Neuheisel upbeat despite pre-spring dings

We caught up with Washington Head Coach Rick Neuheisel, who sounded more like Colonel Sherman Potter from M.A.S.H. when updating us on who should be ready for spring and who won't be available. As it was last year, a bunch of Dawgs went under the knife, and while some will be back 100 percent, there are a host of others that won't be able to play, some for the second straight spring.

"We've had a number of kids that needed to be surgically repaired," Neuheisel said. "Marquis Cooper (shoulder), Joe Toledo (shoulder), Todd Bachert (shoulder), Rich Alexis (shoulder), Jimmy Newell (knee), Dash Crutchley (knee) and Tim Galloway (shoulder). But I think we're coming out of it OK. All of the players having shoulder surgery will be out for spring."

Brandon Ala is a player that hurt himself while in El Paso, but should be ready to go when practices start up in April. "He hurt his knee in the 'Scout Bowl', but it wasn't something that needed to be repaired surgically, so we just have to get him healthy," Neuheisel said. "We're going to be excited about Brandon, Donny (Mateaki), Stan Daniels and Dan Milsten and now Jordan Reffett is in the mix too, and they are all going to be freshmen next year. But I think all of them have great potential."

With basically an entire class redshirted last year, it's easy to figure out who Neuheisel is excited about seeing play this coming spring. "I'm excited to see the whole freshman class play this spring, since they redshirted, with the exception of Nate (Robinson)," he said. "I'm excited to see them all go out and compete for playing time. I'm looking forward to seeing Evan Benjamin and James Sims can take a giant step forward. They played roles this past year but now they've got to move forward. I'm hoping Jimmy Newell can stay healthy and play consistently through an entire spring. It would be great to have Roc Alexander and Derrick Johnson on the field to see what they can get done."

The battle between Isaiah Stanback and Casey Paus is shaping up to be one of those 'battles to watch' this spring, but Neuheisel just might have some other ideas for the RS frosh from Garfield High. "I think both will get great chances and I'm interested in having Isaiah do a couple of other things, because he's such a great athlete," Neuheisel said. "I want to see what he can do at wide receiver and he's excited about it. He just wants to play. He's an explosive athlete who needs to learn our throwing game, and when he does he'll be a dynamic player. With the departure of Eddie Jackson, we only have three guys coming back at receiver. That would be Justin Robbins, who hasn't played for two years, Reggie (Williams) and ET (Charles Frederick). We've got a nice group of freshmen coming in, but it makes sense to have Stanback try to get on the field."

And of course, there's the ever-present Robinson, who wants a shot at receiver too. "Who is going to tell him he can't? Nate is a great player," Neuheisel said, hinting that the all-everything athlete from Rainier Beach just might get his chance to be UW's equivalent of Charles Woodson.

And the frosh running backs? "I think Kenny James is going to great player," Neuheisel said. "And I have high hopes for Shelton Sampson too."

Neuheisel saved his highest praise for RS frosh lineman Clay Walker. "I think Clay is going to be sensational," he said. "He's got the demeanor to be a great offensive lineman and he's also got the talent. I'm excited about his future."

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