Camp battles to watch

Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham stays true to the coaching norm of "all positions are up for grabs" as his team heads into camp and to a certain extent that's true. If a freshman or younger player were to perform better in camp the staff would do everything they could to get them onto the field. However, there are a couple of positions that bare watching as fall camp begins in two weeks.

Here's a look at the top battles to watch in fall camp…

Cornerback – While it's a forgone conclusion that senior Roy Lewis has one spot locked up, the spot on the other side will be a battle between at least three players and possibly more.

Junior Jordan Murchison redshirted last year and has struggled at times with a chronic knee condition, but the word is he's back to full health and has shown excellent speed and quickness in offseason workouts. Murchison's athleticism is unquestioned (he posted a 4.47 forty time and a 36-inch vertical in spring testing) and the hope is he will be a player the Huskies can count on in their secondary this year.

Redshirt freshman Matt Mosley is a physical presence at corner and defensive backs coach J.D. Williams has mentioned he likes the way his young protégé has progressed since he arrived on campus last August. Mosley isn't the fastest guy on the team, but he's got excellent quickness and as he continues to learn the position he could challenge for time in the deep patrol.

Byron Davenport, who signed with UCLA out of high school and played as a redshirt freshman, arrived on campus in July with two years to play two after transferring from UCLA to El Camino and sitting out a year. He's fast (4.4 speed) and he's gotten experience playing against the talented wideouts in the Pac 10 already. He's the odds-on favorite to win the other starting spot, but the coaches will let things play out during camp.

Lastly, the Huskies have two more players who will be freshman this fall who could challenge for time as well. Vonzell McDowell is incredibly quick – he posted a 3.8 shuttle time before his senior season – and he's a solid defender with good hands and ball skills.

Marquis Persley wasn't a player that garnered a ton of recruiting interest, but the Huskies liked his physical skills and his focus. He's a player that has the frame to be a big corner or even move over to free safety depending on how big he gets. Either way, he fits into the Huskies' zone scheme.




Guards – The Huskies return three starters – LT Ben Ossai, RT Chad Macklin and C Juan Garcia – but the guard spots are completely up for grabs heading into camp.

The leaders coming out of spring are Morgan Rosborough and Casey Bulyca, but redshirt freshman Ryan Tolar and converted DT Jordan White-Frisbee, who is a fourth-year junior, both will have something to say about who will start the Huskies' opening game against Syracuse on August 31st.

Rosborough and White-Frisbee are two of the biggest Huskies and they waged a war at right guard position during the spring. Rosborough's athleticism for a man his size (6-7, 375) is impressive, but he still needs to work on his conditioning and word is that's been happening. White-Frisbee has the benefit of playing time (he saw lots of time as a true freshman in 2004), but he's still trying to feel his way to getting his technique down on offense.

Bulyca is probably farther ahead of Tolar than Rosborough is of White-Frisbee, but the redshirt freshman from Pasco is still in the hunt for playing time. Bulyca is huge (6-5, 320) but he is more of a mauler than an athlete. Tolar can be a physical blocker, but he's also athletic enough to get out on a linebacker in space and block down the field. He's also a film-room junkie that has really focused his energy on improving every day, according to offensive coordinator Tim Lappano and offensive line coach Mike Denbrock.




Weakside Linebacker – The SAM (strongside) spot will likely be manned by Dan Howell who returns after an impressive junior campaign and the MIK (middle) is all but sewed up by sophomore Donald Butler. The WIL (weakside) spot is another story though.

Last year, sophomore E.J. Savannah and junior Chris Stevens battled with the now graduated Scott White for time and this spring they battled each other.

Savannah is bigger and arguably more physical than the smallish but fleet Stevens. However, Stevens is a force in the passing game rushing the passer. He's an excellent blitzer and always seems to be around the ball.

Savannah is better against the run and he's also better in coverage. He's the player that was the nickel linebacker for the Huskies in 2006.

This one could be the most competitive position on the team. Honestly, it doesn't seem to matter who ends up "winning" this competition because both will see lots of time.




Running back – Louis Rankin returns for his senior season and he looks primed to have the best season a Husky back has had in almost a decade. He's running harder, he's got an experienced line in front of him and he's got a quarterback (Jake Locker) who runs the option very well.

Behind him though, things are a bit murky as the team prepares to head into camp.

Sophomore J.R. Hasty missed the entire 2006 season due to academics but he appeared focused and in better shape when spring ball rolled around. He had a good spring, but the talented freshman backs the Huskies have brought in will push him harder than he's ever been pushed.

Brandon Johnson runs a lot like Hasty, but he's a little bit faster and he's gotten his body ready to play as a freshman. Curtis Shaw is the flashier player with big play ability oozing out of his veins.

Brandon Yakaboski, a local player, could end up being the big back that Lappano has been looking for and Willie Griffin is a player no one is talking about, but he may end up being the best of the bunch. He's a bit on the small side, but he will remind fans a lot of Willie Hurst when you watch his running style.

Another player that could be in the mix is Nate Williams, but he seems destined for the secondary. As a runner though, Williams has the ability to run between the tackles with authority and enough burst to get outside if the need arises.




Wide Receiver – Senior Marcel Reece appears to have one spot locked up, but the other receiver position is wide open.

Anthony Russo has the experience, Corey Williams has the size and athleticism and Quintin Daniels has the speed.

Russo runs precise routes, but his size makes him a better fit inside as a slot receiver in Washington's three-wide sets.

You would have to think the coaches would love for Williams to realize his vast potential this year after two years of underachievement. He's got to focus more on blocking and the word is that receivers coach Charlie Baggett has been impressed with his skills.

Daniels suffered two knee injuries that have really limited his ability to get on the field, but in 2006 he made several plays that could portend a solid senior year.

He posted a 4.45 forty time this summer and has been running without the knee brace that has limited his range of motion the past two years. He's a definite playmaker for the Dawgs and they'd like to see him get the ball in his hands more.

Two other players to watch are senior Cody Ellis and speedy redshirt freshman D'Andre Goodwin.

Ellis is an excellent fit in the slot and his speed makes him a threat to get deep on a regular basis.

Lappano loves Goodwin's speed – he posted a team-best 4.35 forty time this spring – and his big-play abilities and you can be sure he'll do what he can to get the ball into his hands several times per game.




Punter and Kicker – The graduation of Sean Douglas and the departure of Michael Braunstein make these positions an uncertainty heading into camp.

At punter, Jared Ballman was signed as a mid-year JC transfer and he's got a great leg with directional kicks being one of his specialties.

Ryan Perkins, who is still recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered during the 2006 spring game, has a huge leg and he's also an excellent athlete. He's a player that could be the wild-card this year at either spot.

At kicker, entering the mix will be a walk-on kicker from Idaho, Cory Rutkowski, and Erik Folk who earned a scholarship offer from the Huskies last fall.

Rutkowski has a huge leg – he booted a 51-yarder this past year – and is hoping to earn a scholarship with his kicking ability, while Folk was one of renowned kicking coach Chris Sailer's best prospects and he too booted a kick for over 50 yards – a 53-yarder.

Perkins can also placekick as well, but he's expected to focus on punting at this point and time.


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