Dawgbytes - 3/31

Tyrone Willingham had a saying he liked to use last year. He was the one person that always left practice disappointed. Disappointed either in the offense or defense, depending on which group had the upper hand that day. Since Thursday's initial practice of spring wasn't done in full pads, he apparently didn't have that much to be disappointed about.

"Not a whole lot of firm thoughts after our first day of practice," Willingham said Friday. "(The) Game isn't played in shorts, and once you understand that, you'll understand that what we did yesterday is like the prelims. It's like the steps you take to get to where you need to be. We're taking those steps. What you see in a first day is not what you'll see in fourteen days. Their comfort level is raised and you'll see them perform at a better level. But we didn't have enough team stuff yesterday, so my disappointment was limited. When you don't work that much against yourself, it's more the individual stuff we're focused on. It's still our first day."

Willingham was pleased, however, with how things have worked out with the offensive line coaching responsibilities, given the fact that UW OL coach Mike Denbrock is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness. "Coach Simmons and Coach Denbrock worked hand in hand," he said when asked about the tight ends coach's role in helping interim OL coach Kyle Benn continue Denbrock's teachings. "It's an extention that Kyle Benn, a former good player is there. He understands the techiniques, he was with us as a GA, so he clearly understands what we're trying to do. So he could be a stand-alone (coach), but we have a marvelously-talented coach in Coach Simmons. He's coached offense, he's coached defense, he's been a head coach, he's been through all of it. That combination will work well for us, whether it's Kyle or Coach Denbrock when he returns."

He was also pleased with how new defensive backs coach J.D. Williams immediately got to work coaching up his troops. "I think he'd done an excellent job to date," said Willingham. "Two weeks ago, the University of Washington wasn't on his plate. To think that, in that amount of time, he's made a transition and gotten here and started to work with our guys, he's done a remarkable job."

As with any spring football schedule, the coaches are trying to hammer away at the fundamentals, while also installing systems the team plans on using in the fall. "Fundamentals are important," Willingham said. "Good players never get away from the fundamentals. We've got to work fundamentals at every positions, over and over and over until they are absolutely flawless. And you've got a constant adding of installation that magnifies their ability to think and react. It's always a battle between the two, when you have a limited amount of time. How much scheme, how much time for fundamentals. You're always battling those two and you're never comfortable with either one of them. You'd like to put more in, but at the same time you know that if you don't have good fundamentals, it doesn't matter what you put in."

If any one group is 'swimming' right now, meaning they are getting a huge double-dose of fundamentals and installation at the same time, it's the new junior college players - players like cornerback Jordan Murchison, long-snapper Danny Morovick, safety Jason Wells and defensive end Anthony Atkins. "I think they are learning," Willingham said of the progress the JC players have made since they arrived on campus. "That's all part of it. The JC atmosphere is so much different than big-time college football. There's some suffering involved, like how hard and how fast practice is. There are quite a few things, but I think our guys will be fine once they get used to it."

So far, Willingham has seen flashes from Atkins, that edge pressure they were hoping to get when they recruited him. "He has that knack of being able to put his shoulder down and leaning and knowing what to do," Willingham said of the junior from Compton College. He also mentioned Wells and Murchison and glimpses of what they are capable of doing on the back-end.
The shape I'm in: Willingham said he wasn't super-concerned about spring conditioning. "It's not an issue for me during spring," he said. "Hopefully our winter conditioning served us well and got us in shape for the spring. We won't have quite the same conditioning as you'll have in the season, but we understand that. You're building up for the season."

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