Coach's Corner

I just finished listening to Kim Grinolds' interview with Curtis Shaw on Dawgman.com's "Dawgman Radio", and although the young man was paced and deliberate in his responses, he is obviously fast and getting faster in his athletics.

Curtis recently ran a 10.56 in the 100 meters and a 21.3 in the 200M. He is currently ranked 2nd in the state of California for the 100M and is said to have an incredible start. These stats follow his 1,633 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior running back at Lincoln HS in Stockton and his 1,653 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior.

Those are impressive statistics and what they mean to me is that the Washington Huskies have just gotten a lot faster.

Curtis believes he can go in the 10.4's. Believe me - that is high end speed. This speed has only been matched by none other than The Napoleon Kaufman, arguably Washington's fastest player ever.

Shaw is listed at 5-11 and 190 so he is a little stockier than Nip but he is just as explosive. Shaw also returns kickoffs. How about adding punts?

As a true freshman, Shaw does not expect to come in and beat out Louis Rankin, but he is humbly confident and does expect to play. Rankin will be his mentor as both come from the same high school. As soon as track is over and Shaw has proven to be one of the fastest kids in the state of California, he should go out and practice catching kicks for the rest of the summer. Those spots are wide open at the UW right now, and getting a committed returner can only strengthen a questionable kicking game.

Speed and toughness were two of the signature marks of the Huskies in the early and mid 90's and Kaufman was clearly the fastest amongst a group of backs that included speedsters like Beno Bryant and Jay Barry. Kaufman sat on the bench behind those two his first year but any time he entered a game, his speed was so good that he notably changed the game.

By the time he was the featured back Napoleon had run for 100 yards in a game 17 times and had four-200 yard games, both Husky records. His speed changed the way teams prepared to play us and in more ways than one might expect.

I distinctly remember a game at Ohio State - you know, that school that never really cheats - and when we walked onto the turf at Buckeye Stadium, the grass looked like it hadn't been cut in a month. My shoes literally sank into the soft, plush, and slow grass. They purposely tried to slow down the game and specifically Napoleon Kaufman. It was at the start of the 1995 season and Nip had led our team to a 25-16 victory over the Buckeyes the previous year. We had stopped Eddie George cold that day and had rushed for 244 yards ourselves, most of it by Napoleon Kaufman. There was no way they were going to let it happen again.

It didn't, thanks in part to slowing down Napoleon with tall grass and big linemen.

That same year we got hoodwinked again when a Bill Walsh led Stanford team beat us in the rain again on long grass but this time the home team wore NFL size cleats and clearly had an advantage on their home turf which had also not been cut previous to the game.

Speed is such an important criteria in recruiting that it is hard to down play its importance. You actually need it all over the board but when you have specialists or skill players with it, it really puts a lot of pressure on the other team's defenses. It appears that Curtis Shaw has just that kind of quickness and he might no be the only one.

Willie Griffin, a 5-8 200 pounder out of McClymonds HS in Oakland is also reported to be lightning quick. His two year rushing total of 2,297 yards helped lead his team to a 22-3-1 record in his junior and senior years.

Anthony Boyles, the wide receiver out of Compton is a long strider who runs sub 4.5 40's. Devin Aguilar, the receiver out of Colorado also brings in a 4.5 40 and Brandon Johnson, the back from Dominquez HS, is a reported burner out of Hawthorne, California. I have seen Vonzell McDowell, from Seattle's Rainer Beach both run and jump and know he is bringing speed with him.

Shaw, Johnson, and Griffin all are faster than the backs Washington has had for the past five years. All will bring the dimension of speed to the table and all will be ready to challenge for playing time as a running back their first year. As fast as they run, their whole class appears to be bringing that dimension back to Washington.

Shaw, though, has the proven speed from track and appears primed to run in the state meet there. Hopefully he and the others can put the fear into opponents that same way Napoleon did.

If the opposing team's grounds crew doesn't cut the grass the week that Washington comes to town, we'll know just how fast this team is.

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