Neuheisel Tidbits from the LOI Press Conference

Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel was all smiles today at the Husky Letter of Intent Press Conference, held at 2 p.m. at the Don James Center. After introducing each member of the new class to the media, Neuheisel answered a couple of other questions regarding the team.

One of the more serious topics involved injuries, and where each of the dinged players on the team stand heading into spring ball in April. Coach listed five players who will miss spring, each because of shoulder surgeries. That list includes: sophomore tight end Joe Toledo, junior linebacker Tim Galloway, seniors runningback Rich Alexis, senior linebacker Marquis Cooper, and senior offensive lineman Todd Bachert.

Shoulder injuries have taken a large bite out of the Husky football program in recent years. Players like Alexis, Cooper, and Roc Alexander have been battling shoulder injuries since their freshman year. It's been so much of a concern to Neuheisel that he's had his staff do some research around the Pac-10 as to the nature of the problem.

"More than 70 percent of shoulder surgeries were shoulders damaged prior to arrival at the UW," said Neuheisel, who believed the phenomenon was a result of so many incoming players lifting too much weight while in high school.

"Many of the injuries (at the UW) have happened to incoming freshman," he emphasized.

On the bright side, Neuheisel said that he expects Jimmy Newell, Roc Alexander, Stanley Daniels, Donny Mateaki, and Brandon Ala to all be available come spring time.

Alexander may be limited to non-contact drills, however.

In other news, Neuheisel said he felt the team addressed one of it's biggest weaknesses through this year's recruiting class – athleticism on special teams. The head coach said he was the one who decided to redshirt everyone from last year's class other than Nate Robinson, and at the end of the season he said the lack of athleticism on the special teams unit began to show.

"I thought our special teams at the end of the season lacked some athleticism just because some guys were banged up, as is normally the case at the end of the year," said the fifth-year Husky coach. "We were unable to put the kind of speed on those teams that you really would like to have.

"So I recruited a lot more athletes, and probably not all of them will redshirt. I think there will be a number of them who will participate. I wanted to have more athleticism."

As far as number concerns go regarding scholarships, Neuheisel did his best to clear up any confusion. With natural attrition always a factor, and grey-shirting as a fallback option, the coach said he felt the numbers would be right where they need to be once fall comes.

He explained: "Jordan Reffett, Mike Mapu, and Jon Lyon were mid-year signees, so they go to last year's class and that moves last year's class to 24 (scholarships)."

With that being the case, as it stands now there are 24 scholarships in this year's class.

And though he didn't single out any names who may decide to leave the program, Neuheisel said he expected to hear from a few players once spring practices get underway.

"I think there will be some movement between now and (the start of the season) as is always the case," he said. "Some natural attrition, some fifth-year guys who may choose not to participate following spring once they see where they are on the depth chart, and also the possibility of greyshirting some kids."

Greyshirting has become more common in recent years throughout college football. The lone Husky to do it in recent years has been Graham Lasee, and more recently Washington State decided to go that route with quarterback Carl Bonnell. Since then, Cougar head coach Mike Price left, Bonnell changed his mind and decided to attend the UW, and the term "greyshirting" has gotten tons of ink.

What's the Husky head coach think of greyshirting (the notion of deferring enrollment for an extra year)?

"I understand the concept," he said. "I don't fault schools for doing it, I've done it. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too. But I don't know that you can hold the kid hostage.

"If he doesn't begin enrollment as the letter of intent states, and it's the idea of the institution to defer it, then he ought to be able to sign elsewhere. That's my feeling and it's always been my feeling."

Lastly, Neuheisel changed his mind as to when he would announce his new quarterbacks coach. Last week he had indicated that he would make the announcement at today's press conference, but since then he said he felt it would be better to leave the attention of the press conference on the recruits. Instead, he said he wanted to let the recruits have their day in the sun and delay the announcement for later.

Reports in the local papers have indicated that John Pettas, the former UW graduate assistant who coached receivers in 2001, is the top candidate for the job.


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