Dawgbytes – 4/17

When you listen to Tyrone Willingham, you can count on him talking about subjects near and dear to his heart and competition is a key word in his vocabulary. He loves to compete. Whether it's a card game with a friend, when playing a round of golf or leading his players onto the field against an opponent, his focus is always on competing. He demands it and he thrives on it.

"I think we're starting to make some headway from the standpoint that we're starting to reach some common ground about how we do things and that's what's important," Willingham told the media the final Monday of spring workouts. "Practice for me, amazingly to some, is a lot of fun even though I have to be disappointed when I finish each day, because it's hard to get both sides to the same place when you're going against each other all the time.

"It should be a lot of fun even though we're working extremely hard it should be a lot of fun out there. I think our guys are understanding what we're looking for. We're looking for that sense of enjoyment about what you do, about that love it and that passion for it. I think our guys are picking up on that's the way we coach and that's the way we feel because it's just a great day to get out. Whether it's rainy and cool or that it's the 13th day of spring practice, if it was the 13 days in a row that we've been on the field it would still be a joy for coach Willingham to go out there and coach and work with our guys."

The Huskies have several players who play a second sport in addition to their commitment to the football team. Several of the players, including QB Isaiah Stanback, run track and while the trend across the country has been for coaches to discourage players from playing other sports, Willingham says he isn't one of them.

"I have long been one of those that encourages young men to play multiple sports," Willingham said. "I think true competitors like to compete and no matter what ball field you place them on they love competition. They thrive on it. That's the kind of guy we want in our program.

"We want guys that thrive on competition and love every minute of it because those are the guys when you're down in the fourth quarter you can count on because they love the body chemistry that happens about that time and they just love the way the mind thinks at about that time."

One area of competition this spring has been the tight end position where incumbent starter Robert Lewis is fighting off Johnie Kirton – who has been limited by a foot injury – and Michael Gottlieb a player who has caught the coach's eye during the team's workouts.

"I've probably been the most impressed with Michael Gottlieb in terms of what he's done," Willingham said. "If we were to start a ballgame today he would probably be our starter. He's given us the most aggressive play and been the most responsive to doing things in the manner that they need to be done."

Willingham said he saw more from his offensive line in Thursday's scrimmage that he didn't see from them in an earlier scrimmage when the offense was pushed all over the field by the defensive front-seven.

"There were spots," Willingham said when asked if they offensive line had a better day. "I thought we did some better things in our goal line, short yardage work and I thought we had some self-destructive things that happened during those situations, so still it's not where I'd like it to be, but there was some improvement."

The left tackle spot is a spot that needs leadership and needs to protect the blind-side of the Husky quarterbacks and that position is currently being contested by redshirt freshman Ben Ossai and third-year sophomore Nathan Flowers.

"That's one of the spots that I don't think has lived up to what I'd like it to be right now," Willingham said. "Nathan is one of the guys we are hoping will step forward and really step up to what has to happen at that position because the left tackle is a critical position since our quarterbacks are right handed and our quarterback coming on campus is right handed. We need that position to be very secure."

Willingham and his players will have a shortened practice as the team reviews film from Thursday's scrimmage. They will practice on Tuesday and Thursday and then have their annual Purple and Gold game on Saturday at 12:45 at Husky Stadium.

A position switch: Sophomore Darrion Jones, who was the backup middle linebacker last year, has moved to defensive end. "Hopefully we're reaching a comfort level with Darrion while also we're helping ourselves with getting a little more speed at our defensive end and hopefully find a way to get a pass-rusher from the group."

Huskies stay home for fall camp: For the second straight year, Willingham and the Huskies will not make the trip south to Olympia for fall camp this August. In previous years the team had spent a week on the campus of Evergreen State College in a mini version of training camp, but Willingham said the team will be staying on campus because he feels Montlake is the best place for the team get the work they need to get done.

Fullback in good hands: "We've got (Mark) Palaita and then we have (Luke) Kravitz, we have Kravitz and that's about it," Willingham said. "They've really been workhorses and strong men for us at the position because they've done all the work at that position and it's been very good at times."

Injury update: No new injuries to report from Thursday's scrimmage. Jordan White-Frisbee continues to work on his conditioning work and some limited drills. Kirton and Anthony Russo have worked their way into some limited contact and drills.

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