Husky lineman back to full speed

Washington can count a returning starting quarterback and a veteran offensive line as strengths as they prepare for the 2002 football season. Four of five starters will be back in front of Cody Pickett, and this spring one of them is running better than he did all last season. Junior to be Nick Newton is grinning from ear to ear because he no longer has to limp off the field after practice.

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"I'm glad to be back in this spring. I missed the entire thing last year, so this is great," said Newton after practice yesterday.

He was an 11-game starter last fall but he did it with a lot of pain. He was never able to run or change directions without feeling a twinge of fire shoot up his leg. "The ankle is doing much better. They removed a bone spur out of my ankle after the season and it feels 100% better. I can move better and I don't have near the pain that I had last year after practices," said Newton.

"I played all last year in pain. The bone spur was across the front face of my ankle and it was three inches long. I have no idea how I did that, but it sure feels better. I'm happy about that," he said with a laugh.

Offensive line coach Brent Myers said last year that Newton reminded him a bit of former Husky Benji Olson, who left Washington after his junior season and is now in the NFL playing for Tennessee. Now that he can run again, this could be the year Newton begins to realize that potential.

"I think Nick is doing a terrific job. He had a pin taken out of his ankle and that gives him more flexibility. I know he's excited about being able to move around again. He's got a chance to be a very good player. I think the future is very bright for him," said Rick Neuheisel of Newton.

Nick will be a junior next year and it will be his second as a starter on the offensive line. "I play the weak guard position, same as I did last year. Now that I know the offense this year, I can concentrate more on my footwork and technique, and the actual play execution. It's a big advantage to not have to think about it so much. Less thinking and more doing. I feel very good about this offensive line, it's a good group. We should be very good no matter who wins the starting jobs," said Newton.

The current starters are Khalif Barnes (6-5 300, soph) and Andre Reeves (6-5 315, freshman-RS) at the tackles, Newton (6-5 315) and Elliott Zajac (6-3 320) at the guards, and either Todd Bachert (6-3 312) or Dan Dicks (6-5 325) at the center. Dicks takes all of the reps that require contact while Bachert rests his surgically repaired shoulder. "Todd Bachert and Danny Dicks are both great players. Both will do a great job for us," said Newton.

"I definitely feel a difference in all of us. We all have game experience and we all have that knowledge of the offense and how things work. There is an overall confidence that wasn't there last year. I think we'll be tough. We'll come out and do our best."

Newton knows that he must be equally adept at both pass and run blocking, but he has a definite preference. "I feel stronger on run blocking, but that's just the type of guy I am. I'm aggressive and run blocking is not as passive."

The one new element on offense will be at fullback, where Zach Tuiasosopo will be the one who obliterates linebackers that slip through the line. Newton smiles when he thinks about it. "I think Zach is giong to be great. He's real aggressive and loves to hit hard. He played it in high school, and I think he'll do a great job for us. It will help us with the option and with our overall run game. When you have a guy that loves to hit the holes real hard like Zach, it's a great guy to have in your huddle."

It's also great to have number 67 back at full strength, running pain free around the corner leading sweep around the corner.

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