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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

August 22, 2006 at 4:13 PM

Kickoff cover controversy, and more

Read with interest some of the exchanges on here about Tyrone Willingham’s statement Monday defending the use of Greyson Gunheim on special teams by saying that Reggie Bush played special teams at USC. Gunheim was hurt in a scrimmage Saturday while working on the kickoff team.
I’d agree with those who say the cases are somewhat different — obviously, you always want your best guy out there if he’s essentially guaranteed to touch the ball, as was the case with Bush a year ago, whereas there is little guarantee that Gunheim would be involved in the play on a kickoff. But Willingham obviously feels there is a real benefit to Gunheim being out there or he wouldn’t do it.
It’s worth noting that UW coaches of recent vintage have taken different approaches to this.
I remember when I first began covering the team in 1997-98 when Jim Lambright generally used younger players almost exclusively on special teams. Some thought that was why his teams had some notable special teams meltdowns — remember the 1995 home loss to Oregon that cost the Huskies a Pac-10 title (the Ducks ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and the Huskies had all kinds of trouble kicking field goals in what was a 24-22 loss)?
When Rick Neuheisel came aboard, he went with the Willingham philosophy of wanting his best players out there as often as possible. I remember in 1999 we were all writing stories about Lester Towns suddenly being on special teams again.
Not sure if I think either philosophy is exclusively right or wrong. Like so much else in football, a coach has to know his personnel and react accordingly. Again, it’s worth noting that UW has only 72 scholarship players at the moment — a dozen or so who are likely to redshirt — meaning Willingham may not feel he has a lot of other options for some of his special teams.
Here are a few other notes from Tuesday’s practice:
Those sitting out practice, which was with helmets and shoulder pads only, were Gunheim, OL William Kava, WR Wade Gurnett and PK Michael Book. Everyone else appeared to be taking part. However, CB Dashon Goldson continues to be limited and was visibly limping at times — obviously not a good sign with the first game 11 days away now.
The offense opened with some drills that featured the first and second units. Of note, the first three receivers were Corey Williams, Anthony Russo and Sonny Shackelford. The second-teamers were Marlon Wood, Marcel Reece and Alex Mercier — the latter two apparently getting healthy again after being limited last week.
JC transfer Aaron Mason again attended practice, as he has often, usually accompanied by Ashlee Palmer, who was absent today. But there remains no new news on when they will be eligible. In all likelihood, the only one of the three JC players still awaiting eligibility who would make much of an impact this year now is Palmer. And even his chances to make a real big immediate impact get dimmer with every missed day. Now, the earliest he could get in full pads is next week, when the Huskies will be busy getting ready for San Jose State. And with no bye week during the season this year, it will be that much harder to catch up. He’s a talented guy who may be able to pull it off, but with no spring and now no real fall camp, it’s asking a lot.

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