Mat Drills are in the books for 2002

It was 11:45 PM on Wednesday night. Normally at that time, the Dempsey Indoor practice facility is a quiet place. However last night, the University of Washington football team and coaching staff filed down the hill from Hec-Ed and streamed into the front doors.

Yes, it was once again time for what they call "Midnight Matness," the final workout of the off-season conditioning program known as "mat drills." They are without a doubt the most difficult regimen the players endure in the year, and they have been running since shortly after Letter Of Intent day.

At precisely 12:00 midnight, Gunnar, the senior football manager, cranked up the tunes and the Husky football team began their 2002 addition of Midnight Matness.

Senior offensive guard Elliott Zajac roared his approval at the music selection, as Guns and Roses' "Paradise City" came blaring through the speakers, shaking the walls, windows, and cobwebs inside the Dempsey Indoor.

Some of the players that immediately stood out during the "eye test" were OT Andre Reeves, a 6-5 300-pounder from Tacoma. He looks to be in fantastic shape and was smiling after the drills were over. Last year he looked like he would die from exhaustion, so his wind is well ahead of where it was at this time in 2001. He can move, as well as handle a basketball pretty fairly.

Also looking extremely svelte was DT Josh Miller. He is down about 30 pounds since arriving at Washington. He looks like he could weigh in the 270 range now, and his quickness on the mats was evident. The sophomore from California looks like he's aiming to make a serious challenge for Larry Tripplett's spot on the line.

Fellow DT Terry Johnson also looks as athletic as ever. His moves belie his size, and his dunk on the basketball floor was impressive. He looks much faster than NT Jerome Stevens, but they are two different body types.

The all-Pacific Rim lineup of Tusi Sa'au, Tui Alailefaleula, and Manase Hopoi all worked together in the same rotation of mat drills. Hopoi is an amazing specimen that stood out from the other two. Tui still looks a bit big to play the outside, but he's very athletic. He was able to dunk the basketball, not bad for a 300-pounder. Sa'au probably has the best build in terms of prototype nose tackle. He's thick. Hopoi is just a beast, he and Lobendahn could be the biggest additions to the defensive rotation in 2002.

Tailback Rich Alexis looks slimmed down and was moving well across the mats as Coaches Randy Hart and Keith Gilbertson whistled and cajoled the players through various moves and breakneck changes of direction.

Chris Singleton, on the other hand, looks quite a bit bigger than last year. He's an imposing looking kid that should get significantly more carries in 2002 as a true sophomore. He's much thicker than he was.

Linebacker Joseph Lobendahn is going to scare some quarterbacks. He may be only about 5-10 but his lower body and arms are so thick, he looks like he could smack the paint off of a billboard if he hit it. He's going to be a monster, and the way he can change direction so quickly on such thick legs is beyond me. WATCH OUT! He's a true sophomore and he's going to see the field this year under new linebacker coach Cornell Jackson.

Speaking of the new coaches, both Jackson and Bobby Kennedy were in attendance this morning, getting their first taste of midnight matness and of watching Gilby and Hart go nuts with whistles. They looked very entertained, and Jackson can't help but smile when he sees Lobendahn.

New OL Francisco Tipoti looked to be in pretty good shape for a guy that hasn't played football in a while. He's a big guy in the lower body and looks like he's built more like a prototypical defensive linemen. It will be fun to see what he does this spring.

Newly converted defensive tackle Robin Meadow showed no ill effects from his knee injury suffered as a senior in high school. He's quick, big, and mean. He has that "trigger" that you need to play the defensive line.

Another player that will switch positions is O'Dea graduate Ty Eriks. He's slimmed down a bit for his new role and displayed great quickness this morning. He's a big guy, and if he wins the free safety job, he and Greg Carothers will be the biggest safeties in the league by a pretty fair margin. Eriks has that 4.4 speed, so now he'll need to show off coverage skills.

Perhaps the best news of the morning was seeing Derrick Johnson out there working at full speed. He no longer weighs 165 pounds though, he's now in the 185 range but looked very fast. It will be fun to see how he clocks in his 40 this spring, but all physical indications are that he's back.

Big Joe Toledo wasn't slowed at all by his broken foot suffered last season. The 6-8 290 pound tight end was tired, but gutted it out and looked good. Projected starting TE Kevin Ware looks to be in great condition. He earned plaudits from coach Neuheisel for his work during the "all-star" drills. If Ware can remain focused this year, he could have a big season.

Paul Arnold was, well, Paul Arnold. That man can change directions on a dime and at the drop of a hat. He is the most fun to watch on the mats as he is the only one that dares talk to Randy Hart WHILE THE DRILLS ARE IN PROCESS. His banter of, "Come on, Coach. Bring it, Coach. Way to go, Coach," as Hart blows his whistle and gets into their faces to change directions is too funny.

Cody Pickett was there, as was Justin Robbins and Roc Alexander, but all sat out the drills as they rehab injuries. Roc (shoulder) and Justin (ACL) will miss the entire spring. Pickett will most likely take part in spring ball.

Then at 1:00 the team broke and headed back up the hill to Hec-Ed for the slam-dunk contest. Midnight Matness was over, and deemed a success by all of the coaches. Now come the spring testing, lifting, and workouts until spring football begins in earnest on April 4th.
Quick Notes:
- The most athletic offensive lineman, besides Khalif Barnes (who is a freak), is Mike Savicky. He needs to bulk up badly, but he can move SO WELL. It was fun to watch him tear up the mats. If he cannot bulk up, don't rule out a move to defense. An athlete like him should find the field, no matter what.
- Taylor Barton looked the best of the quarterbacks. While Pickett rested his shoulder, Barton worked his butt off and earned high marks for his hustle.
- Senior Jafar Williams didn't take part in the drills but did run around the track during the session. He's expected to play some inside linebacker after being granted an additional year of eligibility.
- There was some talk of WR Pat Reddick possibly applying for an additional season of eligibility. No word on that yet.
- OL Willie Kava looks very ready to take a prominent role in the Husky OL, but he'll reportedly leave for his two-year Mormon Mission sometime after spring ball so it will be a little while before we see him. He is making great progress, hopefully it won't take him long to regain that once he returns to Seattle in 2004. Top Stories