Improvement on Stanback's agenda

Improvement is a word thrown around by athletes from every sport in the sports rainbow, but one player that seems to mean it is senior-to-be QB Isaiah Stanback. At the press conference to kick off spring practices at the University of Washington, Stanback looked every bit the confident passer that Husky fans had hoped would develop during his career in purple and gold. With 2006 being his last "hoorah", expect Stanback to show what he's got as a signal-caller and leader.

"I'm excited about getting better," Stanback said with his trademark smile. "I've been pumped ever since the end of the season. I've been studying like crazy every day and trying to learn. I'm ready to go, ready to improve and I'm ready for everyone around me to improve so I say ‘let's get it going.'"

One player nipping at Stanback's heels is junior QB Johnny DuRocher, a player who transferred last year from Oregon and who is pushing last year's starter to the hilt.

"The more people we have to compete the better we're going to get," Stanback said. "I got some help last year and I'm not just going to sit there and worry about who's playing. I'm just going to prepare myself and the guys around me trying to get ready to play.

"(The quarterback competition) isn't a problem for me. My training and preparation isn't going to change. I'm not going to sit there and worry about who's playing. If I prepare myself well enough I won't have to worry about it. That's the outlook I have on it and it keeps me working."

Stanback surprised many last season with the revelation that no coach had ever taught him how to watch film and to read defenses. That's not the case this year.

"I think he's progressed a ton and I know that because I've visited with him during the off-season," offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. "I know how much work he's put in. He's watched every game, every cut-up, he's got a book of notes. He understands check-downs and where to go if one and two aren't there, where to go.

"He's really grown and understands the system so much better than a year ago it's crazy. He's going to be more comfortable, and when you're more comfortable and confident, you're more accurate. He has to be more consistent and more accurate, know when to tuck the ball down and go, and if he can do that he'll be as good as there is in this league."

Being comfortable is also a product of having the same head coach, same position coach and same system for two years in a row, the first time in his career at Washington.

"Last spring we were learning the offense, but this spring I know the offense," Stanback said. "I can work on the things I need to improve on and correct the things I did wrong last year. I shouldn't make the same mistake twice and this spring when we have things that come up we can relate it to the tape from last year so you have that memory thing going about not making those same mistakes."

Stanback's athleticism is something that sets him apart from his peers on the team, around the conference and across the nation. One area that Lappano wants to take advantage of is Stanback's speed.

"You're going to see No. 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. He's got to touch the ball more, but he's got to stay healthy doing it."

Saving Stanback's bacon at times will be an experienced wide receiver corps led by senior-to-be Sonny Shackelford who caught 41 passes for 592 yards and two touchdowns in 2005.

"He and I feel comfortable together when we play," Shackelford said. "We've been in this offense for a year and he knows what I can do and what I can bring and I've kind of figured out what he likes in certain situations."

WR Anthony Russo (30 catches for 487 yards and one touchdown), TE Robert Lewis (14 for 162 and one touchdown) and TE Johnie Kirton (14 for 152 and one touchdown) will also be catching passes from Stanback.

"I would say one of the guys I expect the most out of this year is Anthony Russo," Stanback said. "He's one of those guys that just works hard every day. He's not the biggest guy in the world, so he works that much harder. I'm excited to see him play and the improvements he's made.

"Johnie's also looked pretty good. I haven't been able to get that much work with him because he was down for a bit, but he should step up a lot more than he did last year because he's had a year. I think he's getting a lot more confident and he's starting to understand and take in that position."

Days begin early for Stanback and his teammates as they lift early in the morning, do conditioning work, attend class and then run seven-on-sevens working on the plays they will be asked run during the fall.

"I'm real confident now," Stanback said matter-of-factly. "I'm never going to be satisfied because there's always things I've got to learn about the system, but as far as improving off of last year I've been watching film like crazy and even when I'm just throwing I'm thinking about situations and things. I'm a lot more aware and I know where everybody's at now and I don't have to change offenses so that helps too."

Don't mistake his confidence with being comfortable.

"If you look at the guys who are comfortable where they're at they don't improve and I'm never going to let myself get into that," Stanback said. "I'm always going to work to improve and that's what my focus is."

That focus will be tested this spring and Stanback can't wait to get to it.

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