Coach's Corner

There are 18 reasons why Washington could turn the corner this year. The 18 seniors on this year's team are tired of losing. They have been through three different head coaches and over 25 different assistant coaches - not to mention a complete change in athletic administration.

They have had very little continuity other than their own brotherhood. They have endured the lowest cycle of football in the history of the program. Not since the scandal-ridden Huskies of 1969 went 1-9, has a Husky team suffered like this group of kids. They are determined to change everything starting with San Jose State.

It is time. It is their time. It is their team. It is their legacy. This upcoming season could be made very successful by simply taking care of business at home. Looking at the schedule, it's obvious that many of the most winnable games are going to be played in Husky Stadium. If the Huskies can win all their home games, it would send this year's senior class out with not only a bang, but the warm feeling that they had just shocked the local sports world.

They need to make a STATEment! They really need to beat Washington STATE. That is really important to the turnaround. They play 4 of the 5 STATE schools right in their own backyard. San Jose State, Fresno State, Oregon State and Arizona State all have stops in Seattle.

The Huskies know they should have beaten UCLA last year. They did beat Arizona on the road, and Stanford is another team rebuilding and vulnerable. This group of seniors could actually go to a bowl game without too much of a reach. Winning all 6 at home is a definite possibility simply because Husky Stadium can be such a difficult place for visitors to play - if the defense is playing well (and I think it will).

It is easy to see that if senior Isaiah Stanback has a great year then so will the team. He might be the fastest man to ever play the position at this school and could be the best run-throw guy since Tui. If he runs like he can, and makes good decisions, then he will become a major play maker. He has worked as hard as anyone on the team. And this is clearly his team. He needs to protect the football and run to win.

Stanback can be a positive play-maker but he must protect against fumbles and interceptions.

Running backs are also critical playmakers. Kenny James is just about to have one of those years where everyone will be asking, "Where has this guy been?" His arm will be fine. Both he and Isaiah have already completed their degrees and have a lot of time to devote completely to their game. I think Kenny is a lot like Willie Hurst and if given the chance to carry 20 times per game he will be the first 1000 yard rusher in a long time. Junior, Louis Rankin, is also a game tested runner, and likewise must be a play-maker whenever he is on the field. He has the speed to go the distance and is learning to get his shoulders down when he is in traffic. Both of these running backs, along with another senior Shelton Sampson need to have the best years of their careers. Sampson has always impressed me with his work ethic in practice and he has an excellent forward lean to his running. These three backs will be fine. Two are seniors determined to make something happen.

The senior who may make the biggest mark in the record book and could easily be the best position player on the team is actually the punter, Sean Douglas. He is already one of the finest punters the school has ever had and could break the single season punting average this coming fall. Going into this season he is already 2nd in history for a season's average at 42.6 and is first for career average for punters with over 100 punts. He is up to 230 and really has the ball jumping off his foot. This kid and his dad, Steve, have been at this for a long time. He has the leg strength to kick in the NFL. He has been working on his get off speed and can kick on the run as well as go to a two step. He is already the best punter in the history of the school, yet nobody knows it because there have been too many blocked and he has never had a consistent snapper. Watch for Sean Douglas to become the number one punter of all time in the Husky record books and be all-conference at the end of the season.

Senior Sonny Shackelford has really matured during the Willingham era and I think he will catch at least 50 balls this year. He is noticeably stronger looking and is the leading returning receiver so he should be one of Stanback's go-to guys.

Quinton Daniels is listed as a senior but because of injuries we have only gotten a glimpse of what he is capable of doing. He had great speed coming into the program but is still a question mark.

Senior offensive guards Clay Walker and Stanley Daniels are solid, strong, athletic, and experienced. They will be as good as they have ever been this year. I have always liked Walker's edge. He has a bit of a mean streak. The other senior linemen, Chad Macklin has the classic offensive tackle's body and likewise will be at his best because of his strength development over the last year. Senior tight end Rob Lewis is up to 240 and has had some great catches so far in camp. These four will all play a lot better than ever.

Fullback Mark Palaita, another senior back, is close to 245 pounds and knows how to face up as a lead blocker. He will be a key to the success of the running backs because he will need to be throwing the key blocks. Palaita entered the program as a walk-on.

Senior quarterback, Felix Sweetman deserves to go out a winner. He has played a vital role as the scout team quarterback for years. He is what "team" is all about. Plus, he has paid his own way just to be part of the team. He has earned his standing on the team by working hard and understanding his role.

Defensively, the Huskies will be led by safety CJ Wallace. I think he is one of the best players in the program and I would expect that he plays up to that standard this season. I think he could play running back if they asked him to, he's that good of an athlete. He needs to be the force in the middle. He needs to rock people. He needs to create turnovers and be one of the leading tacklers. He needs to make plays.

Wallace is joined in the secondary by two other really good seniors in cornerbacks Dashon Goldson and Matt Fountaine. Both have lots of playing experience and give the Huskies, along with Roy Lewis, the best depth at corner they have had in years. Goldson's move from safety to corner has really opened up the possibility of putting more Man-pressure calls in the Husky defensive schemes. With three real good cover men, the Dawgs can now lock down on the receivers and go after the quarterbacks.

The seniors at linebacker, Tahj Bomar and Scott White, both know how to play in this league. I think Bomar has earned his spurs and really think it was a waste to have played him as a true freshman. He should only be a junior because all he did was run down on a few kickoffs the first half of his freshman season. White knows the position but needs to make plays. Again, it always goes back to making plays.

The defensive front is really still very young. There are 20 defensive line players on the roster (which is by far the biggest group on the team). Only two of them are seniors, Brandon Ala and Donny Mateaki. Mateaki should be a force. He is too big and too strong not to win at the point of attack, but needs to disengage better from the blockers and sprint to the football this year. Ala has his hands full holding off fellow Hawaiian, Daniel Te'o-Neshiem at defensive end, but Ala is the biggest and strongest he has ever been so he too should be much better.

These seniors were recruited by Rick Neuheisel, and then coached by Rick for one year followed by two seasons under Keith Gilbertson and now two years of Tyrone Willingham. That is a lot of upheaval, but I'm one who thinks Coach Willingham teaches the right things.

And after two years of Tyrone, these seniors are ready to win. These seniors have to make plays on both sides of the ball. That is what you always expect from your seniors.

Just about time to see what they've got in their final year of eligibility. Let's Rock. Top Stories