Dawgbytes - 4/18

While Tyrone Willingham is getting his Washington football team prepared for their annual Spring Game this Saturday, he's still getting used to his new routine as the Huskies' head coach. In fact, he hasn't even fully moved into his new home yet. So he understands that some patience is involved when acclimating one's self to a new way of doing things.

"Someone said the other day that you judge your progress in a new home by how many cars you can get in your garage," Willingham said Monday. "We still have a lot of boxes in our garage."

To take the analogy one step further, the Washington football program has no cars in it's garage yet. The coaches are still evaluating and teaching, and the players are adapting to a new system and a new attitude.

"I saw a group that needed a little more structure, a little more direction," Willingham said, harkening back to his first days on campus. "Things weren't going well around them and I don't know if they responded all that well either. I wasn't deceived by what I saw. I came in and took our own look."

If you wanted to look at a microcosm of the 'garage' analogy as it applies to the team, you don't have to look any further than at quarterback. On the surface it appears that the QB cars are going to be sitting on the side of the road for a while, at least until the fall.

Willingham said that all four scholarshipped quarterbacks - Casey Paus, Isaiah Stanback, Carl Bonnell and Johnny DuRocher - are still in the running, getting as close to an equal amount of reps as was promised in the spring. "As a coach, you want them to still all be in the mix, because it's hopefully competition that brings out the best in everyone," he said. "So the more competition we can create, the better off we'll be as a football team."

At running back, the situation has started to sort itself out. "They are doing well as a group," said Willingham. "I think that there have been a few guys that have shown a little bit more than others. (Louis) Rankin is one of those players. (Ty) Eriks has shown himself well. (James) Sims has shown himself well. (Kenny) James has shown himself well. And the other guys, on occasion, have shown themselves well but those seem to have been a little more consistent than some of the other guys." Willingham also added Johnie Kirton as another back that has had a good spring.

Both Kirton and Sims are still getting reps at both fullback and tailback, with no positions set in stone yet.

Even after Saturday's scrimmage, the tight ends have not shown enough for Willingham to single out one player over another. "They are still as scrambled as they have ever been," he said about the position, also noting that there are things where the fullback and tight end position can be 'somewhat interchangeable' within the offensive system they are implimenting.

The cornerbacks, with only three scholarshipped players at those two positions, is an area where an immediate infusion of depth is required, and Willingham is hopeful that Chris Handy and Qwenton Freeman can fit that bill. "We've had some bumps in the road, but as of right now they are still scheduled to be here come the fall," he said of the academic progress made by Handy, Freeman and Marlon Wood, but would not comment on specifics.

Willingham expects that Josh Okoebor, who suffered an ACL tear last year, will not be hampered by his knee injury this coming fall. But the trainers are having the JC transfer take it easy this spring. "Most days he's done most everything but full contact," Willingham said. "We've limited what he's done."

Ultimately, the conversation traversed back from individuals to team. "First, we wanted to get the system down," Willingham said when asked about where progress has been made this spring. "That was one of the goals and we've made tremendous progress there. But I still think we are making too many mental mistakes. And all it takes is one to make too many, especially at the wrong time. We've made progress in our attitude in how we practice and how go about playing Husky football. Are we as physical as I'd like us to be? No, not yet, so we need to continue to grow and get better."

And part of getting better means better players. Recruiting is an area that Willingham has addressed concurrently with spring ball, inviting all prospective players to come out to as many practices as they want to. "Having numbers is great, but it's nice to have the right guys and I think we've done that on some of our opportunities for them to get here," he said. "That's more the focus than just the numbers."

In the past the Huskies have run a junior day as part of their Husky Spring Game experience. That won't be happening this Saturday, although Willingham did say that the Huskies Washington have another junior day planned for later in the spring. "We'll try to devote all of our attention as a staff to our current team and their families and guests," he said. "We encourage our recruits to be here, but it will not be a junior day for us."

In attendance: Despite the sunny skies, not very many people were at UW's Monday practice, a non-padded affair. Trenton Tuiasosopo was there, as well as former UW Head Coach Jim Lambright.

Special teams update: What did Willingham think of his special teams after Saturday's scrimmage? "The actual protection was good in our punts," he said. "Coverage was good, the kicking was suspect and kick coverage was pretty solid." This appears to be a bit of an improvement, at least in his eyes, but nowhere close to where it needs to be. "When I was brought in I was told all the special teams were terrible, so I still have my same level of concern," he added.

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