Willingham fills in for Miles

Dawgman.com learned Tuesday that the father of Washington Running Backs Coach Trent Miles had passed away recently, so while Miles tended to personal business it was up to Head Coach Tyrone Willingham to take charge of the Huskies' ground game.

Willingham, who coached running backs at both Stanford and with the Minnesota Vikings, seemed pleased with how the RB's were working.

"We need our backs to perform within the core of our system," Willingham said after practice. "The four guys have had a good spring. They have had a lot of work and have stood up to that test. They are trying to do the things we need from an execution standpoint within the system. That means hitting the right hole, eliminate the mental mistakes, play with great effort, when they are called on to block perform that with excellence, and when they are called on to run with the ball, make plays – make yardage."

One of those backs – J.R. Hasty – is making steady progress as the team's current No. 2 RB behind incumbent Louis Rankin. "He's coming," Willingham said of Hasty. "He's working at it. And that's what I need and that's what our team needs. As long as he continues to work, he'll get better. And hopefully that will raise the level of play in Louis Rankin. All of a sudden you have the other guys raising their level of play, and that's good."

At the same time, Willingham added that he's not happy with where the overall level of competitiveness is, and he wants that to be stepped up as spring finishes.

Officials there all day long Tuesday, working most of the practice in various incarnations (7-7, 8-8, 1-1, full scrimmage, etc...). As it is with practice versus game, the team seemed to make a few more mental errors when the flags were flying.

"It's just human nature," Willingham said. "Hopefully our guys come out every day and play like it's a game, and practice takes on that kind of feeling, emotion and execution. Practice needs to be more than just practice."

The only major personnel change today was the move of Ryan Bush to right guard to replace an injured Casey Bulyca, who Willingham said was down with a slight foot problem. Bush, who normally is the backup center, played basically the entire day Tuesday at the guard spot.

"All of our interior guys should be flexible and able to play almost every position," Willingham said of Bush's move to guard. "It shouldn't be much of an adjustment to do that."

Anthony Russo and Quintin Daniels were suited up, but didn't seem to really play much, if at all. They did participate in the individual drills. One injury that did occur during practice Tuesday was a shoulder injury to defensive tackle Wilson Afoa.

"He'll probably miss a day or two," Willingham said when asked about Afoa's condition. "It doesn't seem to be severe."

Tuesday's practice appeared on the surface to be very much a microcosm of UW's spring in general – the offense and defense each taking turns at besting the other, with neither side really taking hold.

When the team started out in their short-yardage and goal-line situations, the defense did a nice job of stuffing the offense. Then when they went into their blitz period, the offense stepped up and didn't seem at all fazed by what the defense was throwing at them.

"It's good and healthy to have that give and take," Willingham said. "That's the way it's been all spring, and I like that."
Team Leaders: One of the members of the press asked Willingham to identify who he felt were his leaders, and he mentioned Jake Locker, Carl Bonnell, Juan Garcia, Anthony Russo, Johnie Kirton, Mike Gottlieb and Rob Lewis on offense. Defensively, he mentioned Jordan Reffett, Greyson Gunheim, Dan Howell and Jason Wells.

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