Coach's Corner

One of the most obvious signs that the Huskies are improving offensively is that the competition for most positions is much more intense, with as many as 6 to 8 freshman or red-shirt freshmen players right in the middle of the offensive mix.

Based on what I've seen, it is very conceivable that many youngsters hit the field this fall. I want to point out that this is based almost entirely on my own observations. The coaches go over personnel every day and every night, obviously trying to get the best players on the field. Sometimes their job is made much easier when injuries pop up, and that just happens to be the case this camp, where injuries have directly affected a few positions.

I have noticed, though, that there is a significant lack of the nagging type of injuries (groin, leg) this year and although many kids are sore and cramping, it is obvious this team really worked hard on their summer conditioning program.

As I have said before, I believe this last recruiting class is probably the best balanced and fastest group to come into Washington in many years. I could easily see newcomer, Jared Ballman, the JC transfer out of Grossman College in San Diego, doing not one, but both kicking jobs. Although he entered school last spring, he is much better this fall. Consistency will be the key, plus the fact that the only other veteran kicker, Ryan Perkins, is still coming back from a major knee operation.

Perkins continues to compete hard and I wouldn't be surprised to see him eventually get part of the action. The freshman scholarship kicker, Erik Folk, has been slowed by a pull suffered before camp and has yet to really compete. There are also a number of walk-ons added to the depth this year including a pretty good punter (Kiel Rasp) but their consistency in camp has been shaky and it is unlikely any will be used this fall.

I mention the kicking game first only because it represents the most unsettled competition in camp. With the possible exception of long snapper, Danny Morovick, almost every single specialist job is still up for grabs, although I think Ballman is inching ahead as both the punter and the kicker. The kick-return jobs are hotly contested with some of the freshmen being given consideration.

Position wise, there are a number of locks in the two deep. Quarterback and fullback appear to be the two positions on offense where the Huskies are deep and ready to go. Although freshman Ronnie Fouch continues to develop, Jake Locker and Carl Bonnell are clearly the best two quarterbacks. Both are really settling into the new phases of the offense and both are showing excellent leadership skills. Both are very humble young men and both are really concentrating on improving every play of every day. In terms of attitude and effort alone, these two are outstanding. Both are excellent runners as well as picking up on all the parts of the passing game. It is critical though that Fouch gets ready, because he is only an ankle injury away from being the back-up. Fouch also shows good quickness although he is not the runner that Locker or Bonnell is.

Speaking of running, it is in the backfield where the battle for back up jobs is really intense. Louis Rankin is clearly the star of this team if he can stay healthy for the entire season. Louis has started fast and then hit a lull each of his first three previous years but appears ready for a breakout season and I think will be the first Husky back in almost 10 years to rush for over a 1000 yards. Louis is the real deal for all you Husky fans who have been waiting for another big time running back. He is older, stronger, and extremely fit and will be the workhorse of this football team.

He is also the first back since Rashaan Shehee to have the high end speed of a big time back.

J.R. Hasty is having a solid camp and due to experience alone will probably be the backup to Rankin if he improves on his blocking assignments. That is his one area to really concentrate on as I don't think he was asked to block much in high school. This also is one position where there is a lot of competition from the youngsters. There are no less than four true freshmen in the mix and you never make it through a season with just two running backs so these kids are really being evaluated.

The most versatile of that group is Brandon Yakaboski from Mt Si. He is very fluid and has soft hands out of the backfield. Although not as fast as fellow freshman Curtis Shaw or as nifty as Brandon Johnson, I still see an element of overall ability that could easily earn him a spot in the depth this year. The fourth back, Willie Griffin, looks like a clone of Hasty and is stocky and built low to the ground and runs well over his pads. Still, I really like Yakaboski and if he has a solid couple of good scrimmages could be the one who earns the earliest playing time.

I think the fullback position is set with two really stout veterans returning. Both Paul Homer and Luke Kravitz are listed around 6 foot and 225 pounds, but I think they both look about 20 pounds heavier than that. Homer looks to me to be the better blocker but Kravitz, whose father was a Husky years ago, might have the edge as a runner. Regardless, these two have developed into a tough tandem of pounders who will really make Rankin the star that he will become.

Besides quarterback, I personally think this is one of the strongest one-two punches for Washington fullbacks going all the way back to Darius Turner/Matt   Jones. Put your binoculars on these two blocking and you will see what I'm talking about.

The offensive line is the area of greatest competition but it certainly does not, and usually doesn't, involve any of the newcomers. There are at least 8-9 veteran players though who I think will be involved in the rotation and the two leaders and probably best players are obviously center, Juan Garcia and tackle, Chad Macklin, who I also think has a chance to play at the nest level if he has a good season.

Still, the competition is close here and should only make the team stronger and deeper. Remember they only played five linemen all of last season playing so the infusion of red-shirts Ryan Tolar, Matt Sedillo and Cody Habben has really made every practice a battle.

Senior Casey Bulyca is really pushing hard to regain his guard starting spot from Sedillo that he had in the spring but lost to his diet this summer. Because of his experience I think he will end up starting next to Macklin but the competition is good while Tolar continues to hold off Morgan Rosborough at the other guard spot. Cody Habben is locked in a similar battle at the weak tackle position with last year's starter, Ben Ossai, who like Bulyca has been placed on a controlled caloric intake. The important thing here is to realize the competition is making them all better. I think it is safe to say that all will see playing time early in order to find the right combination by the time the Huskies enter league play.

Because two of their top signees at receiver have yet to make it into school, there is only one scholarship newcomer, that being Alvin Logan, who I think looks very physical but still raw as a receiver. The red-shirt freshman, D'Andre Goodwin, is the fastest receiver on the team and is sure to work his way onto the field. Because of the injury to Anthony Russo, Goodwin and red-shirt walk-on, Tony Chidiac, are getting lots of chances to prove they can be contributors and I think both have a great future in the program. They both bring different things to the table and are continually making good catches. They are really pushing all the seniors and give additional depth to an already deep position area.

The best receiver right now is Corey Williams. He is following up a good spring with a really solid fall camp and appears poised to be one of the real go-to guys for this team. He is the player who broke his wrist on the wall at Notre Dame years ago playing against many of his current coaches, including his head coach. Williams and Marcel Reece, who is fighting leg cramps in camp, are probably the two starters and I believe the best blockers, something that will prove critical to the Huskies' running attack. Williams has had some of the best catches so far and only needs to transfer all his work into game reality. I really like this kid and hope he finishes his career on a high note.

That leaves the tight end position and there appears to be no front runner there. Johnie Kirton, Michael Gottlieb, and Rob Lewis are locked in a battle so tightly that incoming freshman, Chris Izbicki, will probably enter the mix. There is no clear cut leader as I see it and I'm sure TE is probably the best 4 deep position on the team.

Take away the incoming true freshmen linemen and I count at least 10-12 other freshmen, including the starting quarterback, who are competing for playing time and should be in the two deep. It's a lot of youth, but it is what it is.

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