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From tape to turf
Stanback needs a confidence booster
By Malamute, 21 April 2005

Coach Tyrone Willingham’s edict that has kept the piranhas of the media at bay has made for a pleasant spring practice at the UW -- for everyone. After last season’s disaster (1-10), no news from Montlake is good news. But under the illuminating light of fact, speculation will turn from its dark path of confusion after the scrimmage on Saturday. 

And some important questions might be answered.

Like do the Huskies really have the potential for a running game or is their defense really that good? The UW finished sixth in the Pac-10 in rushing last season, and ninetieth in the nation. "Our identity on offense will come from our ability to run the football," offensive coordinator Tim Lappano told Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times.

That's nice to hear again. Former head coach Keith Gilbertson preached the same message for the last two seasons at the Dub. Seemingly, nobody was listening, including Gilby himself, who was a part-time listener. "When we throw, we'll get the ball off quickly and throw what should be a high-percentage pass," Lappano says. 

Lappano's response may indicate who the starting quarterback will be. That candidate will be chosen from a list that includes Isaiah Stanback, Carl Bonnell, Johnny DuRoucher, and Casey Paus.

Getting the ball off quickly favors Bonnell, who has a quicker release than either Stanback or Paus. I’m leaving DuRoucher out of this since I’ve never seen him in action. Also, Bonnell has the best footwork of the three. He’s Fred Astaire without Ginger Rogers. In one of my favorite episodes of “Frasier,” Bonnell should have been paired with Daphne in place of Niles for the tango scene. With his tango down pat, Bonnell should hope he's ready for prime time, and not the lead in a remake of "The Last Tango in Paris."

Last August, when the Huskies practiced at Evergreen State College, the beat writers told KJR’s Softy Softerson that Bonnell would play the most minutes of the three in 2004. Off the air, not that I was ever on it, I told Softy that Paus would see the most playing time based on his experience.

Call me a contrarian, not an expert. 

As it turned out, Paus played the most minutes, playing in 11 games, starting 8. He finished with a pass efficiency rating of 81.2, where 100 is considered mediocre nowadays, although 100 was intended to reflect the ability of an average QB when the formula was created.

Paus’s accumulated numbers in 2004 won’t take any team to the Rose Bowl, let alone the proverbial you-know-what bowl. (See Table 1). The Huskies scored the fewest points per game (14.0) of any team in Division IA football; they finished next to last in turnover margin (-1.7 per game). The defense gave up 183.6 yards per game rushing, which relegated it to 83rd in the nation.

Championing Paus's candidacy, Jim Moore of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says that … “when the Huskies face Air Force at Qwest Field on Sept. 3, Paus will start because he deserves it for everything he endured last season.” Paus is widely blamed by fans for last season’s disaster.

When Moore opines, he almost always “Cougs it,” but I have to say I somewhat agree with him on this one. I even dug up some numbers from past games that seem to support the notion that Paus was victimized by poor-team play rather than by himself (see the article, “Paus-A versus Paus-B”).

The QB waters still muddied, that leaves Isaiah Stanback, whose performance against WSU in a catch-up role last season was close to brilliant. 

Stanback is one of the few playmakers on the team and needs to see the playing field as much as possible, either as a quarterback or wide receiver. 

Newnham thinks that because the quarterback thing is going to drag out through the summer and because the delay won’t bother Stanback … “is precisely the reason he will get the job when Washington opens the season Sept. 3 against the Air Force Academy at Qwest Field.”

Down south, USC played its Spring Game on April 11. The estimated 15,000 fans in attendance, each paying 30 bucks for a ticket, got a free hamburger and a heck of a scrimmage, with RB Desmond Reed doing an imitation of Reggie Bush. After the scrimmage, players posed for pictures and signed autographs for an hour at the peristyle end of the Coliseum. According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, “The line to take a photo with Heisman Trophy winner Matt Lienhart extended about a quarter of the way around the inside of the stadium.” Because of recent surgery, Lienhart didn’t even play in the game.

After Saturday's scrimmage, fans will likely line up longest for Stanback, but don’t expect any line to be too long.

At Evergreen two summers ago, I asked Isaiah how tall he was and he replied self-effacingly that he was six-foot-three, but wished he were taller. I had the feeling that Isaiah might have been slouching on the scale during his measurement. Lappano needs to show some confidence in him, if he hasn't already.

When former coach Rick Neuheisel -- do I dare mention him? -- recruited Stanback, he said that Isaiah was the best high school quarterback he’d seen on tape during the 2002 recruiting season.

That magnetic image needs to see more of the playing field.

Table 1. Statistics for 2004

Stanback 68 23 33.8% 3 3 389
Bonnell 54 20 37.4% 0 4 228
Paus 174 116 42.3% 5 17 1476

Table 2. Pass Efficiency



Stanback 87.61

Most athletically gifted

Bonnell * 57.69

Quickest Release; best footwork

Paus 81.2

Most experienced; tallest

* Best tango ;-)

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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