Lappano talks offense entering spring

The University of Washington football program is at a crucial point in its development. Entering the second year of the Willingham regime, the program has only mustered three victories, and those came against weak opponents. Attitude changes need to happen, players need to develop, and coaches need to prepare. UW Offensive Coordinator Tom Lappano recently sat down and talked about what it's going to take to turn the Huskies back into the football power of yesteryear.

The first thing Lappano talked about was getting their players to play with confidence. "The thing we talked about in the off-season is that we have to believe in each other number one," he said. "The players have to believe in themselves, they have to believe in the guy next to them, and they have to believe in the coaching staff, they have to believe in the system. And then they have to buy into that."

He went on to explain how this thinking as a team and believing in what you're doing can even sometimes influence a team more than god-given talent. "You don't always have to be biggest, strongest, fastest, most athletic to win a football game," he said. "But just getting these guys to change their mind set from winning one and two games the last couple years, it's been hard here for them. The most important thing (for this spring) is to get them to buy in to what we're trying to do; academically, athletically, and socially. Just getting them to believe in everything we're trying to teach will help."

Even while mentioning UW's recent hardships, Lappano is quick to not point fingers. "The offensive line last year struggled a little bit, but in their defense, they had three different head coaches…and that's a lot for an 18-22 year old to swallow when you're having a different position coach and then three different philosophies as head coaches," Lappano said. "That's hard! Now that they understand the system, they understand what we want and what we expect, how we do things. I think they've settled in now and have a chance to execute the plan, and hopefully execute it a lot better then we did a year ago."

Lappano also talked about how the offense progressed and improved as the season went on. "I really liked what we did toward the end, until the Washington State game," he said. "That took a lot of wind out of me for a couple of reasons. We didn't play very physical, and that's something we pride ourselves in. That was the first goal of what we said we wanted to do; be physical, be able to run the football, and we weren't able to do that, so that was a little bit disappointing. But I think a lot of that is mindset and attitude.

"The biggest question mark right now on our team will be the offensive line, because we're inexperienced there and we're young. But there's an attitude there by some of those young kids. They've got an attitude in them and they've got a little bit of nasty to them. That's what we're going to have to build on is the fact that we're going to be mentally tougher and more physical then we were…and some good things can happen."

As spring ball comes into full swing it will also be interesting to see which players step into the roles of leading the team. Lappano touched on the leadership he has witnessed throughout off-season workouts. "I've seen a lot of leadership in the winter program," he said. "I've seen Chad Macklin, I've seen Stanley (Daniels). I've seen Johnny and Isaiah both stand up. Kenny James has stepped up a little bit. Sonny Shackelford. It's nice to see some guys become accountable and demand more of their teammates, both on and off the field. We've seen some leadership, and when you start seeing that, you see signs of your system starting to work."

With all of the work that his players have done in the off-season, Lappano hopes to see some guys make large strides in their newly-sculpted bodies. "I hope Stanley Daniels (will improve), because we worked really hard with him all winter long, just being more physical," Lappano said of the senior offensive lineman from San Diego. "Chad Macklin, Clay Walker, Louis Rankin. Louis showed signs of being a pretty good back early in the year, but what happened to him is he got worn down. And his body make up, he's got narrow shoulders, narrow hips, and he wore down at season's end a little bit and wasn't nearly as effective as he was early in the season. And he understands that."

Lappano also talked about another one of his backs, Kenny James, and how the staff has high hopes that his body will stay healthy for his senior year. "Kenny James is another guy that has worked hard and tried to be more physical and stronger," Lappano said of James. "I really believe that when he took that helmet on the shoulder in two-a-days, it never healed and he never had the confidence that he had the year before. He played better the year before, I think because he was a lot more healthy. Anthony Russo also has worked really hard. So we've had a lot of gains in the weight room and a lot of kids that worked really hard, so we're kind of fired up to get out there this week and see them in action."

Maybe the biggest help to Lappano this season will be having a better understanding of his players and what they are capable of. "I have an idea now of what everybody can do," he said. "I think I know our players on offense. I know their strengths; I think I know their weaknesses. Where a year ago, I really had no clue. Coming in to this thing totally blind, just watching the film from a year ago when they won one game, and that was really hard to analyze and get to know these guys. So I think I know who can make some plays and the type of situations we can put them into. I think I can do a better job of putting them in situations to have success."

He closed by talking about how the UW fans will notice changes from last year to now. "I think for one, you're going to see #4 with the ball in his hands a lot more than you did a year ago," Lappano said. "That's got to happen. He's one of the best athletes in the Pac 10 in my opinion, and he's got to touch the ball more, but he's going to have to stay healthy doing it."

He also pointed out the he has a better understanding of the team's receiver now, which will have a positive affect on how they are utilized. "(I know) who can run by people, who's the possession receiver, what we can and can't do at tight end," Lappano said. "So I think I have a pretty good handle on what these guys can and can't do."

After posting three wins over the past two years, Lappano is confident that this is the year the Dawgs turn it around. If that is the case, it might be because the offense gets a boost from a newcomer in the backfield. "J.R. Hasty, when we scrimmaged him against the freshman, he did some things that everyone was just oo-ing and ahh-ing about," Lappano said of the redshirt frosh from Bellevue. "He made some highlight-tape career runs. He's got great feet, balance, vision, can make you miss, and is really steady. He isn't the fastest guy in the world, but he sees the field really well and gets up in that crease fast, and can make you miss. He's got good balance, he can break tackles. And he's got good hands out of the backfield. So again, you've got three guys that if they can stay healthy and stay physical, they can really help us."

With all that being said, it appears as if the biggest difference maker this year for the Huskies could be Lappano himself. Now that he is more comfortable with his personnel and how they work in this system, it's only a matter of time until his offense is running on all cylinders.


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