Dawgbytes - 8/30

It's happening more and more in college football, the use of cut blocks. Considered one of the more dangerous blocking techniques because of the potential damage done to knees and legs, cut blocking, or 'chop blocking' is something Washington defensive linemen and linebackers will see a lot of Saturday against Air Force at Qwest Field.

"Any time you talk about it (cut blocking) people are going to make that assumption and I don't want that assumption out there," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said when addressing the issue of defenders getting illegally 'cut' while already engaged with another lineman. "Coach (Fisher) DeBerry, I have the utmost respect for him as a man and as a coach."

Because of the style of offense the Falcons run, Air Force wants the defensive front 7 on the ground as soon as possible. The only way to effectively do that is by cutting the legs from the defenders before they have a chance to get upfield. "It's huge," Willingham said when asked about defending cut blocks. "Normally what you see with most teams that block straight up, you'll see it on the back side, like with receivers trying to cut you off. Now with so many zone schemes, there's more cut blocks on the line."

Practicing for a team that cut blocks also comes with it's own share of problems. "I hamstring our coaches to a degree because one of the fears I have is that we'll lose someone in practice," said Willingham. "It is a risk, and you never want to lose anyone, but if it's going to happen I'd rather have it happen in a football game as opposed to practice."

But Willingham was also clear to point out that the Huskies will not lose their tenacity when going after a team that uses cut blocking. "We're very aggressive about what we do, we just limit the amount of times we do those things," he said. "We will never change our aggressiveness. Every player recognizes that there are risks in football."

Cut blocking is just one of many things Willingham pointed out Tuesday when talking about the stress DeBerry's triple-option attack puts on a defense. "They put pressure on every facet of our defense," he said. "The triple option, they will do a lot of things out of that, but they will also give us the load play, load option, the duck play with their quarterback, the fly sweep with their slot back coming around... there are so many things they give you that come along with the option. If you have a tackle responsible for the dive and he doesn't take it, it's a big play.

"When you don't see it every day, they are going to have success. They'll suck us down with the option, option, option, and then all of a sudden they'll hit a pass. You don't want it to be a touchdown. They are going to make some plays, but we're working to be disciplined and understand our scheme and our responsibilities and not get so tied up and lose our focus that we give up big plays."

No starters named: "Obviously we're getting closer," Willingham said when asked about any movement on the six position battles up for grabs after the Huskies' two-deep roster was released Monday. "We said we would have an announcement sometime, and we're still on that schedule. We'll use the same table with all the positions. When that moment comes, we'll make an announcement, address those issues and prepare for a football game. But we've been doing that all along, preparing all our guys for a football game." Because of the schedule, it appears that all those position battles will be decided and announced before Friday at the latest.

A good way to start off the season: Willingham thought that Monday's events for the team got the season off on the right foot. "I thought we had a wonderful schedule yesterday," he said. "To start your week off with the kickoff luncheon, which I thought was very well attended, and then to go to the meeting sessions and then our walk-through at Qwest Field...that has a feel of football to it. Our guys are starting to move in that direction."

What to look for this afternoon: "Quintin Daniels, we'll see how he does this week because he kind of turned his leg the other day," said Willingham. "So we'll see how he does. Defensively, we'll see how Matt Fountaine starts to move around today. At linebacker, Dan Howell limped around a little bit the other day, but he'll be back for most of the day today." He also mentioned that today will go a long ways toward determining whether or not Kenny James would be available to dress against Air Force. He's missed basically all of camp with a shoulder bruise.

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