Dawgbytes - 9/6

On the day where rosters all over the country grew, things were no different at Montlake. The Washington football program added six players to their roster Tuesday - three familiar faces and three newcomers. Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham hopes those six faces can immediately contribute to the chemistry and competition already fostered through three long weeks of pre-season camp and a difficult loss to Air Force in the Huskies' season opener.

"I'm not worrried about them pushing anybody. I'm only concerned about finding our best players. That's what dominates my thinking," Willingham said Tuesday afternoon when asked if any of the new players added to UW's roster could push for possible playing time during the season.

That mindset is all part of Willingham's teaching philosophy - find the best players and then be even-handed and never deviate in how you coach their play. "I believe from Day One I basically coach the same way," he said. "When our players do great things we acknowledge that, we celebrate that and when they do things poorly we criticize that and we correct it. It's never done with malice or an attempt to demean; it's done with us focusing our football team on what it takes to be the best. That shouldn't change from when you're 10-0 or 0-1. That's part of being consistent. People respond to you when you're consistent."

That's why it's not too surprising that Willingham was watching the Miami-Florida State game Monday night in the hopes that he could use the lessons learned from that game and apply them to his own situation at Washington.

"We talked about that, we talked about Oklahoma," Willingham said, repeating his mantra this week of 'learning how to finish'. "They are now sitting in the same position we are. You use all of that. Florida State last night, not everything was going right for them, but they understood how to finish. Their defensive line revved it up a little bit, got after Miami. That's what we have to do, have to learn how to finish."

And when it came to the botched hold that cost Miami a chance to tie the game late? "The power of the pressure," said Willingham matter-of-factly. "When a team keeps coming, it's amazing what the mind thinks about. That's part of that discipline. Anybody can lose their focus, but you want to be the one that doesn't."

And the mantra is repeated. "Each ball game is different and it comes from a different area sometimes, but you've got to learn how to finish. We want to be finishers."

Part and parcel of that mantra is the idea of playmakers stepping up at crucial times and making plays. Early on in his coaching career, Willingham saw situations where his defense would be tested to the maximum.

"It's amazing some of the calls we would make and the offense would come out in a formation we didn't expect," said Willingham. "It would be like, 'Oh oh, this is trouble. This is not the defense to have on right now', but when guys are making plays, sometimes it doesn't matter."

Here are the six players that were added to Washington's roster Tuesday in the hopes they will make some plays:
Michael Book - 6-3, 195-pound junior placekicker
Matthew Smith - 6-foot, 170-pound junior receiver
Carlos Serrano - 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior free safety
TJ Poe - 6-foot-1, 200-pound freshman linebacker from Enumclaw
Jason Goodman - 6-foot-4.5, 270-pound sophomore tight end transfer from Montana State
Cheikh Davis - 5-foot-9, 175-pound frosh running back from Rainier Beach that graduated from Renton High School

While the top three players have already played at Washington, the inclusion of Goodman appears to be the most intriguing on paper. Starting this fall, he has three years to play three after leaving MSU on the heels of a season-ending knee injury in 2003. He moved to Seattle to attend community college in the hopes that he would get his associates degree and enroll at Washington with a chance to make the Huskies' roster.

The tight end position just might the one that ends up with the most stories to tell. Johnie Kirton was moved to the position during fall camp when four players ended up missing various amounts of times for a litany of injuries. And Saturday's starter - Jared Bronson, a former high school quarterback from Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way - might have been the most unlikely one of the bunch. But through hard work, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound sophomore found himself running out onto the field with the first-teamers against the Falcons.

"I hope the journey continues," Willingham said of Bronson's progress. "I hope he gets better and better and better. We need someone to step up at the tight end position. We need some strong play from that position because it's so pivotal to what you do, whether it's running off the edge or in the passing game. It makes a huge difference in your game."

But the tight end that might have Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano's juices flowing the most is Kirton. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound frosh made a couple of solid catches against Air Force and showed glimpses of the offensive weapon the coaches had envisioned heading into the season.

"The pass portion is easier to learn and do," Willingham said of Kirton and his learning curve. "Getting involved in the blocking game is more complex. Hopefully Johnie will continue to grow as a blocker in participate in our run game, as well as our pass game."

The tight end position might also be a microcosm for Willingham's mantra at work. "We think we've got a winning program, we think we have winning young men and now we have to bring them to that end," he said.

Injury Report: Willingham said from the get-go that, "I think we're pretty set," as far as the injury situation, but didn't elaborate. The Huskies didn't practice on Monday. "We just have a little run to test their conditioning," he said. "We didn't see C.J. (Wallace) and some of the other guys."

When asked about any change in the status of Wallace or starting corner Roy Lewis, Willingham did not give either the green light, despite sounding optimistic about their return on Monday. "I don't know what will happen," he said. "Each day that passes, I'll have a better idea of what they'll look like at the end of the week."

Kenny James is expected back for action against California on Saturday, but how much work will the junior running back get? "It goes back to the question, does an injury take you out of the lineup?" said Willingham. "My answer is whatever is best for the team. That never changes. If Kenny gives us our best chance at being successful getting more carries than Louis, that's what you do. And if it's the other way around, that's what you do."

Rankin-sense: So that begs the question, was Louis Rankin's 112-yard effort against Air Force in his first career start enough for the sophomore from Stockton, California to keep his starting role regardless of James' status? One would have to think that Rankin is just starting to emerge as a featured back. "That's exciting, but that's what I anticipated from Louis," Willingham said of his effort against the Falcons. "He also had some help from guys up front and guys out wide that blocked for him. It's still a team game. What I saw was more patience in the fall camp and in his play Saturday. He's continuing to grow and that's very positive."

Bonnell back?: Willingham was not able to give a definitive yes or no on the status of backup quarterback Carl Bonnell, sidelined early in fall camp with a quad contusion. "He's getting better, but I don't know if his status today will allow him to have more participation," Willingham said.

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