Offensive Preview 2002

The Washington Huskies should have one of the best offenses in the league this season. After averaging 279.5 passing yards per game last year, the Dawgs should garner a lot of attention from defensive backfields. The Huskies boast the most talented wide receiver corps in the conference.

Washington was actually outscored by their opponents in 2001 (323 points given up against 310 points scored in 11 games), and only averaged 2.9 yards per rushing attempt.

The Huskies will need more rushing yards if they hope to improve on their 8-4 record. Those numbers should increase, as they return four starters from the offensive line and, although they lost Willie Hurst to graduation, the stable of running backs is deep, talented, and experienced.

WT Khalif Barnes – photo by Kim Grinolds

With four starters returning, this group finally has some experience. Last year this unit was green and at times porous. Senior Elliott Zajac (6-3 310) returns at guard to lead the trench Dawgs. Joining him are fellow returning starters Khalif Barnes (6-5 300 sophomore), Nick Newton (6-5 310 junior), and Todd Bachert (6-3 315 junior). Bachert moves from tackle to center, the position he was recruited to play, and Newton moves outside to tackle. Newton's move is due to the emergence of Aaron Butler (6-2 325 sophomore), who has shot up the depth chart and become a starter.

"Actually, there are five starters coming back because Aaron Butler started two games last season," said offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson. "We've got Barnes, Butler, Bachert, and Elliott Zajac, who has played a lot the past few seasons, and Nick Newton, who was a starter inside and we've moved him outside. Then you put Kevin Ware in there, who started eight or nine games last year."

"We have a pretty veteran group of guys."

Washington typically plays an offensive line rotation of nine guys, and the four that are most likely in the best position to make that mix are Dan Dicks (6-5 325 sophomore) and Brad Vanneman (6-3 280 RS-freshman) on the interior, and Robin Meadow (6-5 310 RS-freshman) and Ryan Brooks (6-6 300 sophomore) on the outside. CCSF transfer Francisco Tipoti (6-5 330 junior) has not been able to crack the two-deep thus far, and Tacoma native Andre Reeves is transferring out of the program.

Tipoti was expected to compete for a starting job this spring but it didn't happen. "It's just a matter of getting in great condition and staying ahead academically," said Gilbertson. "If he gets behind (academically), then he's always rushing to catch up, and that is going to take some of the edge away from playing."

Olympia, WA Walk-on Jason Simonson has also cracked the two-deeps.

True freshmen Clayton Walker (6-3 280), Nathan Rhodes (6-6 335), Stanley Daniels (6-3 315) and Robin Kezirian (6-3 275) are all very solid recruits that will pay huge dividends in the program. Walker looks like a born-lineman while Kezirian is strong and has a fire in his belly. Rhodes is huge, maybe too huge for this year. Daniels could move to defense, and is currently sitting out while he awaits word from the NCAA clearinghouse. All should redshirt this fall unless there is disaster.

TE Kevin Ware – photo by Kim Grinolds

Losing Jerramy Stevens to the NFL will not be as difficult as some are making it out to be. After all, the Huskies didn't have him for six games in 2001.

The man that has stepped up to the plate has been Kevin Ware (6-2 260 senior). "Kevin had a nice spring. He really worked his way into the passing game," said Gilbertson.

"He has always been a very good blocker. He seems to have progressed. He had a good summer and came into fall in great shape. His routes look smoother; he gets in and out of his breaks better, so I am pleased with what I see."

Behind Ware is man-child Joe Toledo (6-7 285 RS-freshman). Toledo has improved his hands from last year and he's a big man that can move the pile. Andy Heater (6-5 265 RS-freshman) is the third tight end in the jumbo sets. Incoming freshman Ben Bandel (6-7 265) has shown terrific hands so far.

WR Reggie Williams – photo by AllSport

With Reggie Williams (6-4 215 sophomore) and Paul Arnold (6-2 205 senior) combining for 98 receptions last fall, look for that duo to rack up even bigger numbers and certainly more attention from defensive coordinators. Williams is a potential all-American and Arnold has sprinters' speed and open field moves that will scare the most veteran of defensive backs.

A huge plus is the return of senior Patrick Reddick (5-9 190), who successfully earned a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. "That is a blessing! Pat didn't have the chance to have the career that some of these other guys did because of injuries. This is a great deal for Pat," said Gilbertson.

Reddick is considered one of the surest handed pass catchers on the roster and he has a thick frame that allows him to cross the middle and take a hit.

Wilbur Hooks Jr. (6-0 200 senior) has a lot of experience and has made big catches in clutch situations. Further adding to the depth, sophomore Charles Frederick (6-0 190) was reinstated to the team this fall and will be a dual threat as he'll return punts and kickoffs as well.

Junior college transfer Eddie Jackson (6-5 215 junior) has looked good so far in early practices and will crack the depth chart as well.

"We've got a lot of guys who can play receiver. I am excited about that group."

One last surprise, a pleasant one, is Justin Robbins (6-0 190 sophomore), who looks to be returning from a torn ACL much quicker than anticipated. He was supposed to be out this fall, but he's practicing and looking good. He brings even more experience and great hands to the table.

Rich Alexis (AP Photo: Amy Conn)

Rich Alexis is looking to return to his freshman season form, where he averaged over six yards per carry, as compared to just 3.1 yards per rush last year. He's slimmed down from 230 pounds last fall to 210 this August, and he is now running under 4.5 in the 40. Alexis was magic running the option on the outside when Marques Tuiasosopo was the pitch man and there were four seniors blocking. Last fall, behind a new line and a different running attack, Alexis looked very ordinary. Expect that to change. Neuheisel is hoping that either he or senior Braxton Cleman (5-10 210) will get hot and carry the rushing attack. Cleman has yet to play an injury-free season, but he has significant experience and has picked up some big yards both on the ground and on receptions.

Chris Singleton (6-1 200 sophomore) is the fastest of the three, and he is posting some impressive numbers in the weight room. Watch out for this young man from Etiwanda. He's going to open some eyes this fall.

True freshman Kenny James (5-10 200) rounds out the tailback committee. He's very shifty and will remind Husky fans of Willie Hurst in his ability to hit holes and dart between the tackles quickly.

At fullback Zach Tuiasosopo (6-2 250) has made a very successful move from defensive end and looks very solid. "He's a natural on offense," said Rick Neuheisel. Behind him is converted QB Adam Seery (6-2 210 junior), who is a hard worker. Dan McCourtie became academically ineligible this spring but Seery was ahead of him on the depth chart anyway.

QB Cody Pickett – photo by AllSport

Washington hasn't had this type of depth at quarterback since they had Billie Joe Hobert, Mark Brunell, and Damon Huard all on the roster at the same time. With Cody Pickett (6-4 210 junior) and Taylor Barton (6-2 205 senior) both returning, experience is not a problem behind center.

"Both kids have started games. Cody had a real fine year for a first-year starter," said Gilbertson. I like the looks of it."

Pickett will work on improving his accuracy (14 interceptions last season) but his arm strength appears to be back this summer after off-season shoulder surgery. Barton is a solid #2 and, although he doesn't have the gun that Pickett possesses, the senior from Beaverton, Oregon is smart and accurate.

Behind those two is Casey Paus (6-5 210 RS-freshman), who has a cannon for a right arm. He is the classic drop back quarterback that Don James loved. True freshman Isaiah Stanback (6-2 190) will learn the ropes behind them, but his 4.4 speed makes him very fun to watch. He is a tough guy to corner.

K John Anderson – photo by AllSport

John Anderson (6-3 190) returns for his senior season. Anderson won two games on the final play of the game (ASU and USC). He can be trusted to put one through the pipes at crunch time. His career long was 56 yards against UCLA, a clutch kick that pushed the game into overtime. That tied a school record.

Derek McLaughlin (6-3 190 sophomore) returns for his sophomore season to punt for the Huskies. Derek averaged 41.2 yards per punt last season, including a thundering 74-yarder on the road against California.
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