New Coordinators eager to get to work

SEATTLE - It's the beginning of spring football at Washington, and no one is more excited about it than new Huskies' Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell. After speaking with Donatell this week, two things are clear: the man loves to compete, and he's ready to do just about anything it takes to revamp a Washington defense sorely needing a pigskin makeover.

"It's the stimulation of new things that gets me going," Donatell told "When I'm stimulated, that's what drives me and makes me happy. That's why I'm looking forward to the first day."

New tight ends coach and Special Teams Coordinator Brian White knows all about that 'first day' feeling. He's experienced it at places like Wisconsin, Syracuse and Notre Dame.

"It's a great school, a great city and a tradition-laden program," he said of Washington.

Donatell and White, along with new running backs coach Steve Gervais, are hoping the infusion of new coaching blood brings the kind of success that has been so elusive during Tyrone Willingham's tenure at Montlake. At least that's the plan.

"I felt I needed to align myself with a man of incredibly high values," White said of Willingham.

"Don't look for magic right away," cautioned Donatell. "The magic will be in the culture and the process, with methods that can bring our guys along at a quick rate."

Gone are Kent Baer, Trent Miles and Bob Simmons - three coaches that have either coached with Willingham for a long period of time, or have been closely aligned as professional colleagues. In are three coaches that aren't nearly as tied to the Willingham way of doing things. So that begs the question - how quickly will it take for the chemistry to be built up with all the members of this revamped staff?

We could find out the answer to that question as early as today - the first day of spring football for the Huskies. "That's when their personalities, their leadership, their knowledge and how they relate to our young men will make a real difference and be another spark for us," Willingham said. He added that Donatell's strengths as a coordinator are attitude, knowledge, experience and ability to communicate.

"He (Donatell) brings a positive approach to everything, and hopefully that's another part of the chemistry that will help our football team grow."

"Demeaning is not a part of what I do," Donatell said. "I don't get any pleasure out of that. Demanding...yes. Intense...yes. We're going to drive them.

"My intent is to teach my tail off and have a great sense to serve. My job is to serve as many guys as I can to bring out what they have. I want to prove them right. My goal is that when you see them play, you don't even see us. They can stand on their own. We want to build responsible guys that make great decisions."

White has another way of describing his role. "My job as coach is to help a player reach their genetic ceiling," he said. "I have to provide them the tools necessary to do that. Hopefully I can add some consistency coaching techniques and the buzzwords that will allow these players to grab onto concepts faster.

"We have to do a great job of seizing this opportunity to become tremendous technicians," he added, noting the team needs to maximize all 44 practice opportunities this spring and fall to get where they need to be.

While Gervais is making his way to Montlake via the high school circuit (former Head Coach at Skyline High School), Donatell is working his way back into the college groove after spending the last 18 years in the NFL. He plans on using every drop of what he's learned at the top level as he develops his defensive blueprint for success.

"I've been around a lot of (offensive) sophistication," he said. "The question for me is, what's different? And it's probably how the quarterback is involved with the run schemes, like the read option.

"There are more quarterbacks that come out of this league than any other. The problem sets are more similar. There's a lot of correlation there. I know what the measuring stick is."

For White, while he has never been a special teams coordinator before, he's not sweating his new responsibilities. For one, he's had some role in special teams play at every step along his career, including coaching some of various aspects - like kickoff returns at Wisconsin.

"I was involved in almost every phase of it last year, even as a (offensive) coordinator," he said of his time at Syracuse. "It's not difficult. It's a very collaborative effort. It takes someone to coordinate it, but there's other people that are coaching it that are very involved. It's not a solo band."

Part of White's role will be finding returners to replace Louis Rankin and Anthony Russo. Rankin scored in the 2007 Apple Cup via kickoff return, and the Huskies led the Pac-10 in yards per punt return last year because of Russo's efforts.

"Toward the end of the year we started to be more productive in our return game," Willingham said. "We have several guys that have brought their names to my attention - Chris Polk, Curtis Shaw, D'Andre Goodwin. Devin Aguilar is another player.

"It's critical to have a guy that can give your team that kind of confidence to make something happen (in the return game). Now all of a sudden your guys become better blockers."

Clearly the buzz word heading into spring for the Huskies is confidence. How do they get it? And once they do get it, how do they hold onto it and make it pay on the football field?

"You don't like to talk about moral victories," Willingham said. "But when you play close ball games, you develop a belief that you could have done something. And that 'could have done something' often turns into confidence that you can do it. And hopefully that's what our guys our gaining and moving forward with."

Donatell is all about moving forward, as long as the Huskies understand what they are moving away from. "I want people to remember the consequences (of losing)," he said. "I want to remember just how cruddy people feel about it."

Giving up nearly 32 points a game in 2007, it's clear something big needs to change on defense. "I'm looking for a real passion to play defense," Willingham said. "People talk about a 'defensive mentality' that is aggressive and gets after it. We need to see that real passion to play defense and get after it.

"What we're hoping for in our defense is not to let the other team score and to take the ball away."

Admirable goals, to be sure - and pretty much the aim of any defense. But how? What's going to change in 2008 that wasn't used in 2007? Donatell doesn't profess to know all the answers, but has an idea how he's going to find out.

"I have a strong belief in competition," he said. The guys that compete the best are going to give you the best chance. Competing is a practice, it's a way of living. It's developed, but we want to get where we compete in everything we do. I love doing five reps where you have to win three.

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