Quick Learning

Last week's loss to Oregon has raised questions regarding pass protection and the importance of keeping Jake Locker, the University of Washington's starting quarterback on his feet. Locker was sacked three times and only had 103 passing yards. He was slowed down by his hamstring injury, but that is all the more reason to have better pass protection.

There was definitely extra pressure blocking for Locker knowing that if they didn't block well against Oregon's speedy and physical defense his injury could become worse, according to Husky running back Brandon Johnson.

When talking about the skill positions, their duties extend further than just running and catching the ball. When holes are not opening up for the running game tailbacks need to be able to block for the quarterback and give him the extra seconds he needs to complete a pass. With inexperience at running back and wide receiver, this has proved to be a tricky task for the Washington football team. Playing against a fast, tough, aggressive defense in Oregon made that task even trickier.

Chris Polk is an amazing athlete, but his lack of blocking experience was exposed in his first game as a Husky. "Polk hasn't had to do that (block) a lot, like a lot of high school running backs," said Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. "(In high school) They're the best athlete on the field and they are used to getting the ball twenty times a game."

With Polk also learning a new offense the coaches turned to Johnson for more experience. Johnson had some nice blitz pick-ups during the Oregon game but was not satisfied with his blocking overall. "It was something I was working on (blocking), but it didn't go to well on Saturday," he told Dawgman.com Tuesday. "There were a lot more guys than we expected in the box and we didn't play a good game." Johnson added he plans on working harder on pass blocking and it will get better as time goes along.

Lappano is stressing the fundamentals of blocking to not only the running backs but also the wide receivers. "Feet, hands, and eyes, we have to fit up and form up," he said. "We need to be better in our technique." He added that the offensive coaches are going to keep working the younger players and continue to teach them how to pass protect.

"I think we have some answers that will help us come this Saturday," he said.

Kavario Middleton was one of the real bright spots for the Huskies against Oregon, showing off his play making ability. But the true freshman tight end has work to do on his pass protection. "Kavario at times held his own in the running game and at times struggled," Lappano said. An injury to senior Michael Gottlieb has forced Middleton into more playing situations, and while he has all the ability in the world experience is not something that can be taught or learned in practice.

"Mike (Gottlieb) can bring something to the table with his experience and leadership in the run game. That will really help our two-back stuff and our one-back stuff," said Lappano. Hopefully with the return of Gottlieb the run game can become more successful. If it does, that's the first step toward opening up the passing game.


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