Dawgman.com Husky Diary

Players were milling about Monday afternoon before practice. You could tell it was game week, as the carefree expressions of last week gave way to eye-of-the-tiger seriousness. Although Paul Arnold was polishing off what seemed like his fifth plate of chicken thighs from Ezelle's, he too had a different purpose to his stride. The time has come - Michigan is looming.

SS Greg Carothers is noticeably bigger this year and has forgone the curly long locks of hair that he sported last year in favor of a crew cut and newly grown goatee. "I'm excited to get after it. That first game is always exciting, and I really want to get going," said the starting junior strong safety.

Carothers is a veteran of the secondary but the man lining up next to him when Michigan takes their first snap on offense will be a new starter, FS Jimmy Newell. "I've been playing with Jimmy since I got here. I'm very comfortable with him. I also like the way Evan (Benjamin) plays and it won't be hard to fit in there. Everyone in our secondary is in my class so we'll all graduate together. We are coming along really well."

Carothers expects Michigan to run the ball often. "I think we are an aggressive run-stopping team. You hear about teams like Michigan and how they will pound the ball at you. I think one of the key parts of our defense is the way we can stop the run, though. Michigan has big guys that will pound it at us and they are good at disguising what they do. But I expect them to run the ball," said Carothers with steely eyes, anticipating his first big hit on a Wolverine.

This will be Carothers' first visit to the Big House, which brings a smile to his face. "I don't know what to expect. It's a big hole in the earth with over 100,000 people there. We'll see what it's all about when we get there."

WIL Joe Lobendahn will be making his first start as a Husky if all goes to plan this week. He is a bundle of emotions and looks a bit on the uptight side, which is out of character for him. "To be honest I'm very nervous. I'm excited at the same time, though. My dream came true. I'm starting right now and I hope to just try to stay healthy and get ready to play Michigan," said the 235-pound linebacker. At 5-10 he does not look imposing until he faces you head on and you realize that his neck is about as wide as his head. This is clearly a guy that you'd rather not be hit by.

Lobendahn (pronounced low-been-DINE) is comfortable with both inside linebacking positions but will get most of his looks on the weak side. The "WIL" is the glamour position in the Husky defense and if the scheme is executed correctly, that player should lead the team in tackles. It's a heady job for a true sophomore but Joseph is excited for the challenge. "Michigan will run, and there will be a lot of hitting. I CANNOT WAIT. I want to show my stuff on Saturday and hopefully not make mistakes. I'm going to go out and play my hardest."

Will Saturday be a new beginning for a Husky defense that was torched in it's last two games for over 110 points? Lobendahn emphatically agrees. "This defense is very awesome. We have a lot of speed on the field compared to last year, I think. I think we'll do well."

The offensive line took a hit when Elliott Zajac went down. As he was the only senior, the trench Dawgs now will turn to upper classmen Todd Bachert and Nick Newton for leadership. Newton, a junior, will start at the strong tackle position on Saturday.

Newton will lead the Husky offensive line into battle against one of the top defensive lines in the Big-10. "It's Michigan. Everyone knows who they are and you have to expect the best. That's usually what they are. They have a lot of big guys with good speed up front, but you know what? We're going to come out and be ready to play," said the 6-5 310-pounder from Buckley, Washington.

He added, stone-faced, "We're going to come out and play and we'll see how it goes."

Newton has played every position but center on the line so although he started at guard last season, the move to tackle isn't uncomfortable for him. "I played strong tackle as a freshman, and then I backed up Silvers at weak tackle. Last year I moved to guard, but I'm very familiar with the tackle position. Scheme-wise, it's a lot easier for me."

Of Zajac's absence, Newton believes it will be shorter than most think. "Elliott is still around, so he's still a leader for us. I think he'll be back a lot sooner than people think. He's a role model for these guys out here, and while he's gone hopefully I can step up and be that and set an example for some of the guys that are just coming into our program."

One player that could really be a difference maker in the opener at Michigan is Charles Frederick, who has returned to the team with a resounding bang. Frederick will see time as a kickoff return man, the primary punt returner, and will also see time as a receiver.

Frederick was dismissed this spring by coach Rick Neuheisel, and after flying back from Florida this summer, asked to be reinstated and went about showing teammates and coaches alike just how dedicated he was to making this Husky team better.

"It feels great to be back. I'm much more relaxed than I was last year," said Frederick with his trademark smile and dreadlocks. "I'm definitely more focused, and I've just tried to work hard and help the team anyway I can."

ET was the star of the offense during two-a-days, which was a huge difference from where he was a year ago during fall camp. "The biggest difference is that I'm more comfortable with my environment. Last year it was all new and I couldn't relax. Now I'm relaxed."

Just how does someone relax when they are returning a punt with players flying at him at top speed? That question draws some laughter from the Florida native. "I think it's something that just comes natural. That and returning kicks, I think, is something that some people have a gift for and some don't. I think I have the gift for those."

Returning to his teammates was difficult for Charles because of the circumstances under which he left in the spring, but all fences appear to be well on the way to be mended. "When I came back I had to show people that I can play, and that I can adapt to things and keep going forward. I feel like everything is on the mend, but I still want to keep on showing everyone. I don't want to stop, I just want to keep it going," said Frederick.

Then a calm came over him as he looked ahead to what Saturday holds in store for him and his teammates. "You know, I would've been very nervous last year, but this year I'm more comfortable. I'm ready to play and very excited to play some receiver and help the team. I think I can make some big plays."

Husky fans will be counting on it, Charles. Welcome back.

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