Mid-way progress report - Offensive Skill

When Jake Locker's hamstring gave way last week, Husky fans from Seattle to Suquamish have been anxiously wondering what that will mean for the Huskies when they take the field August 30th in Eugene. According to Head Coach Tyrone Willingham, Locker is listed as 'day-to-day', although he hasn't put on pads since he was injured over a week ago.

'Day-to-day' could also aptly describe the nature of the Huskies' ever-changing roster. For every player that goes out due to injury, there seems to be one that invariably returns.

The purpose of this story is to wrap up the mid-way point of Washington's fall practice, talk about the main storylines and see what lies ahead in the the final week. The players are not listed in any kind of order, other than to make sure they are all included.

QB - Ronnie Fouch, Taylor Bean, Luther Leonard, Justin Gunn
out - Jake Locker

Clearly the biggest question mark here is when will Locker return. He appeared to be working out fine on Thursday, but didn't do much on Saturday during the time the media was allowed to watch practice. So the status of the Huskies' star quarterback is still very much up in the air. One thing seems certain; it would have to take a major setback with his hamstring for Locker not to play against the Ducks and we haven't seen that.

Ronnie Fouch has stepped up and assumed leadership of the offense in Locker's absence, and the time with the No. 1 team will certainly pay dividends for him as the season progresses. But Locker is the key here; the UW offense just isn't the same without his commanding presence and authority in the huddle.
RB - Chris Polk, Willie Griffin, David Freeman, Johri Fogerson, Terrance Dailey
Out - Brandon Johnson, Brandon Yakaboski

Chris Polk is listed as a slot back in the media guide, but he's been a running back all of fall camp. With Brandon Johnson and Brandon Yakaboski out with knee and hip pointer problems respectively, the true frosh from Redlands (Calif.) East Valley has put his stamp on the position. He's got explosiveness through the hole that UW RB Coach Steve Gervais has never seen before, and he's coached high school players for over two decades.

Willie Griffin showed he could be an every-down back during the Huskies' 2008 Spring Game, carrying the ball 20 times. He's not tall, but he is powerful and can make the most out of a carry. Substance and consistency are the names of his game.

Yakaboski and Johnson need to get healthy to give this group some depth, because there's no question that the Huskies will need a change-up. Polk will also be asked to catch passes and be a real all-around threat, but being a freshman means it would be a rare feat for him to make it through an entire season unscathed. Freeman and Fogerson are surviving camp and getting a ton of reps due to the lower-than-expected numbers. Perhaps by the Oregon week one of those two backs will separate himself and offer up a viable alternative in case Johnson and Yakaboski just can't go.
FB - Paul Homer, Luke Kravitz, Austin Sylvester, Tobias Togi

Homer has been solid as a rock since the day he stepped on campus, so it's not surprising that he's getting through camp without wilting. Kravitz? The same thing. In fact, don't be surprised if both Homer and Kravitz end up with carries this year from the tailback spot - not only in the power situations, but also when they are the only back.
TE - Walt Winter, Kavario Middleton, Chris Izbicki, Romeo Savant
Out - Michael Gottlieb

The dreaded hamstring strikes again! This time it befell on Gottlieb, a fifth-year senior who would love to get through his final season unscathed. He told reporters this week that he didn't think it was as bad as Locker's, but it's kept him out of several practices nonetheless. Stepping up in his place has been another fifth-year player; Walt Winter. Winter, also a fifth-year senior, give the Huskies another downfield threat. He's been working hard on the other aspects of the position (pass protection, run-blocking, etc...) and improvement in that area has given him the top spot for the time being.

Of course Gottlieb will have something to say about Winter keeping the No. 1 position when he returns, but don't sleep on Kavario Middleton either. The true freshman from Lakes High School has impressed the coaches with his ability to pick things up. Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano has talked this fall about Middleton's 'big mitts' and how he presents a large target to throw to at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds.
WR - D'Andre Goodwin, Alvin Logan, Jermaine Kearse, Cody Bruns, Anthony Boyles, Charles Hawkins, Chancellor Young, Tony Chidiac, Jordan Polk, Vince Taylor, Vincente Cordova
Out - Devin Aguilar

The receiving corps - along with the running backs - are without a doubt the youngest group on the entire offense. They are the ones that the quarterbacks will be counting on to offer up big targets and to make key catches to sustain drives and put points on the board. Right now, other than Goodwin, this group is an absolute mystery. It's not because of their potential, which is off the charts; it's because they haven't done anything yet when the heat is on and they have to perform.

Curtis Shaw's departure from the team wasn't as big from a production standpoint; it was his stability and leadership, as well as his blazing speed they'll miss most. But speed, according to UW Receivers Coach Charlie Baggett, is something Washington fans will notice right away from this group. Polk is diminutive but fast, very fast. Kearse and Bruns are also very fast, and they give this group something they haven't seen in a while; legitimate playing experience and big numbers at the high school level. Bruns' numbers at Prosser will probably never be duplicated in-state; 310 catches for 5178 yards are second nationally all-time for 11-man football, and Kearse put up 3500-plus yards in his career as a Lancer.

Another intriguing storyline so far in camp has been the return of Chancellor Young. The former O'Dea star has come back for one more shot at glory after sitting out the 2007 to get his academics in order. Being older and hopefully wiser will allow Young to be a mentor and leader of his younger group of players much like Tripper Johnson to the defensive backs. At 6-foot and 220-pounds, Young has always been an imposing physical specimen but has yet to catch an official pass for the Huskies since his 2005 transfer from Duke.

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