sense it - their pride in being a Husky, how Huskies do things, how they played the game."

No pads: Monday's practice was a non-paded practice, the third non-padded practice of the spring.

Scrimmage injury: The only new injury coming from Saturday's scrimmage was Sonny Shackelford, who went off woozy after a hit. Willingham said he'll be out a couple of days this week.

Faces in the crowd: Trenton Tuiasosopo was out for practice, the first time he's been seen this spring after being in an accident. Trenton looked to be in good shape, but he'll still be out the remainder of spring. Charle Young was also at practice Monday. The former NFL tight end had a son, Charles II, who played under Willingham at Stanford. Brandon Jones, a cornerback from O'Dea, was also in attendance.

Ty talks Tiger: Willingham never golfed with Masters Champion Tiger Woods while Woods was at Stanford, but according to Willingham, "We're friends, I think I can say it that way." Willingham, who is an admitted golf-lover, didn't leave his seat Sunday as Woods pulled out a sudden-death playoff win over Chris DiMarco. "I saw every minute of it," he said.

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