2006 Season Kicks Off Saturday

San Jose State has recommitted their football program with last years hiring of ex-Arizona Wildcats head coach, Dick Tomey.

UW GENERAL OVERVIEW: Tyrone Willingham begins year two of his era as the Husky head coach, hoping to improve on a 2-win season last year in his inaugural season. Most of last year was spent putting in a new offensive and defensive system as well as finding guys that wanted to be in Willingham's disciplinarian system. Now that the schemes are in and the players are more familiar with their coaches and playbooks, the hopes are that the offense can be opened up a bit more. The defense also hopes to attack more with experience returning everywhere. Washington has won just one Pac-10 game in two years, a road victory at Arizona last year. They hope to get 2006 off on a positive note with a win over San Jose State. Last year the Air Force Falcons came to Seattle and Washington seemingly had that game won when the wheels came off late and they dropped their home opener. That game set the tone for a season where the Huskies were competitive in most games but never could get over the hump. SJS GENERAL OVERVIEW: Coach Dick Tomey had a decent first (2005) season with the Spartans, as the team improved in many facets of the game. The emergence of the running game helped lead the way to "back to back" wins in WAC play, and also broke a 15-game losing streak to D-IA teams. Tomey spent San Jose State's spring practice sessions in 2005 putting in an offense and defense that were lauded a decade ago. "The same stuff wins today as won 40 years ago," said Tomey after his inaugural win as a Spartan. San Jose State finished the season 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the WAC. The Spartans have only won more than three games once in the last five seasons. But coming off five victories in two seasons, it is clear that progress had been made in 2005. The Spartans were competitive, losing to Nevada, Utah State and Hawaii by a touchdown. And they finished the season by gaining not only momentum, but confidence as well by defeating both New Mexico State and Idaho in WAC play to wrap up the 2005 campaign.
WHEN UW IS ON OFFENSE: Senior Isaiah Stanback has to scare the Spartans. He is 6-2, 221 pounds, and probably the fastest man on the Husky squad. When he chooses to tuck it and run, he is real threat to take it the distance. When he throws, he has a lot of experience to look to. Sonny Shackelford, Anthony Russo, Corey Williams, and Cody Ellis all have caught balls, and JC transfer Marcel Reece gives Stanback a big and surprisingly fast target across the middle. Shackelford has been the go-to guy in games for the Huskies but Reece will be dangerous. The offensive line is very experienced in the middle with three seniors. Stanley Daniels and Clay Walker both have multiple starts while center Juan Garcia is making his first mark with the first unit. Mammoth Tackle Chad Macklin (6-8 300) brings a lot of experience to the strong side, but the Huskies will go with a rookie at weak tackle, talented redshirt freshman Ben Ossai (6-6 295). Kenny James and Louis Rankin figure to get most of the carries in the opener. James is a cutback between the tackles guy while Rankin is the speed guy. Senior Shelton Sampson may also get some carries. WHEN SJS IS ON OFFENSE: The quarterback situation was a three-way battle between last years starting QB, Adam Tafralis, JC transfer (Harbor CC) Sean Flynn, and Chad Bozzo, whom was pushing for the starting job last season as a freshman before suffering a torn labrum in the third game against San Diego State. Flynn was held out of drills last week because of a sore arm and a groin injury, clearing the way for Adam Tafralis to start against the Huskies. The offensive line returns four starters led by 6'3" 290lb tackle, Matt Cantu. The running game has four good options, with all WAC back Yonus Davis returning to the line up and freshman Dominique Hunsucker, who flashed brilliance at the high school level. Davis averaged a lofty 6.7 yards per carry last season. Fullback James T. Collier, Jr., is a 221-pound junior who was a former linebacker, will get the power back carries. The receivers are not getting much pub but could surprise. John Broussard could be one of the WAC's most dangerous deep threats, while James Jones is an experienced veteran. Chester Coleman and Michael Hooper fill out the receiving group. The biggest hole to fill will be at tight end this year for San Jose.
WHEN SJS HAS THE BALL: Washington should field a solid defense that should be tough against the run. Experience up front includes all-Pac 10 candidate Wilson Afoa and senior Donny Mateaki, who will share reps with man-child Jordan White-Frisbee, who is still rehabbing a broken foot. On the outside, Greyson Gunheim is the starter but he may sit this one out with a knee sprain. If Gunheim can't go, expect Caesar Rayford and Brandon Ala to get those reps. Daniel Te'o Nesheim will be on the other side. He is undersized but very difficult to block coming off the edge. The linebackers are fast and athletic. Daniel Howell, Tahj Bomar, and Chris Stevens will be the likely starters but the depth is solid with senior Scott White and two redshirt freshmen, E.J. Savannah and Trenton Tuiasosopo. White may start, but all will play and all can run. In the secondary, Dashon Goldson and Roy Lewis have been solid on the corners. Goldson had a sore ankle but it didn't slow him much. Matt Fountaine will also play a lot on the corner. The safeties will be newcomer Jason Wells and senior C.J. Wallace. Both are big hitters, and will get some help if JC transfer Ashlee Palmer becomes eligible. Chris Hemphill is another safety with a lot of experience, and Mesphin Forrester may get some time as well. WHEN UW HAS THE BALL: The Spartan defense returns only three returning starters. Ellis Jones, a sophomore defensive back, was suspended from the team, further depleting the depth. DT Freddy McCutcheon suffered a dislocated kneecap and is expected to miss the opener. McCutcheon will probably be replaced by Shane Lapka, who will team with Josh Pulu, and Kalvin Cressel up front. The speed pass rusher is 210-pound Justin Cole, who will be flanked by Jarron Gilbert. Tomey has been known as a defensive coach, but it may take him another year or two to turn this unit into a solid one. Linebacker is thin. Matt Castelo brings experience in the middle, and he'll be surrounded by speed but no size whatsoever, with the top three starters averaging around 195 pounds. The only linebacker-sized linebacker is 222-pound Demetrius Jones, and he's mostly a special teamer. Sophomore Chris Reese, Castelo, and sophomore Dimitrous Chattman will likely start. The Spartan secondary was one of the worst in America last season allowing 296 yards per game and 21 touchdowns. With Ellis Jones out, Dwight Lowery will replace him and had a nice fall camp. Christopher Owens and Christopher Vedder are good blocks as well. Senior Jason Evans will man the free safety position.
UW SPECIAL TEAMS: Michael Braunstein takes over the placekicking duties for Washington. He is somewhat green but not lacking in confidence. Punter Sean Douglas is perhaps the best in school history and has the strongest leg of any Husky kicker in the last 30 years. New deepsnapper Danny Morovick is so good that he was awarded a scholarship just for that one duty. Marlon Wood is Washington's most dangerous weapon on returns. SJS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Spartan's kicking game should be among the best in the WAC with Jared Strubeck. Punter Waylon Prather is awesome at placing the ball inside the 20. The return game needs more work after averaging a mere 5.39 yards per punt return and mediocre 20.89 yards on kickoff returns. James Jones will handle the punt returns. Dwight Lowery has also been rumored to handle kick off's as well.
UW FINAL ANALYSIS: Willingham believes that his team has now bought into his system and his staff, something that may have been lacking last year. Considering the turnover this team has experienced, this shouldn't surprise anyone. Now everyone should be on the same page, and although the offensive line is paper thin and the running back situation isn't great, the talent level at receiver and the infusion of JC talent in the secondary should make this team much better than last year's unit. The biggest hurdle this team needs to clear is learning how, and expecting to win. Washington has hung their heads over the past couple of years when they got behind or adversity struck. That has to stop and this team needs to believe in itself. A win in the opener over San Jose State, followed by a competitive effort in Norman against Oklahoma and then a win against Fresno State in Husky Stadium in week three would go a long ways in at least setting a positive tone for a team that desperately could use something good to happen to it. SJS FINAL ANALYSIS: Dick Tomey feels that his team will have better coaching over last year, and that his team is stronger and in better condition than his 2005 squad. Now he will try to get his team to stop other teams on third down better, improve on defending the run, turn the ball over less while taking it away more, and most importantly, to make the right adjustments during games to allow his team to win. Tomey has favored break-of-dawn workouts since his days at Arizona, saying the players and coaches get more out of the day and there are fewer conflicts with classes than typical afternoon practices. SJSU is believed to be one of three programs in the country (along with Hawaii and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, whose head coaches have ties to Tomey) that practice almost exclusively in the morning during the school year. With plenty of returning starters, Spartan fans look for improvement over the 2005 campaign, and potentially have a few upsets along the way.
Dave Samek has been covering UW football since 1996 and is the publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Washington Magazine. Anthony Rocca is the site owner and publisher of SpartanThunder.com, the #1 San Jose State Fan Site.

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