Dawgbytes - 4/11

Move a couple of steps forward, take one back. It seems to be the dance all college football programs do in the spring, but in this case, the 'step back' was a planned one for Tyrone Willingham and the Washington Huskies, in the form of film review of their Saturday scrimmage. In it, they found enough to work on off the field that they cut their Monday workout in half.

"Yesterday was a good session, good energy," Willingham said Tuesday. "It was a good review session, so hopefully we accomplished much yesterday.

"Usually when you review, you are reviewing not just what you did, but almost more importantly, what you didn't do in the scrimmage, so we tried to focus on those errors that we made and get those corrected."

Willingham mentioned line play, pass protection, defensive alignment and coverages as things the team worked on. The defense handed it to the offense basically all day during Saturday's scrimmage in front of roughly one-hundred former Washington players, and one of the players that has emerged out of the depth on the defensive line is redshirt sophomore Walter Winter from Juanita. Winter started the scrimmage at one of the defensive end spots.

"He's starting to be consistent," Willingham said of Winter's play. "He's starting to understand how to play physical. So much of the defensive line play is how physical can you play, how fast can you get off the ball and how disruptive you can be to an offensive team. Hopefully he's starting to understand some of these things.

"Walt is starting to, with the time he's had here and with some of the things he's seen and the experience he's gained, he's starting to step forward and grow into being a player. He's continuing to get bigger and stronger and develop and I think that's good timing right now."

At the linebacker position, the WIL battle between Chris Stevens and E.J. Savannah is one that is heating up. Either way, that position looks to be solid for the next few seasons, barring injury.

"They are having a great competition," Willingham said. "Both are really gaining some experience in the spring and there are some things that just don't happen naturally because of the lack of experience. They have great energy and enthusiasm and are battling pretty good."

Offensively, Willingham continues to sing the praises of two receivers that came to the Huskies' program in 2005 - Alex Mercier and Chancellor Young. Mercier, who prepped at Bishop Blanchet before stops at Oregon and Pasadena City College, is hoping his work pays off in the form of a scholarship. Young, who was a heralded two-sport star at O'Dea, played one year at Duke before heading back to the west coast.

"His role is expanding and emerging," Willingham said of Mercier and the work that he's done so far this spring. "It's not defined yet, he's defining it. He's going out every day and making plays and catching my attention and catching the attention of his teammates and coaches. He's really doing a fine job.

"When he arrived last year, he ran well. Most walk-ons have fair speed, but he has good speed. He can run pretty well. Any time a young man comes into your program with speed, it's a little different. He catches your eye right off the bat. He's making catches and getting more knowledgable and comfortable in the system. So far it's been a good transition."

And the thought of Mercier earning a ride? "I'm short on dollars as it is, but it's not outside the realm of possibility," Willingham said. "He's doing some really good things and you get excited about our young men when they do things of that nature. And it's not just once, he keeps on doing it."

Young is a little bigger and physical than Mercier, and it's something Willingham has noticed. "He's not as flamboyant (as Mercier), but I think you are seeing some good things there," Willingham said of Young's play. "He seems to add that element (toughness) to what we do, he seems to be a physical player. He's made some tough catches that we would have loved to have made last year that would have helped our football team be more successful. That's what football is all about. It's a physical game, and those that are more physical, you enjoy watching them play."
Injury report: Sophomore center Robert Lukevich was injured in Saturday's scrimmage and according to Willingham he'll probably have to have surgery in a couple of weeks for damage done to his knee. Lukevich's season looks to be in doubt. "I don't know, but I would normally say that it's not very good if it happens at this time of year," Willingham said about Lukevich's prospects for playing this fall. He was on crutches for Tuesday's practice. Sophomore tight end Johnie Kirton took part in a couple of plays on Monday, getting back into football shape. "Hopefully he'll continue to get better, get more time and we'll see what happens," Willingham said of Kirton, who was not wearing red on Tuesday. Asked about sophomore defensive tackle Jordan White-Frisbee, Willingham was unsure about a spring appearance "At worst, he's on course for that (fall return)," he said of White-Frisbee, who has been typically working out on a bicycle or on the stairs during practices.

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