Dawgbytes - 8/23

Tyrone Willingham announced Tuesday that his new Washington team was starting to practice and play like Huskies - the Washington Huskies of old. The acid test will come September 3rd when UW straps it on and confronts Air Force at Qwest Field, but there seemed to be a palpable sense that something new was afoot - something new that had the feel of something rooted in the old school of 'Husky Football'.

"I think they have started to learn how to practice and play like Huskies," said Willingham. "I think they are moving toward that. They are getting better, our whole football team is getting better. We have enough mistakes made that they will always concern you. One mistake concerns me because one mistake can cost you a football game."

It was clear that the coaches themselves have also caught a little bit of Husky fever, witnessed by Willingham's voice. It was a little raspy. "It'll be that way for a while," he said.

Much like the way Phil Snow was last season for the Huskies, fans should expect to see a lot of Kent Baer roaming up and down the sidelines. The new UW Defensive Coordinator will orchestrate his eleven players on the field, whereas Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano will be up in the booth with Steven Wilks, Chris Tormey and Trent Miles.

"It really depends on the coordinator and what they are comfortable with," Willingham said when asked about why some are on the field and some aren't. "Some are different. You'd like to have what you call a 'clinical environment', where they aren't distracted by a lot of things that are going on around them. But some want to have direct contact with their players."

Willingham is thrilled that Baer has had the opportunity to roam around and concentrate on putting the best guys he can on the field. "I think that anytime you can free up an individual so they can really focus on the total job, it's a better situation," said Willingham. "To allow him to take the time to really study and not have to worry about position preparation, it will make him a better coach. We'd like to do that with offense too, but it's more likely on defense because of the nature of the positions."

So how will Willingham and his staff run their offense, especially when it comes to running plays? "Well, Coach Lappano will call the plays from the box and then he'll telephone them down to the field," said Willingham. "But as far as how we'll do it from there, that's a trade secret.

"Sending a player in is usually the best way to disguise what you are doing. It's amazing what can happen when in the heat of the moment and all the things going on a player forgets a portion of the play or all of it. And there's a time factor getting the play in from the sideline. We will try and find a lot of systems to allow you to be efficient and also not allow our opponent to know what we're doing."

Willingham also added that the team could use up to three systems to bring in plays depending on what works best, including a suggested 'card system' so that the opposition couldn't 'decipher' what Washington is doing. "We used to have the son of one of our assistants at Stanford that got darn good at picking up signals," said Willingham. "And if we could get a jump on it, it's good. The key is to always stay ahead of the game."

Looking ahead: Scouts from Dallas, Miami and New England were all watching the offensive line intently this afternoon as Mike Denbrock ran his guys through the blocking sled. With four seniors expected to start against Air Force, the OL is considered a strength, including veteran player Joe Toledo. Toledo is an experienced player, but will be playing his first snaps at left tackle against AFA. Willingham expressed confidence in Toledo. "I think he's in a pretty strong position," Willingham said of the 6-foot-6, 320-pound senior from Encinitas, California. "I think he will respond. He's prepared himself to play well." The Huskies have rotated Chad Macklin to the right tackle position since spring, leaving Toledo and Nathan Flowers the main players at left tackle. Willingham wouldn't go so far as naming starters, but gave Toledo a strong vote of confidence. "I feel pretty strong about Joe," he said.

Injury update: Ben Ossai and Ryan Bush rode stationary bikes during the beginning of practice Tuesday, while Jordan White-Frisbee, Dash Crutchley, Willie Kava, Jason Benn and Juan Garcia all climbed stairs. Later, while the team began practice, they all worked with medicine balls. Kenny James was wearing red.

Kirton at TE: Johnie Kirton still worked out with the TE's Tuesday, although Robert Lewis originally lined up with the number-one line during blocking sled drills. Kirton could see expanded time at tight end against AFA, depending on the health of Lewis and the other tight ends in the mix, including Mike Gottlieb, Jared Bronson and Tim Williams.

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