Here are highlights from Tuesday’s availability with UW offensive line coach Chris Strausser:
Coming in, did you have to break down the linemen and start over?
“I just think it’s hard when you’ve got a new coach and a new system, even if there are some similarities and some guys who have good experience, just hearing a different language from day one. So with everything we have to go back and start at square one. It’s going to matter come the fall that these guys have some game experience, but in terms of spring football and them getting used to us and what we’re saying, it really feels like day one almost every time out here.”
What’s the biggest difference between what they were doing last year and what you’re trying to get them to do?
“We’ve got different verbiage, different ways to communicate; we’ve got different technique we talk about. I think it’s a combination of everything; it’s not just one thing. Really, they’re hearing me say things differently than what they’ve heard from Coach (Dan) Cozzetto for four, five years.”
You’ve got a couple injured guys on the sideline (Dexter Charles and Micah Hatchie) who have started a lot of games. Do you find yourself looking over there wondering what you’ve got?
“Nope. I’m fired up about the guys that are in. I really am. We’ve got a chance to get some good, young freshmen some reps and those guys can only get better. Typically, spring ball is — guys who benefit the most are the young guys. Now, do I want those guys (Charles and Hatchie) in there right now? Yeah, because it’s my first time coaching them, but I’m not worried about that at all. I’m really not.”
How far behind do those guys fall?
“It hurts. I will give them credit: They’ve done a fantastic job taking mental reps out here. They go on air almost every single play we’re in a team setting, which is only going to make them better.”
You’ve said you like your guys to be around 300 pounds. James Atoe (at 375) is quite a bit above that, but he seems to carry it OK.
“Yeah. That’s the nature of it a little bit. Sometimes they’re just big guys, and James is a big guy anyway you look at it. So for him to be a guy that’s 305 pounds is just not going to happen, but just like you said — it doesn’t show up on tape or out on the field that he’s not well-conditioned (or) that he doesn’t run well. We’re good with the weight he’s at.”
Colin Tanigawa has been playing some center this spring. Can you talk about that a little bit?
“You can never have enough depth at center. That’s not to say Colin’s not competing for it in the fall, for a starting spot. We’ve kind of stayed away from who’s competing for what right now — just everybody trying to get better. But with that being said, to me we can’t have enough guys who can truly play center. It’s the most important spot on the line. (If the center) goes down, we’re in trouble, so I want to develop as much depth as we can there.”
Are you comfortable with the number of guys you have out there for spring?
“I think our numbers for spring ball are probably as good as I’ve had for a long, long time, which is great. Now we’re about to graduate five of these guys (after 2014), so next year you can ask the same question and it might not sound the same, but I’m pretty happy with the depth we have right now for spring football.”
Has anyone made a marked improvement since the start of spring ball?
“There’s a couple guys who are really showing up. Coleman Shelton, mostly just his competitive nature is the biggest thing that’s showing up with him. And then Dane Crane is there playing center, and he’s getting reps with both the twos and the threes, and he continues to get better every day.”
Siosifa Tufunga has been working steadily with the first-string offense.
“Yeah, been playing left guard most of the time, and he’s done a nice job. He’s had good leadership out there and he’s got really, really good energy, so he kind of stands out as a guy who kind of rallies the troops a little bit. And just in terms of his skillset: He’s good, he’s strong and he can move.”
Mike Criste is the returning starter at center. Is he a guy, too, who guys have rallied around?
“He is, just by the nature of (the position). I also think Ben Riva, he’s a guy (other) guys really respect and he’s not afraid to say something and be vocal, which is good. Guys respond to that.”