Dawgbytes - 4/21

Washington's spring football culminates Saturday in the playing of the annual Spring Game. And as new UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham promised, he is going to do everything he can to have his team play an actual game. He talked Thursday about the subtle changes in format and what happens to the team after Spring Game is over.

The Game format will consist (barring any last-minute changes) of 4-12 minute quarters of running time, with the second and fourth quarters running in regulation time for the final two minutes. There will be time outs for injury or at the officials' designation.

The purple and white squads have already been randomly split up by Willingham. No starters have been announced. "What we're hoping for is competition, because most areas of this football team are undecided," he said. "Hopefully we've got an improved enthusiasm, improved hustle, improved drive, improved tenacity about the way we play the game. And if it's not there we better get it there come the fall."

Willingham went on to add that he feels all those intangibles are things that can be taught. "Those things can be ingrained," he said. "I've liked the way we've practiced for the last thirteen sessions, the way we've worked."

The kicking game is expected to be used just like you would normally see in a game scenario. "We're trying to establish some sound fundamentals in all of our kicking areas, so we have a strong base to go into the season with," Willingham said when asked about progress being made in the kicking game. "From the kickers to the protection to the snappers, we're trying to work and single out the individual aspects of those areas so we can get some strength there. There's some awareness there, but I don't know if there's been enough time for all of those things to sink in in a manner that we're comfortable with."

That's where the help of former Notre Dame kicker Joey Hildbold - now at Washington as a Graduate Assistant - should come into play. "What better than to have someone that's done it?" Willingham said of Hildbold. "Most programs around the country have knowledgeable kicking coaches and special teams coaches, but I don't know many of those coaches that have actually kicked and punted in a collegiate football game. I thought that this would give us a real advantage in what we're trying to do in developing players in that area. I thought that was a very strong aspect to add to our program."

Injuries will play a factor into just how much of a normal game fans will see on Saturday. Only Scott White and Joe Lobendahn appear to be spring casualties, but they are piled upon a long list of those wearing red from this past season. Even guard Stanley Daniels, whom Willingham had hoped to see action during spring game, is considered doubtful for Saturday. No one group is feeling the pinch more than on the defensive line, where four linemen continue to sit out nursing various injuries.

"We haven't reached that level of consistency where the coaches are comfortable yet," Willingham said when asked about his defensive front 4. "And you have the guys like (Erick) Lobos, (Donny) Mateaki, (Jasper) Henry and (Dan) Milsten that haven't seen action yet and we can't wait to see how they factor into the mix this fall. If nothing else they can provide additional depth."

So what happens after Spring Game is complete and those UW fans looking for a football fix have to look toward recruiting to satiate their thirst? "As a staff you finish up your spring practice by having conversations with your football team about what took place," said Willingham, adding that coaches will talk to nearly every player from Sunday until the end of school in June. "That should lay the foundation for the work this summer - areas of improvement you need to concentrate on and gives them a good run from now until August 8th or 9th to get things right for this season."

And Olympia? "I'm leaning against it, but nothing has been finalized," he said of the possibility of having fall camp at The Evergreen State College.


Notes:
In attendance: Not many in the crowd today, but Hugh Millen was once again at Husky Stadium, as well as some coaches from PLU.

Will Dre play?: When asked about the status of Clarence 'Dre' Simpson, Willingham said that the junior corner from Sylmar, California is still enrolled but his football future is unclear. "His status remains the same (as before)," said Willingham.

Continuing to Impress When asked about tackle Joe Toledo - who moved from tight end - Willingham appeared satisfied with the senior's progress at his new position. "I've been very pleased by what he's done," said Willingham, adding that he will see time at both tackle spots, as will all the other tackles on the team (Rob Meadow, Chad Macklin, Nathan Flowers, Jovon O'Connor and Jason Benn).

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