Dawgbytes - 8/17

He was joking when he said it, but it had an air of truth to it. "It's been so brutal out there, no one's left," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said Wednesday with a tinge of sarcasm. But the fact is, more players are missing time on the field during fall camp. It hasn't reached epidemic status...yet.

Willingham wasn't sure which player, but either Mike Gottlieb or Jared Bronson would miss Wednesday's practice with an eye infection, leaving the available number of working tight ends to two - Robert Lewis and true frosh Tim Williams. Johnie Kirton has been spending some time learning the position, and Jason Benn - who started his Washington career at TE but moved to the OL - has been splitting up his time at both spots.

"I still think he (Kirton) is a halfback for us, a fullback for us, and he's also spending a little more time down at tight end," Willingham said of the RS-frosh from Mill Creek.

Of all the players that have been out with various injuries, only Scott White was expected back for Wednesday's practice. And even though the team is basically through half of their fall practices, Willingham insists he hasn't seen anyone 'hit the wall' just yet.

He also insists that none of the various position battles have been sorted out, even with those out of action, but did say that 12-16 of the 22 starting spots for Air Force 'could' already be determined. "The main word there is 'could'," said Willingham. "All the players have to know is that everything is a competition. There are no guarantees."

But clearly Willingham has a fondness for those returning players with game experience. "Experience is a great quality to have," he said. "But the key is to be vastly improved. That's what we're reaching for right now. I think they've responded, but they are not there yet."

And the same goes for the most visible battle - quarterback. Willingham insists that having Carl Bonnell out of the mix with a quad contusion has not added clarity to a muddied situation. "They are all still working hard and all are getting their reps and doing good things, but they are also doing some things that aren't that good," he said.

A return solution?: When asked about special teams and return specialists, Willingham stated that he hadn't seen enough of those tried at punt and kick return to render any judgement. "It's not sorted out yet," he said. "But we are looking for someone that scares opponents." He also said that he would be adverse to having a return-by-committee for situational purposes. "I think the only way that happens is if you lose your #1 guy and you just want someone that can go back there and catch the ball," he added.

Stormy weather: Wednesday marks the first day where the Huskies may encounter wet conditions when they practice. Willingham downplayed the effect of having some different weather on the horizon and how that might impact his practice regime, especially when the Dempsey indoor facility is just a minute away from Husky Stadium. . "It's not critical," he said. "What's important is that we get our work done, and when it's too hot, too cold or too wet, it's hard to get anything done."

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