Spring Preview - Brent Myers

Just a year ago, Brent Myers was a man on an island. As Washington's offensive line coach, his task was beyond daunting - rebuild an offensive line that lost four starters.

"A year ago, nobody wanted to be me," Myers told Dawgman.com. "What I had coming back, nobody wanted to coach the offensive line. But now, it's 'Wow, he's got some guys.' But it's a part of what? Getting through the hard times, the lean years and getting them developed, skinnin' their knees and making them experienced kids. Everybody goes through it, but now there are expectations. Now they have to get even better, so I have to grind 'em just as hard or even harder than ever before because now they have to step up and be really good."

With that, Myers has laid out the task in front of an offensive line that is still relatively young, but is experienced beyond their years and not short on talent. "Oh yeah," Brent exclaimed when talking about the depth he's now blessed with. "It's great having the amount of guys now because it creates competition and competition makes players play better."

One of the players that Myers developed last year was weak tackle Khalif Barnes. The 6-5, 295-pound redshirt freshman from Spring Valley, California was pressed into action last year without having any offensive experience. Myers still is amazed at how much improvement Khalif has made.

He's awesome," Myers said of Barnes. "Just a freakin' stud. He's got so much potential. Actually, I shouldn't say that, because he's a fine player already. He played really well as a freshman last year, considering what he did and what he accomplished last year having never played offense before and how he improved week after week. I was really impressed."

Khalif reminds Myers of a former Husky. "To be honest with you, he has a lot of the same traits as Elliot Silvers," he said. "He's not as big because he's young, but at the same age he's ahead of Elliot in a lot of ways. But they are a lot the same, tall, athletic guys. Kahlif is really strong, a 415-pound bench presser, and that's fantastic considering how long his arms are."

Another tackle Myers just gushes about is freshman Robin Meadow. Meadow came to Montlake last year in the process of rehabbing a knee, but that is now a distant memory and Brent thinks Robin could be an incredibly special player for Washington.

There was talk of Robin moving to defense, but that talk has subsided. "Robin Meadow will also be at strong tackle. He's not moving. There were all kinds of rumors, but none of those were substantiated."

"It's doing great," Myers said when asked about the knee of the 6-5, 300-pounder from San Francisco. "He just ran a 5.1, cleaned 330 and benched 405 pounds. He's going to be a great one. "He's got some ability to do a lot of different things. I envision him as someone who not only can play tackle, but can also play guard too. I just think the kid has a lot of ability and I need to find a home for that guy."

Myers knew the first day he saw Meadow that he was a unique talent. "Love him," he said simply. "Loved him from the first day he stepped on campus when he came to our camp before his senior year in high school. I spent one day with him and knew we needed to recruit that guy. This guy is the kind of guy I want. He's tough, nasty, works hard and is physical. He fears nothing. He fought Larry Tripplett multiple times as a scout-team guy. He's not afraid of anything and is as tough as can be. He's got a little chip on his shoulder, has some attitude. He's exactly what you would want in a player."

The other tackles expected to compete in the spring will be Francisco Tipoti, Andre Reeves and Ryan Brooks. "Brooksie's doing OK but he had shoulder surgery and he'll be limited as to what he can do during spring football, so that's something we'll have to evaluate as we go along," Myers said of the 6-6, 300-pounder from Richland, Washington.

And the transfer from City College of San Francisco? The hype on Tipoti has been there for years. Now he's going to have to step up and prove it on the field. Myers is excited to have him. "Cisco's been doing OK, learning the system and getting back in shape," he said. "It'll be interesting to see how he does at this level. He's a big, athletic guy who has skills, but he needs to improve his body strength and continue to get in shape for this level of play, but he's definitely got some tools."

Myers is anticipating a breakout spring for Reeves, the 6-5, 310-pound redshirt freshman from Tacoma. "Actually, he had a nice winter," Myers said of Andre. "He cleaned 335 pounds, the best he's ever done. He just ran a 4.9 40. He's lost weight. He's done a nice job and I'm happy with what he's done during the winter time. He's got to continue to improve during spring ball, but he's done a nice job so far."

The next group to look at are the guards. This group has experience, athleticism and depth, things that make Myers grin a mile wide. Only three months has passed since the end of last year, but it feels like a hundred years when you think of where these guys were going into the 2001 campaign.

Elliott Zajac will be the elder statesman of the offensive line, followed by White River's Nick Newton. "He (Zajac) will be a leader along with Khalif Barnes," Myers said of the senior-to-be from Bakersfield. "He's doing great, really well. Newt's doing fine too. He had a scope done on his ankle to take a bone spur out. He's really, really improved as far as flexibility to his ankle so he's doing much better. He had a great winter in the weight room."

The guy Myers is most excited about, however, is Tacoma's Aaron Butler. The 6-3, 325 pound Butler is quickly becoming the renaissance man of the offensive line. Need someone to fill a hole? Butler will do it. "I'm going to give Aaron Butler reps at center this year too," Myers said. "I'm going to teach him how to play. He's played both guard positions and now he'll play a little center so he's going to be very valuable. He came in and started the Washington State game last year when Newton hurt his ankle and had a fantastic game."

The biggest change in Myers' lineup is the switch of Todd Bachert from tackle back to center. This move was anticipated, as Bachert has experience in the middle. "I'm moving Todd back to center," Myers said. "He's doing great. His surgeries have gone really well, but he won't be playing in the spring. We don't want to lose the guy. He's too good, too valuable to us."

The one guy that can make a serious impact this spring could be Bellevue's Dan Dicks. It's his time to shine, and with Bachert out could really make his mark. "He's vastly improved physically," Myers said of Dan. "He's done a great job in the offseason in regards to his strength and speed and I hope that carries over to the field."

If Dicks doesn't step up and solidify his spot in the two-deeps, expect Butler to get a chance to play and perhaps even Issaquah's Brad Vanneman. Myers had nothing but great things to say about the 6-3, 290-pound Vanneman.

"He's done a great job so far," Myers said. "He did a nice job this winter getting into shape. He ran well. He's a hard-workin' dude. But that's just a coach's excitement over a young guy who is committed to working hard. He wants to lose a little bit of weight but he's doing a great job of getting stronger. I see the same things in him that I do in Meadow. He's a grinder. I'm excited to see him improve this spring because he really improved a lot as a freshman."

Besides Meadow and Vanneman, Myers had good things to say about the other offensive line recruit from 2001 - Corona's Mike Savicky. "Mike is playing weak tackle for me and he is a tremendous technical player," he said of the 6-4, 275-pound Savicky. "He runs really, really well. He just ran under 4.9, 4.8 something. I like him a bunch, but he's a little undersized. He just needs to keep getting better in the weight room."

Brent is enthused with his current crop of players and what he has to work with this spring. But he's just as excited about the offensive linemen that just signed on to join the Huskies this fall.

"Obviously, Nathan Rhodes is a special kid," he said of the 6-7, 305-pound high school All-American from Bakersfield, California. "You can't help but watch the tape and go 'Wow.' He's got ability. Then you watch him play basketball. The guy just moves really well and he's going to be a special player. He's really smart and he's physical and he's got a lot of tools."

And the other guys? "The other guys are really, really good football players," Myers said. "They could all be defensive linemen here if they wanted to. Clay Walker is as tough as can be, he could be a defensive lineman. Stanley Daniels is really quick off the ball and was a fine high school defensive lineman. Robin Kezirian might run the best out of all of them and he was a really fine defensive lineman in high school.

"So what you've got is some linemen that have ability on both sides of the ball," Myers continues. "They are going to be really big kids. They are all around 6-3.5, 6-4, great wide frames, good body types who are going to be grinders, and that's what I'm looking for. I'm really excited about them all."

That led Brent into a discussion as to the style and body-type he looks for when he recruits for the Huskies. "As you look at our style of offense, we've gone from a very option-oriented attack with Marques (Tuiasosopo) but we still have a kid that can run the option as good as Marques did in Cody (Pickett), but that's not his forte. We are looking for the athletic pass-protector but also the kid that can run-block effectively too. We've got to be able to do both, so we need a happy medium. We don't want to get the big, heavy grinder guy that can't pass-protect, but we don't want to get the smaller, more athletic guy who can't run-block either. We want the combination of both."

Sounds like a rare breed. "They are hard to find, but they can be found," he said. "You've got to look at all aspects on tape. In the cases of all of the guys we recruited besides Nathan, who didn't play a lot of defense, I watched them all play defense. They are good football players. Those guys are great athletes who can run and move. That's the thing we are looking for, because we are doing a lot of different things."

Myers then explains why he needs athletes. "Isaiah Stanback does not play on our football team without us having the option in the game, know what I'm saying? Cody Pickett can run the option as well as anybody can, and that's an equalizer," Myers said. "You have to use it. So that's why you have to find guys that can run and move in the open field as offensive linemen. We've got to have it all, so that's why we are looking for a more athletic style of guy. But don't get me wrong. We like big guys too. We want big guys on our team, but they have to be big guys that can run."

And Brent's sole purpose this spring is getting his troops ready for August 31st, the first game on Washington's 12-game schedule against the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor this coming fall. "Oh, I can't wait! It's going to be awesome," he said, relishing the thought of playing Michigan in their own house. "That's why you are a college football coach. It's days like that. It's going to be an awesome game. It's going to be a battle in the Big House. It's on the board downstairs, the countdown. It's going to be exciting."

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