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Patience, patience, patience?
Richard Linde, 10 January 2007

Molly Yanity of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently posted an interview with UW wide receiver Marcel Reece on her blog, "Huskies Q&A: Marcel Reece."

Her interview with Reece was interesting and poignant, for it echoes a notion that's been floating around on Internet message boards for some time.

I just hope that fans dont get the wrong idea from what Marcel said, and that is, I love Jake Locker. No hesitation at all. He's a beast. I love him to death. I just can't wait to connect with him so, so many times. Just practicing with him all year, I'll tell you, this guy is great. He's a great player, person, everything. He's really (a) great player.

A number of fans sincerely believe that Locker single-handedly will pull the Dawgs out of the tailspin they have been in for the last four years.

In the Apple Cup, five players -- Marlon Wood, Chris Stevens, Cody Ellis, Louis Rankin, and Reece -- proved as an aggregate that playmakers can make a huge difference in a game where two antagonists match up evenly.

Other than Wood, the rest of them will be back next season as far as I know. Coming off a redshirt season, Locker adds a fifth playmaker to that group. And Im sure there are other notables on the team worth adding. 

However, UW loses some players in key positions, which will make it tough for Coach Willingham to equal or better last season's record of 5-7, this said under the light of a tough schedule and the coachs built-in conservatism. For starters there are questions that need answering: on the offensive line, at the running back and cornerback positions, at strong safety and on the kicking/punting game. 

If you will accept the notion that stability in the coaching staff is an important ingredient for Washington's return to glory, then it is important to give the coach a break and not set unrealistic goals for him to meet in 2007.

Lets give Willingham the three years that remain on his contract to get the job done, rather than send him off to a symbolic gallows to be hanged in effigy because he can't meet an unreasonable goal set for his 2007 team, like, say, having seven or more wins.

Case in point: Nine of UWs forthcoming opponents posted better numbers in key statistical measures than UW did in 2006. (See the Table below.) Furthermore, by these numbers, two winnable games -- against Stanford and Syracuse -- are on the road.

Now I know that statistics dont always tell the whole story and that they can change from one season to the next, but UW will be an underdog in most of the games it plays. In fact, Im willing to bet that the Pac-10 media brigade, just before the season begins, will bury the Dawgs, along with Tree and Arizona, at the bottom of the old Montlake garbage dump where phantom seagulls have come to rest.

Pinning our hopes for next season on two playmakers like Jake Locker and Marcel Reece is unfair to them, to the team and to the coach.

We fans have to be patient with the rebuilding process over the next several years, which among other tasks, requires building some depth on the offensive line and bringing in some defensive linemen in the mold of what Urban Meyer has done at Florida. One NFL first-round draft pick on each side of the ball would make a heck of a difference.

Table. Washington's opponents in 2007, along with itself, are listed in order by their average ranking in NCAA Division I-A football for 6 statistical categories: TO=Total Offense; TD=Total Defense; RO=Rushing Offense; RD-Rushing Defense; PEO=Pass Efficiency Offense; PED=Pass Efficiency Defense.

Ohio State 17 11 16 14 4 7 11.5
Boise State 10 14 6 8 7 30 12.5
USC 22 20 68 9 30 21 28.3
Oregon 9 42 14 78 76 28 41.2
California 12 91 33 47 32 50 44.2
@ Arizona State 42 51 27 39 47 71 46.2
@ Oregon State 45 59 81 29 33 46 48.2
Washington State 26 81 67 22 42 54 51
@ UCLA 71 34 63 9 81 49 51.2
Washington 74 95 69 66 95 74 78.8
Arizona 115 49 110 42 108 62 81
@ Syracuse 110 107 97 110 86 81 98.8
@ Stanford 118 97 115 117 94 60 100.2


Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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