Hawaiian frosh LB looks to make big impact

When the Washington Husky defensive coaches met in the off-season to discuss what went wrong, they came to the conclusion that they weren't able to get the correct personnel onto the field at times. Part of this was due to injury but part was also due to lack of experience. That won't be a deterrent any longer.

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Joseph Lobendahn is a 5-10 225-pound linebacker that made Husky fans drool by his abilities on special teams. He would come down on kickoffs and absolutely level his man, and when he was finally inserted into the lineup against Miami, the first time he hit someone it caused the ball to go flying out of the Hurricane running back's grasp.

This spring will be Lobendahn's time to show the Husky coaches that he not only has the physical tools, but that he absolutely must be on the football field.

Listed as the backup to Marquis Cooper at the weakside ("Will") inside linebacker position, Lobendahn figures to get a lot more playing time in 2002. Cooper will sit out the spring after having his shoulder cleaned up with minor surgery, so the stout Hawaiian will get a lot of looks at that spot.

"From last year to this year, I've gained a lot of experience. I was glad to get that experience last season," said Lobendahn of the decision to not redshirt in 2001.

Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley loves Lobendahn at Will, but says there might be one problem. "He may be our best ‘MIKE' (strongside inside linebacker). We'll have to see," said Hundley.

Lobendahn is hoping to stay at his current Will position. "That position is more clear to me since I've played there. If I move to MIKE, I have to start all over again and it could be frustrating. We'll see how it goes."

Lobendahn is thick enough and definitely strong enough to take on the "hole plugging" job that a MIKE must do, like meet the fullback in the hole and stand him up. He blanched a bit when told he was big enough to take on that role. "Big? I'm short. I'm the smallest of those guys," laughed Lobendahn.

He reported to camp last fall at 235 pounds and ran a 4.8. He is now at 225 and clocked a 4.53. "I'm going to stay at this weight because of my quickness now. I'm excited, very excited about playing next year."

The senior that Joseph looks to for guidance and leadership is MIKE linebacker Ben Mahdavi, who will be limited in what he can do this spring following shoulder surgery. "Ben is smart, he knows everything. If I ever have any questions, I either ask him or the coach."

Lobendahn is under new tutelage as Cornell Jackson takes over the linebackers from Tom Williams, who departed to coach at his Alma Mater, Stanford. "Cornell Jackson is a nice guy. He's very friendly, a good guy. It's a transition from Coach Williams because the terminology is different, but the drills and the position are the same. I'll be ready."

Husky fans can't wait.

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