Willingham news and notes – 4/16/07

Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham was in a mood to hurry Monday, with so many things to work on after a Saturday scrimmage that brought mixed results on both sides of the ball.

"I love the energy of the team so far," Willingham said. "That was displayed Saturday. The mechanics were good, but not the execution. We have to get better to be the team I'd like us to be."

Senior center Juan Garcia appeared to be the only casualty, albeit minor, during the 90-minute scrimmage. Ryan Bush started out at center Monday as Garcia worked out but stayed away from contact after suffering an AC separation of his shoulder.

"You always want to be in good shape, you don't want to put yourself in harm's way in terms of injury," Willingham said when asked about the positive start to the spring in terms of staying healthy. We'll start to peak everything for fall, when it counts."

Execution may have not been up to par as far as the coaches are concerned, but it rarely is. Add to that the fact that neither the offense nor defense had taken part in any real live snaps before Saturday, and it's apparent that the first time out of the gate for the Huskies was going to be a little rusty.

"There isn't one group that isn't affected," Willingham said. "It's everyone. We didn't tackle prior to Saturday, and you'd like some full-fledged tackling before a scrimmage, but we didn't do that. On offense, we had real, live blitzes. So everyone is at somewhat of a disadvantage when you go to that first opportunity to scrimmage. So now hopefully we'll gain our balance and pick up the tempo in everything we do in all areas.

"There's only one standard."

And that standard also clearly applies to the Huskies' No. 1 quarterback, Jake Locker. But Willingham doesn't expect Locker to deviate from the way he's prepared just because he wasn't perfect from the opening whistle.

"I don't think he's changed his persona and how he impacts other people," Willingham said of Locker. "I think he's felt the entire time he's been here he's a starter and it's just that Coach Willingham hasn't put him out on the field yet. And I like that attitude and that approach."

And since it's already kept him in good stead, Locker won't deviate from the plan to achieve his own goals, the same plan that has helped him earn a starting spot five months before the first game of the season. And he certainly won't deviate when he hears comments about his future place in UW football lore.

When former Husky quarterback Hugh Millen told KJR's listening audience that Locker should be considered the greatest UW quarterback ever at the end of his career, that was news to Locker's ears.

"The way I approach (comments) like that is that I hold myself to a very high standard," Locker said on Monday. "So if I fulfill my own goals, and that fulfills others' expectations of me, great. I really don't pay a lot of attention to what others expect me to do."

But many, many others are watching him, nonetheless. One thing that Locker will always have behind him is the love and support of his hometown community of Ferndale, and it's something he doesn't take for granted – even while off at school pursuing grandiose dreams. When a family friend – a high school freshman at Ferndale – learned that she had cancer, Locker came to the rescue.

"She has to go through 36 weeks of chemotherapy, so during Easter there was a party for her and she shaved her head because of what she was going to have to do, so I was one of the people that did it too," Locker said. "I think there were about 40 or 50 people that did it with her. It just shows the kind of people that live in the area."

"It says a lot, but it's been said long ago," Willingham added. "It's a major statement, but also a small statement about how he lives his life because he's been doing things like that for some time."

And given that all of this happened on the west coast during a day that has been marked with unspeakable tragedy on the other side of the country, Locker's act keeps everything in sobering perspective.

"We've had a lot of things happen along this line in our country," Willingham said about the massacre at Virginia Tech that, at the time of this report counted up to 33 dead in what is being called the single deadliest shooting in U.S. history. "It sets a terrible tone for the times that we live in. I don't know the reason for it, but I ask our guys as they go through their daily routines to try not to put yourself in harm's way and to be considerate and respectful of other people because you never know about what's going on around you and the stresses that other people have. It's really sad, and my heart goes out to the families that will be affected by this. At some point we need to stop this madness."
Let's hear it!: Big Morgan Rosborough – otherwise known as ‘House' because of his 6-foot-6, 375-pound frame – made it clear he was ready to get things started during Monday's practice. "Let's show some enthusiasm! They want us to have enthusiasm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday!" he bellowed across Husky Stadium.

"Morgan brings a lot of intelligence to his play, and that's what we really need," Willingham said Monday when asked about Rosborough's emergence at guard. "We need our guards to play smart and physical."

Battle Royale: On occasion the team will have a series of ‘battles' where an offensive lineman will go up against a defensive lineman, a defensive end against a tight end, a running back against a linebacker, etc…in a pure test of strength, leverage and endurance to try and see who can physically overpower the other. Most of the team encircles the combatants while they are in action, so it's difficult to tell sometimes who is battling who, but a couple of the more enjoyable ones to watch included Louis Rankin taking on Donald Butler and Johnie Kirton squaring off against Darrion Jones.

In the house: The Whitworth football coaching staff, UW signee Chris Izbicki and 2008 recruit Vince Taylor from Eastside Catholic. J.D. Williams, Chris Tormey, Charlie Baggett and Mike Denbrock all came over to see Taylor during the team's warm up.

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