Coach's Corner

Make no mistake - this year's version of the Willingham Dawgs is way ahead of where they were at this same time last spring. Tyrone allows me to attend all practices, so I feel well qualified in saying that practices are smoother and more intense than a year ago.

There is good hitting and there are enough good weapons to make this team a lot better offensively than the 2005 model. The following are my observations and opinions of the progress of the offense.

First of all, I realize that the defense pretty much had its way in the scrimmage held Saturday in front of over 100 ex-Huskies who turned out to show their support for the program.

Defenses usually have the advantage in any early spring scrimmages, so to see the offense stopped frequently was to be expected. But what I was excited to see was how the coaches intended to use the skill players in particular.

Offensive coordinator, Tim Lappano, has an excellent offensive mind and his work with Isaiah Stanback is finally starting to show.

The Huskies will be much better on offense simply because Isaiah Stanback will be much better at quarterback. He is running with the football much better, and that will greatly improve their scoring ability. If Stanback runs on a more consistent basis, then the Huskies will score on a more consistent basis. He is like adding an extra running back into the backfield and it makes it really difficult for a defense to stop both the pass and the run in passing situations. He has the dodging ability and quicks to avoid pressure defenses and can really breakdown the underneath zones if he only remembers to run.

Carl Bonnell has also showed well this spring, and he also has good feet like Stanback.

The best Husky quarterback in the last decade or so has been Marques Tuiasosopo. What made him so dangerous was his ability to pull the ball down and take off. Stanback has that same ability, only he is an even better runner than was Tui. He just never figured out when it was time to tuck and run, whereas in Marques, his instincts were uncanny. I think Stanback is a lot better now than he was a year ago at this.

I am the ultimate homer, sure, but I expect him to lead this team to a winning record.

Bonnell is obviously a lot quicker than Johnny DuRocher and if running is part of that position then look for him to compete with DuRocher for the back-up position to Stanback.

Both push Stanback along with in-coming freshman Jake Locker in the fall. That being said, I still think it is Stanback's job to lose. And I think if he runs once for every two times he passes, then the Huskies will be much better off.

No joke. My thoughts translate to if he throws 22-24 times then he should run 10-12 times. If he throws 30 times then have him run 15. Whatever the numbers, he should be the second leading rusher on this team. I won't call or compare him to Michael Vick, or Vince Young, or even Tui, which is not fair. But I will say that Isaiah is a special athlete and I finally think he has found a coach he can relate to.

And he just might have a break-out and awesome senior season. He is way overdue to finally experience winning. He lost nearly every game in high school and has been at Washington for the worst four year stretch in the 100-plus years of the program. He is studying hard, is the fastest player on the offense, and is in incredible shape.

Now this team needs an infusion of 3 to 5 more ballers in the overall offensive depth. Of course, there are only 83 players out for spring right now so they barely have two full offensive lines to scrimmage with. But hopefully some of the remaining JC signees who will arrive in the fall can provide good help. Wide Receiver is the first position that comes to mind. I think that it is obvious that Marcel Reece is going to be needed to fill a hole when he joins the team come fall. This team needs a play-maker receiver and he appears to fit that need.

With both Sonny Shackelford and Anthony Russo hurting, the wide receiver position appears thin and still young. Shack is the team's leading returning receiver. His absence allows for lots of reps for younger players. Veteran, Anthony Russo, although naturally slight of build, looks stronger and like Shackelford, needs to prove he can catch the ball over the middle on a more consistent basis. Both have the experience but are a little on the light side.

The player who appears to be making a move is Chancellor Young, the transfer from Duke by way of O'Dea High School. He is bigger, stronger, and just as fast as anyone in the group.

Corey Williams shows promise to return to his form of a few years ago, before breaking his wrist on the wall of Notre Dame Stadium. He has a nice flow to his game and is a little bigger target. Williams along with Shackelford, Russo, and junior, Charles Smith, were all part of the 7 receiver-signing class of Rick Neuheisel's final year. Two of those have departed (Bobby Whithorne and Craig Chambers), and the fastest of the bunch, Quintin Daniels, has yet to come back from injury. Cody Ellis and walk-on Alex Mercier, are getting to show their skills and both have made some nice catches. Speedster, Marlon Wood appears to be making progress with his injury rehab and is getting closer to full throttle. There are numbers at WR, but it still looks like they need "home run" help at receiver - I anticipate Reece will provide that.

One of the best catches of the spring was turned in by tight end Michael Gottlieb, who appears to be developing as another tight end to go along with Robert Lewis and Johnie Kirton, who now looks about 290. Tim Harris, a walk-on out of Tacoma, is also competing along with Tim Williams at the position, but it still looks like a spot of need. It was unfortunate that they did not sign one in the incoming class.

The running backs are doing fine, and I still think Kenny James has a special quality to him. He sort of slides through the holes and appears to have good vision and balance. Louis Rankin still runs a little high for my taste but he shows a nice burst once he spots a crease to slip through. Freshman, JR Hasty is going to be a nice addition to the backfield and Luke Kravitz is showing great progress at fullback where veteran Mark Palaita also returns. However, just like receiver, there appears to be room for another fullback or tailback to enter the mix.

With offensive line coach Mike Denbrock out of commission this spring, the line coaching job has fallen on the shoulders of Kyle Benn. Kyle was a great center for the Huskies his whole career and is working nicely with the line. It is a wonderful opportunity for Benn to develop as a line coach and although not as assertive as Denbrock, he nevertheless has the players respect and attention. The kids up front who appear to be getting better are Nathan Flowers, Ben Ossai, and Juan Garcia. You expect returning starters Stanley Daniels, Clay Walker and Chad Macklin to be regulars and the return of Erik Berglund is positive even if it is just from the numbers standpoint. Casey Bulyca and Ryan Bush give them barely a two-deep so again an extra body up front would greatly help. Sir Aaron Mason sure has the opportunity this fall to help out at tackle.

What is most obvious is the players' eagerness to work and the fact that they have been with the exact same offensive coaches for over a year now. Staff continuity is finally starting to show on the offensive side of the ball. Knowing and understanding terminology and philosophy along with mutual expectations will make this a better offense.

The foundation was laid last year and hopefully the rewards of enduring the past two years will pay dividends for the Husky offense. Look for more screens, draws, dumps, and hots to the tight ends. Those are all weapons that would seem to fit with a dual threat quarterback. I would guess that bootleg runs, designed quarterback draws and lead plays, as well as sprint out passes will all be part of the package as well.

I think the Husky offense is showing me that they can be much improved over last year. They will have to be if they entertain any notions of going to a bowl and having a winning season. Top Stories