August 20, 2008

Coach Quotes and Practice Notes - 08/20/2008


Durring the morning practice many players were back and participating. Cameron Elisara was back from what Tyrone Willingham called "minor acedemic issues." The two B's, Brandon Johnson and Brandon Yakaboski were both back, giving the Huskies their full compliment of running backs. A surprise sight was Michael Gottlieb who has been out with a hamstring pull.

Juan Garcia missed the morning practice because of a death in the family.

Nate Williams missed his first practice with a minor deep leg bruise. "I think one of his bruises has kind of caught up with him a little bit," explained Willingham. "So one of the precautions is just to slow him down. It was just time for him to get his health back and be ready to go."

Jason Wells and Byron Davenport were both still out.

Afternoon practice was cancelled today for multiple reasons. Willingham spoke about the unusual occurrence.

The rest is always important because we talk to our guys about three phases of everything that we do. Nutrition is very critical, the actual conditioning is very critical and then the rest part of it. As a coach, you want to make sure that you give them the right amounts of all of that, so we felt like it's the right time to put a little rest in there. Willingham continued, "Being banged up is not the key ingredient. It's just the fact of where your legs are and where you are as a moving unit, and it's about that time [to rest]." Willingham continued when asked if this could happen again, "What we had scheduled for this afternoon was really a rest for the guys in terms of what we did on the field. We call it a mock game, and that game is more for the coaches. I think you heard me say this for the couple of years that we've been here; it's more for the coaches than it is for the players. The players go out and kind of go lightly through things and the coaches are really working on down and distance, substitution, all those kind of things that we need to do to have ourselves game ready. It was a natural fit, because it was already planned in a sense, to rest them, now you just take the full rest and not just the partial."

The returning duties have been a revolving door the past few seasons. It appears that some of the freshman, especially lightening quick wide receiver Jordan Polk could earn a spot right away returning kicks. "Again I've been impressed with the freshman. Jordan Polk has done a nice job. we could see him do some of those responsibilities," said Willingham.

A surprising name you might see returning kicks is 26 year old safety [db]Tripper Johnson. He might not be the fastest guy on the team, but his smart reads and consistency has impressed coaches thus far. "We're probably going to use him right now in both areas, being at the kick return and punt return, but gain we haven't established a starter there yet," explained coach Willingham. "Tripper gives us one of those sure-handed big-bodies that you believe you can count on. I wouldn't say he's as explosive as a Jordan Polk or maybe one of the other guys, but one of the things that you have to have, you have to have somebody that you know can catch the football."


Willingham answered yet another question about Jake Locker's progress.

"Jake has been fine. Obviously he's still not doing everything and we're not including him in everything, but he probably could do everything."

Locker is getting healthy but timing with his young receivers is still a concern for most.

"It's always a big deal until you get there, but I'm pretty confident in coach Bagget and the job he does with our receivers and coach Lappano and how he structures things. So I'm confident that they will be ready to go."

This is one of the youngest teams coach Willingham has ever fielded. So how are the young guys progressing in his mind?

"As a group I would say they are much better, but I still think that some individuals are still struggling with certain phases of it all."

Speaking of young, the defensive line lost three starters and some young players will have to step up if the defense will improve.

"They're doing very well, but we're still shaking [things up] and it all hasn't clearly displayed itself. But again the presence of those young guys is making a difference. Obviously they bring some energy, they bring some substance."

Another young group is the running backs. The elder statesman is sophomore Brandon Johnson, but he's been slowed by injury. There is a good chance that a true freshman could get the majority of the carries against Oregon

"That scenario still exists because those freshman are performing very well, but it was nice to get [db]Brandon Johnson[/db[ back. We haven't seen Yakaboski yet, he's still kind of limited, but these guys, the freshman have an intention, and that intention is to play and help this football team, and it's nice to have that."

Juan Garcia, still recovering from a foot injury, missed practice this morning but not because of an injury.

"Juan unfortunately had a death in the family so he won't be back until this afternoon or maybe tomorrow."

Coach Willingham was asked if the coordinators would be on the field or in the booth this season.

"That will be one of the great surprises for 2008, but we'll probably have both coordinators down on the field."

With Fall practices nearing an end and the Oregon game only ten days away, players who have missed substantial amount of time might be getting to the point of not being ready to play.

"We're starting to get close. Usually you like to start honing those things in obviously the first of next week, but as we start to tailor things a little bit more for Oregon, than you start to put some of those pieces in place starting probably Friday."

With Juan Garcia limited all of fall, Willingham talked about he center position as a whole.

"Our center position is coming along very well. Obviously Juan is being involved in it. [Matt] Sedillo missed a few days, but he's still involved in it, [Ryan] Tolar has taken some reps there, probably not as much lately with Juan having more of a presence. We've also got our freshman [Mykenna] Ikehara that's shown himself very well. [He's a] very aggressive, smart young man that's learning the system very well and doing a great job. So I think we'll be pretty well positioned there. Obviously the preference for us is to have Juan with his experience and so far we're on track to do that."

But is Juan Garcia on track to start the Oregon game?

"It's still too early to say who will be the starter, but I'm very confident and comfortable with where he is today."

Projected starting tight end Michael Gottlieb has missed some considerable time, so how will the tight end position play out?

"Again, he [Gottlieb] has been a day-to-day, and he's still on track, even with that day-to-day prognosis that I've given. I think I'm fairly confident that he'll be able to go, and if not, obviously I think the other guys have done a good job. Walt Wnter has stepped up. Another freshman, Kavario Middleton has showed himself very well. Really he's shown himself to be all of the things that we thought he would be. He's got excellent hands, his size and his understanding of the run [game] is starting to show itself, and as each day passes, he gets a little smarter, a little more savvy about the position. I think Coach White is doing a wonderful job of brining him along. Coach Lappano understands his strengths very well. It's going to work out well."

Quote of the day!

When asked if he could answere the question about who will be starting at center as straight forward as possible, Willingham replied with as smile, "I'm always straight forward."

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