Dawgbytes - 8/19

While the focus of Washington's fall camp has been on what is happening between the massive rises of Husky Stadium, there is plenty of being done off the field in preparation for the football season ahead. UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham talked about the work being done in the classroom, as well as how position battles will ultimately be determined.

"For us, for every hour spent on the field we spend one hour in the classroom," Willingham said Friday. "If you look at our schedule this morning, we practice at 2:30 and we're up at 6, so basically after 8 o'clock we're spending most of our time in the classroom."

Whether it's offense, defense or special teams, Willingham knows the game. Whether it's the first eight years he spent coaching secondaries or the next nine coaching on the offensive side of the ball, his resume speaks for itself when he's helping his players learn their playbooks.

"I have a fairly deep understanding of all positions, so when I talk to guys I can do it with a sense of experience at almost every position," he said. "Obviously I've never played on the line, but as a coach that has helped install offenses and defenses everywhere I've been, I understand how all the positions work."

The ratio of work in the classroom to work on the field isn't something he came up with on his own. It was something he learned under Dennis Green at Stanford and the Minnesota Vikings. He also credits legendary Stanford and San Francisco 49'er's Head Coach Bill Walsh, the coach he replaced at 'The Farm'. "They spent a lot of time learning what to do," said Willingham. "And I've always felt that if you had that kind of a ratio, you have a chance to be successful."

Willingham has acknowledged during camp that he's going to have to 'carve' out some extra time on the field with his coaches to work on game preparations for Washington's opening-season test against Air Force. They'll also 'carve' out some bonus time in the classroom, but Willingham insists it isn't because of the unique brand of football the Falcons play. "We'll take the extra time, but even if we were opening up with Cal, we would still take those extra couple of days to better prepare ourselves," he said.

As fall camp winds into its last week, players are buying into the positive environment surrounding UW football and confidence seems to be rising on a daily basis. However, when some position battles are concluded and starters are named, will that balloon of optimism and hopeful feeling remain sky high or will the air get sucked out?

When decisions are made, they know that it's not the coaches making the decisions but the players making the decisions based on what they have done on the field," Willingham said, matter-of-factly. "And there's plenty of film to document that. There may be some cases where it's so close that a player may be genuinely disappointed, but we feel they will have had ample opportunity."

He added that he expects there to be a positive reinforcement when starters are named, not a negative backlash. "Where players have problems, in my opinion, is where they feel they haven't been given an opportunity. I don't think there's anyone in this camp that can say he hasn't had an opportunity. The style of practice has lent itself to having people showcase their skills. That's one of the real pluses. Almost every guy on this team has had a chance to 'really sweat'.

Now all they have to do is sweat out the final result.

Getting defensive: Willingham said he was pleased with one side of the ball after Thursday's daily-doubles - the defense. "I'd say our defense did some good things yesterday, both sessions," he said. He added that the short-yardage defense played well. "That was pleasing to see."

Bumps and bruises: With Jordan White-Frisbee, Dash Crutchley and Juan Garcia out indefinitely, Willingham said the rest of the team is just suffering from bumps and bruises. "We just have some bruises now," he said. "There's really only one day during camp, if you're lucky, where you're healthy - and that's day one." Shelton Sampson and Quintin Daniels appeared to be slowed by sore ankles yesterday, but didn't sit out. Mike Gottlieb and Jared Bronson are expected back in today. Everybody else that was out Thursday will stay out, including Kenny James. "He's just not ready yet," Willingham said.

Still no return: Willingham is still not set on return men for special teams. He was a return man for Michigan State back during his playing days. "I was very mediocre," he said with a straight face. "I did a good job of catching the ball."

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