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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 20, 2009 at 1:34 PM

May answers, volume five

Another round. …
Q: What did we learn from Spring camp? What is our biggest strength and weakness? What is the one thing that can give us hope for this coming season? Finally, what is one thing that raises a red flag for this season.
A: Some of those are kind of one in the same — red flag and weakness, for instance. But I’ll start from the start. The biggest strength is QB Jake Locker and the fact that he made it through the spring just fine health-wise, appearing to show no ill effects of the thumb injury of last season, while also appearing to not only just be more comfortable playing the position overall but also seeming to quickly grasp the new playbook. Granted, the 16-18 in the Spring Game was against UW’s second team. Still, not sure he would have done that in any scrimmage of any type before this season. The biggest weaknesses, in my eyes, are the O-line (particularly the right side, where you could have two new starters and two players who have never played a college down of O-line before) and the secondary. There are reasons for optimism in both areas, but also lots of places where the team is simply unproven. The biggest reasons for hope are the coaching change and attendant new attitude, the return of Locker and E.J. Savannah, and the overall maturation of many key players who have now seen a lot of action. The biggest red flag remains simply that this was an 0-12 team last year. Teams don’t go 0-12 with just one area of concern. All areas remain ones where outside observers have every right to be skeptical until the team proves otherwise.
Q: Last year the OL was supposed to be the strength of the team. This year they are supposed to be a weakness of the team. What factors over the last year went into the OL going from a perceived strength to a perceived liability when they only lose Juan Garcia? They played
horribly last year, but couldn’t that be attributed to coaching? My main question to you, isn’t there a very good chance that the OL may not be as bad as people seem to think?

A: To be accurate, the team went into last season with three senior starters — guards Jordan White-Frisbee and Casey Bulyca, as well as Garcia at center. Also returning were starting LT Ben Ossai and G Ryan Tolar. White-Frisbee wasn’t a full-time starter in 2007, but he did get three starts and was a regular in the rotation. The return of those players meant UW essentially returned five of the six regular OLs in its rotation from 2007 (losing only T Chad Macklin), when the Huskies finished second in the conference in rushing. So it was all of that experience and the success of 2007 that had people praising the OL heading into 2008. But obviously, that line never really got a chance to pick up right where it left off as Garcia suffered the Lisfranc injury in the spring and Tolar missed the spring with off-season shoulder surgery that put him at less than 100 percent all season. JWF’s chronic foot issues also became an increasing issue as last season wore on — he was probably better off not being an every-down player, as was the case in 2007. Those injuries made it so that those three players, in particular, I don’t think ever played as well in 2008 as they had in 2007, and I think the rest of the line kind of followed suit. Some of the linemen also didn’t seem in optimum shape last season (some of that attributable to the aforementioned injury issues). I think all of that had more to do with the line’s poor play last season than just poor coaching. Obviously, none of the coaches on last year’s staff will put down 2008 as an example of shining work. But Mike Denbrock is pretty universally respected and to just say it’s all his fault would be way too simplistic. Heading into this year, UW now has what will likely be two new starters on the right side of the line in Senio Kelemete and Drew Schaefer. With Mykenna Ikehara emerging as the other regular in what at the end of the spring appeared to be a six-man rotation for the first unit up front, that’s three out of six regulars who have never played a down of college OL before (Kelemete’s only experience coming on defense). Tolar, Ossai and Cody Habben all now have more experience, and also are apparently in better shape and health than a year ago, so that should help. And like every unit on the team, it won’t take much to play better than last season. But having just three experienced OLs makes it hard to call this unit a proven commodity heading into this season. So yes, I would agree there’s reason to think the line may not be as bad as people think. But I also think there are lots of valid reasons to call it a question mark.
Q: Are you going to investigate and write an article on how much money both WSU and the UW have receive from the state of Washington in support of their Athletic Departments.
I think this would be a great thing for both supporters to know once and for all.

A: With finances suddenly being such a hotly-debated issue in college athletics, we do have some stories planned for the coming weeks/months on a variety of topics in that area. In those, we do plan to touch on that question — though the general answer in UW’s case is that the only state funding it gets is in tuition waivers for female athletes as part of a Title IX concession that was also granted to WSU. So look for those later, and I will also link to those on the blog.
All for now.

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