Dawgbytes - 10/12

He's no Harry Wappler, but Tyrone Willingham follows the weather just as closely as Seattle's most respected meteorologists. It's not high comedy, but listening to Willingham list off the details of Saturday's weather forcast typically elicits a smile or chuckle from those on press row. It's just one of many details Willingham looks at when determining his game plan, but there are some things he can't replicate - like dog bones. Dog bones?

"62 degrees, showers, winds from the south soutwest at 8 miles and hour and 80 percent humidity," said Willingham Wednesday, listing off the details of Saturday's expected weather in Eugene. The weather will certainly determine some aspects of the Washington's game plan, but the atmosphere the Huskies will encounter will be definitely unlike the situation the Dawgs found themselves two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena the weather was calm and temperate, and the crowd could have been labelled the same. Autzen Stadium won't be as forgiving, especially when they realize Willingham was the coach that cost the Ducks' 2001 team a shot in the BCS title game. The Willingham-led Stanford Cardinal defeated Oregon 49-42 in a high-flying affair - one Willingham scarcely recalls. Here is another fact that he probably hasn't put to memory - he's one of a few Division-One coaches to have a winning record at Autzen. He was 2-1 during his tenure at Stanford.

"Not bad," he said when told of his last game coached at Autzen. "But I have to admit, I worry more about losses than I do wins."

By that standard, Willingham has been worrying a lot this season. And when his team - desperately looking for the only place where success counts, the win column - the last thing he's happy about is playing a game on the road in a hostile environment. "This is a totally different setting," he said of Autzen's unique blend of aesthetics (see: 'The Pick') and hospitality. "The dynamics of the stadium is different. All those little things make a difference, but hopefully our guys have the proper focus."

Willingham admitted that he's done some things with his team in terms of combating the noise issue when playing on the road and the possibility of hydrating his players differently because of the expectation of high humidity, but he hasn't figured out how to re-create just what the Ducks' fans will do on Saturday. "I don't think we can't practice with someone throwing dog biscuits at us," he quipped - harking back to the infamous incident with former UW linebacker Dave Hoffmann eating some dog treats that had been thrown at the Washington players from the Autzen bleachers.

More importantly, does Willingham have some players that could follow Hoffmann's lead if confronted with a similar scenario? "Yes, I think we've got a couple of players that could do that," he said.

And Willingham, after just one practice so far this week, is learning quickly that those Northwest born-and-bred players are taking this game a little more seriously than most. "I think our guys understand that there's a history there, and it's not just the local guys," he said. "It's all our guys. They understand that there is a relationship between these two universities. You kind of have to deal with the victory or the defeat pretty much every day of the year."

The new Huskies' head coach has taken part in a few 'rivalry' games in his coaching career. He was undefeated in the 'Big Game' against California, and also coached in the storied USC-Notre Dame yearly tilt. "They all have their own flavor, but when you get on the field the intensity of the games is still the same," said Willingham.

"They are all intense."

Notes:
Injury Report: "There's been progress, but they can't be ruled in or out yet," said Willingham when asked about the status of tackles Joe Toledo and Chad Macklin. "Joe has been limited in his time, but we've been encouraged by what we saw. (Chad) Macklin might be a little farther along." Quintin Daniels' knee injury looks severe enough that he could be out the rest of the year. "Based on what he's recovering from, I think it could be some time," added Willingham. Earning a medical redshirt is a definite possibility for Daniels.

Another Switch: Jovon O'Connor has been moved to defensive line. "It's a look at where the young man might be best at, to give him every opportunity to be the best he can be," said Willingham of the switch. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound O'Connor did play defense at Los Angeles High School. So what goes into a decision to switch a player to a new position? "We look at personality, conversations with them, athletic skill, what they bring to the table - all those things you try to balance out and figure out what's the right position for them," added Willingham. "Most teams, when they bring a young man to camp will work him out in the first couple of days, but you kind of lose that now with the format of five days of acclimation. Before, you would bring the freshmen in before the veterans and you'd use that period of time to test them and get a feel for what's best for them."

Looking for a bigger return: There's a 'strong possibility' that Roy Lewis will return kicks at some point. "We have to keep a watchful eye on Roy with his injury to make sure we're doing all the right things for him," said Willingham. Marlon Wood has also been added to the kickoff return rotation, and he's currently listed as the number-one punt returner in front of Anthony Russo. Wood only has one catch as a receiver - but it was a huge one, a 69-yarder against Notre Dame. "He's making contributions in practice that will enable him to get more playing time," added Willingham.


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