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The spring game was encouraging
Malamute, 24 April 2006

I’m encouraged by what I saw from the spring game on Saturday, and expect the Huskies to do better than expected in their fall campaign. Overall, I thought the Huskies looked faster than last year, especially on defense and special teams. The Dawgs have picked up a couple of burners in cornerback Shelton Sampson, who is back with the team after a short hiatus, and in WR Chancellor Young, who transferred from Duke. 

It was nice to see RB Kenny James and QB Carl Bonnell back at full speed.

Isaiah Stanback’s performance at quarterback was outstanding. As a passer, Stanback connected on 6 of 9 attempts, for 190 yards, 1 pick and 2 touchdowns. His passing-efficiency rating was 211.95 on the game. In last year’s spring game, Stanback’s passing efficiency was 135.27, based on 4 out of 6 passing that went for 49 yards and no touchdowns or picks. These data don’t prove a thing about Stanback’s future this season, but they do give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Having a senior quarterback bodes well for the conference race, considering the historical significance: In the past, teams with senior quarterbacks have usually done well in the Pac-10’s race for the roses. Stanback has an aura of brilliance about him, with most capable replacements in Carl Bonnell and Johnny DuRocher. Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano will give Stanback the green light this season – so watch out for the multidimensional Stanback to do an imitation of former quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. Armed with speed, a strong arm, and confidence, Stanback has the potential to be as good as Tui was back in the 2000/01 Rose Bowl season, the lack of the option notwithstanding.

The good:

-- Are the coaches deemphasizing the running game as few fans are saying?

“Our identity on offense will come from our ability to run the football," Lappano said, early into the spring practices last year. "When we throw, we'll get the ball off quickly and throw what should be a high-percentage pass…I think we need to make a commitment to the run. The players have to believe in it. The coaching staff has to believe in it. We have other stuff and we will do some of that other stuff. But we are going to be a power-run football team first."

In last season’s spring game, the team netted 43 yards rushing on 33 attempts; the quarterbacks (Stanback, Bonnell and DuRocher) netted minus 15 yards on 10 carries. The quarterbacks combined for a pass-efficiency rating of 91.82 (that is, 18 out of 34, 205 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 picks). 

After last year’s spring scrimmage, Lappano said, "To me, the most disappointing thing of the whole scrimmage was our inability to do what we've talked about doing, to be physical and bring back the two-back run game to the University of Washington."

This spring, the team rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries; the quarterbacks (Bonnell, Stanback and DuRocher) netted 22 yards rushing, adding to the total.  The four quarterbacks, including Felix Sweetman, combined for a pass-efficiency rating of 106.66 (that is, 18 completions out of 46 passes for 306 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 picks).

After this year’s scrimmage, Tyrone Willingham said, "I think the most important part of your football team is the offensive line. It's an area of concern, but I think it can be productive when it's all said and done." Note that Willingham has said this spring that Washington won't be successful until it can run and stop the run when needed. Reading in between the lines, no pun intended, I think the OL is developing faster than expected.

Of course, statistics from spring practices are meaningless; however, all in all, as far as emphasis goes, I would say the running game is alive and well.

-- The media: The Pac-10 writers will pick UW to finish near the bottom of the conference race, giving the Huskies an underdog’s role in almost every game. Add to that tons of incandescent emotion and motivation for the season. In other words, the media will help the Huskies for a change.

Because of the media blackout, Willingham and his staff can concentrate on football rather than having to extinguish random brush fires set by the fourth estate.

-- Eight starters return on defense:

Lots of talent on the DL and in the defensive backfield could make UW’s defense step to the fore, giving its offense some short fields. Because of a mini-treasure-trove of talent, the coaching staff was able to move Dashon Goldson from safety to cornerback this spring.

According to Molly Vanity (Seattle P-I) who saw more of the game than I did, "CB Roy Lewis led the Purple team's defense and seemed to be all over the field."

She quotes defensive coordinator Kent Baer as saying, "He (Lewis) had a good spring, a real good spring. He's got that corner."

The bad:

--Did the coaching staff goof?

The punters/kickers (Ryan Perkins ACL?) shouldn’t have been live in the spring game, in my opinion. But I'm not a coach.

One of the defensive linemen was blocked into Perkins, rolling over on him after he punted the ball. Perkins may be lost for the season. What a costly mistake by the coaching staff. Before the game, didn’t Willingham say, “Health, health, health,” in reference to the outcome of the game? Because of that apparent mistake, the kicking game is now an area of concern for the fall months, along with the inexperience of the offensive line and the dearth of running backs.

How's that for Monday morning quarterbacking?

-- Was it a gohuskies.com problem?

As a subscriber to “Dawg channel-all access,” I was able to watch the spring game on my computer; however, only 60% or so of the game was viewable. Apparently, transmission problems caused some blackouts, blips and burps along the way -- this according to other viewers, too. I felt comfortable on my end with my 7mb download speed and 3.6 gigahertz processor with hyper-threading technology (two processes at a time?). I can't wait for Vista.

------------

Acknowledgement:

Speaking of Vista, I dug up those 2005 spring stats, using X1.

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

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