Sports Washington spring issue preview

Spring football has come and gone but that doesn't mean the coverage has stopped. In fact, most of the upcoming issue of Sports Washington magazine has the full breakdown of Washington spring football, as well as a recruiting update and interviews with new coordinators Tim Lappano and Kent Baer. If you've never checked out Sports Washington, this might be a good time to see what it's all about!

The newest issue starts out with an editorial from our publisher - David 'Dawgman' Samek. It's a 'Tale of Two Programs'. Here's an excerpt:

"A quick glance in the rear view mirror reveals that it's certainly been both the best of times and the worst of times on Montlake Boulevard.

April is normally an exciting time for football fans, as they follow the progress of their team. This spring, in particular, was to be an exciting time, as a new coach, a new offensive coordinator, and a new defensive coordinator all began to lay the new foundation for the Husky football program.

However, Tyrone Willingham feared too many distractions to his young charges, so he closed practices. All but the first 25 minutes of most practices were not allowed to be watched or reported on by the media or fans. It is a practice Willingham employed at both Stanford and Notre Dame, so it didn't come as a huge surprise. Still, it's hard to generate excitement about a team that went 1-10 last season when you can't see what they are doing. The Iron Curtain is alive and well around Husky Stadium.

Given the lack of any real meaty info this spring, Husky fans can only hope that their team is getting back to where they are expected to be, because they sure didn't catch any glimpses from the final public spring scrimmage, a 3-0 snooze-fest.

Switching gears to a happier topic, the basketball program celebrated a rebirth that began in earnest early in 2004 when the 0-5 Huskies turned their season around and made the NCAA tournament. They culminated that turnaround with one of the most successful seasons in school history, posting a 29-6 record in 2005 and advancing all the way into the Sweet 16. The hoops program is not only on the rise, it has arrived into the upper echelon where elite programs reside."

Next up is a wrap of Washington spring football, including a position-by-position breakdown. Here's a little bit from that wrap:

"Tyrone Willingham opened his first spring as the new Husky head football coach.

"Well, "open" probably isn't the best term to describe it. The first move he made was to close practices to the media and fans, citing that he didn't want any distractions. This is clearly a man on a mission. The mission is to turn around a football program that was once at the top of the conference and has since slid well past mediocrity and fallen into the cellar of the Pac-10. With total support from new school president Mark Emmert and new Athletic Director Todd Turner, Willingham and his new coaching staff embarked on installing their new offensive schemes, new defensive schemes, and mostly a new attitude.

This program will undergo a facelift that will be obvious in many ways. The team comes first. Everything done the Willingham way is done for the purpose of team. Thus you no longer see the long locks of linebacker and team captain Joe Lobendahn. He, as well as teammate Mike Mapu - who once had hair halfway down is back - are now sporting closely cropped cuts. Isaiah Stanback has trimmed his dreadlocks to above his shoulders, and all facial hair is gone from the team.

To go with the attitude adjustment, Washington also entered spring with a lot of football questions in need of answering. To wit:
Who will be the man at quarterback?
How will the offense keep from turning the ball over at a record pace?
How does this team win more games than they lose in 2005?
Who will emerge at cornerback to replace two starters?
Who will replace Khalif Barnes at weak tackle?"

Next, in an article entitled 'Getting offensive about spring', new Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano breaks down the UW offense. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"When we come back to camp in August, our guys will know pretty much what to do now. We're in pretty good shape – from a running game standpoint, we got through pretty much everything," said Lappano, who came to Washington after his most recent stint as OC of the San Francisco 49ers.

"We ran the ball well for fourteen days out of both a one and twoback set. Our running game is in pretty good shape, although fans at the spring game didn't see it. I was really pleased with it, and we'll be able to do everything I thought we'd be able to do when I got here."

Lappano envisions a Husky team that can run equally well out of both two-back power sets and one-back spread sets, making Washington a difficult team to defend. The offensive line showed promise in moving the ball on the ground and in grasping the new schemes, despite a final spring scrimmage that wound up in a 3-0 final score."

Next, we turn the tables and give new Washington Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer an opportunity to tell us how the Huskies plan to improve on 2004 and what was accomplished this past spring. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"It's hard to judge after just spring practice," said Baer. "We really are just trying to get it all taught. How they work out this summer will be a huge step in our development as a football team. How they develop some unity and continuity as a team is determined over the summer by those off-season workouts, and it carries over into two-a-days. With fall practice and two-a-days coming, we probably won't have the best idea of where we're at until about a week before we start playing." And now comes the off-season regimen.

All Baer can do is watch and hope. "As coaches, we can't do film study or meet with the guys in any organized fashion. That is illegal," he said. "So the main thing you look for in the summer months is that the team is working out together. You hope that you see them working out, running, lifting weights, and doing their seven-onseven drills together. If they start bonding and doing all of those things as a team, that is where you start developing that continuity that is so important in a team. They have to do it without any coaches around. And there is something to be said for that, because that is when you find out who your leaders are. You see where they come from during that time.

..."I've said this before, and I'll say it again, and that's nobody has a solid job locked up," he said. "We are very anxious to get everyone back in here, everyone that was hurt and the JC kids, and then let's see where we are at. I think we made some progress, but I just don't know how far along the measuring stick we came. It's hard to tell."

Derek Johnson talks to another well-known Husky - former Doak Walker Award winner and current Alumni Relations Manager for Intercollegiate Athletics - Greg Lewis. As the head of the 'Big W Club', Lewis recently put together a reunion of sorts with former players and integrated that reunion with spring practice and a chance to interact with current UW players and coaches. It was a rare chance to see old dawgs and new dawgs spend time with each other. Here's an excerpt from Johnson's interview with Lewis:

"It's an event that was started when Myles Corrigan was here," Lewis said of the former UW tight ends coach. "The idea was to bring former players back during the spring, have them watch a practice, then head up to the Don James Center for a BBQ. At the beginning it was just for former players. I returned to the University of Washington and joined the Big W Club in November 2000. With the coaching regime at that time, there was no support for what we were doing. And the former players didn't feel welcome back. And from the athletic department's standpoint, they weren't all that concerned about it.

"When Keith Gilbertson replaced the previous coach, I approached Gilby last year with the idea of the BBQ actually including former players interacting with the current players and showing that support. Keith liked the idea and we went with it. It worked out well. But with the players' family and friends a part of it as well, there was a lot going on.

"Then when Tyrone Willingham became head coach, I talked to him about continuing it. He really liked the idea. But he said, "Why don't we make it a more intimate event? Why don't we limit the gathering to just the current and former players, and let them interact?

"So I made phone calls to thirty or forty former players that I knew, and through more phone calls and email, they spread the word. The thing was, a lot of these guys were coming back to Seattle just to show their support for this event and the football program. For a lot of them, as soon as the event was over, they got on a plane and headed right back home. And while we had 150 former players, there were easily between 200-300 former players that wanted to be here, but couldn't make it."

Next, former Washington football coach Dick Baird holds no punches back in an all-out assault on Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen. Here's an excerpt from Baird's opinion piece on why Hansen should retire:

"Does the conference commissioner really care about the kids?

Let's not even begin to discuss the ridiculous bowl arrangement that Hansen and his staff have put together for the football teams. Sure the conference is lined up to play in six bowl games, which sounds very good, but the reality is that only ONE of those games is played on January 1st. None of the others are even considered a "major" bowl that anyone really gives a rip about.

The perception is out there that this conference has been sliding for at least the past ten years. It is the wrong perception but the conference does nothing to try and change it.

Remember when Nebraska lost in their conference championship game but still got to play in the national championship game? If that wasn't bad enough, the very next year Oklahoma lost in the exact same game then went on to play in the national championship. Meanwhile we can't even get the best California Golden Bear team in probably the history of their school into the Rose Bowl. That seems to fall on deaf ears at the Pac-10 conference headquarters. Hansen's comments were lame and after the fact.

Can you believe that an 8-3 Pittsburgh team gets into the Fiesta Bowl but California at 10-1 can't even get into the bowl that technically belongs to it's own conference? That is a bunch of crap."

Next up is a senior spotlight article on Joe Toledo. This article is timely, as Joe just moved from tight end to tackle during spring football and it appears the transition was a very positive one. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"A dancing bear", is what Tim Lappano calls him. "A big guy who's light on his feet."

Joe Toledo laughed when told of his latest nickname.

"I haven't heard that one before. I guess all that soccer, basketball, baseball and playing wide receiver when I was younger helped me out in terms of footwork," said the tight end-turned-starting weak tackle. He's toiled as a huge tight end for four seasons, but by the end of last year he was contemplating something new.

"Before the previous coaching staff left, I had approached them about the move to offensive line, to help the team.

Coach (Keith) Gilbertson thought it would help me get to the next level. When Coach Willingham came here, he left it up to me but gave me his insights. I made the switch and we went from there," said Toledo.

It was a difficult decision, one that took time.

"Growing up, since about the 8th grade, I had played running back, kick returner, quarterback, and then wide receiver in high school," said Toledo. "I was used to having the football in my hands. That is how I learned the game. It was something that I wasn't willing to give up at first, but as time went on and I learned how to block, things changed. Blocking became second nature to me, and I learned from a great one in coach Gilbertson. Now I can see that it may help me in getting to that next level (NFL)."

Finally, there's a recruiting breakdown on the top big men available. Here's an excerpt from that article:

"Lee Tilley 6-7 311 Springfield, Ohio
Tilley earned first team All-Southwest Ohio, All-County, first team All-State, and first team All-League as a junior. His coaches graded him out at 98% as he allowed no sacks last season. As a sophomore he graded out at 96% and once again didn't allow a sack. With a 300-pound bench press and quick feet, Tilley is one of the top two linemen on the Husky wish list as we enter the summer months. The Dawgs have offered a scholarship for the projected weak tackle. So have Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Lee and his mother are both fans of Tyrone Willingham and as such Tilley has included the Huskies in his list of the final 12 schools he's considering.

Steve Schilling 6-5 290 Bellevue, Washington
Schilling is possibly the top offensive linemen in the West and is a major reason that Bellevue has won the past two Washington State 3A titles. A dominant run-blocker, Schilling is athletic and quick, and also plays basketball, where he was the Wolverines leading scorer. He helped pave the way for future Husky TB J.R. Hasty to lead the state in rushing. His 350-pound bench press is impressive and his 5.0 40 time indicates great quickness. Washington has offered, but so have the rest of the Pac- 10 as well as Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Miami, Florida, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. With a 3.72 GPA, this is one sharp kid. One that the Huskies would desperately love to keep home. He's an outstanding guard or tackle prospect."

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