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August 6, 2008Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham addressed the media on Wednesday before the Huskies took the field for the third day of fall practice.
"First two days I think have been pretty good. What your always struggling with is just getting back into the routine, getting back into the habit of practicing, and I think our guys are starting to do that. The thing that I like about the first day, was the fact we had a test and then we had practice, which is also one of those tests in terms of your mental stamina, which is one of the things we said we needed to improve to be a better football team this year. Yesterday, we had the heat factor start to pick up a little bit. Hopefully today will be along the same lines, which will give us another kind of stress test. Those are all good things that force us to be a better football team, and our young men seem to be willing to work through them - that gives us a good start. The freshman have not been totally involved in everything that we're doing, but they are showing promise. Our upper class men seem to be taking the lead, and those are all good signs."
Yesterday was a relatively hot day for the city of Seattle. However, Willingham enjoyed and heat, and welcomes it at any and all opportunities.
"I love hot days. Obviously there's always a concern when you have heat, and even heat in this part of the country, about dehydration - that's something very serious, you don't play with that. But when you talk about adding another factor for the mind to have to deal with and negotiate with, all those things are wonderful. I could take rain and make that into another mental test for us. It's something you have to work above and beyond. Anything that happens - a change in practice, a change in the schedule - are things that you use to work your team through mental situations. Everyone likes to get into a set routine and know this is what's going to happen, this is where we'll be, this is what we'll do - but any of those changes forces you to adjust, and those things make us a better football team. So heat is always welcome."
The tight end position is a fairly thin one this season, and Willingham gave his thoughts on the position so far.
"Obviously it is so early to be very detailed about any of it, but Michael Gottlieb has come back, and he's in wonderful, good shape. He's strong, he works hard, he's a leader - that's exciting. What we need form those guys is really to execute the dual role of a tight end, which is to be an offensive lineman at times and to be a wide receiver at times. If we can get that, than we are a much stronger, much better team, and it allows us to be much more flexible with all of our formations."
Willingham discussed a freshman's transition from high school to college.
"They all look like they're swimming - it's a tough transition. The swimming really doesn't start yet. The first days are pretty good. They've got a couple of defenses that they looked at the first day, so those are relatively easy adjustments for them to make. Now all of the sudden, they'll start to have a few more defenses, a few more adjustments that they'll start to see, a few more changes on the run that they'll have to negotiate. Then all of the sudden, they start to get more offensive plays, so it just continues to build. They're doing fine and we're pleased with them. They've shown exactly what we thought, some athletic ability in some areas where you're just able to look at them as pure athletes, and not factor in the mental part of it. They're doing very well."
Freshman Chris Polk enrolled at the U-Dub in January, and Willingham touched up on the advantage of Polk's situation.
"Chris is a little bit different. I don't quite consider him a freshman, but he is a freshman. So having that advanced arrival, I think, has been really been beneficial."
Willingham discussed the transition from high school to college a bit further.
"It's always wonderful to watch the freshman come in. If you can remember back to where you had the week of acclimation for them, and they were here by themselves - it was wonderful. They were the most confident kids in the world. Then all of the sudden, just the mere presence of the veterans walking in, that changed. Now as we start practice, with those early days, it's kind of elementary. We start getting up to high school, then all of the sudden we're in college, and they start swimming - it's all good. You try to prepare them for it the best you can and let them know the sequences that they will go through. We as coaches have seen it many times - try to educate them, but there is no experience like going through it yourself, and that's what they're in the process of doing."
Sophomore running back Brandon Johnson is recovering from a meniscus tear he suffered this spring, but is nearing full health.
"He's not quite there yet. I don't think he's back to 100 percent yet, but he's moving well. He initially made some good runs, some good cuts. One of the things that we really want him to work at, is just finishing cuts. We talked about his strength. For his size, he's a fairly powerful runner. He's got some natural power. Now we're looking for him to be able to take that and put a move on a safety, and really open up some big runs."
The competition for the starting tailback could be a good one between Brandon Johnson and Chris Polk. Willingham touched on the overall attitude regarding the situation.
"It hasn't had a chance to really display itself yet. There haven't been enough days obviously. Today is a good day for everyone, because it gives all of our backs an opportunity to get a lot of repetition, with the design of our practices, so it will work pretty well."
The first day the Huskies will practice in full pads will be this Friday, and the first day of two-a-day practices will be this Saturday.
No prestigious gold jersey has been issued yet, but Willingham stated that they will be giving them out when earned.
Junior linebacker E.J. Savannah was spotted in the stands of Husky Stadium with an academic advisor.
There are no injuries to report from yesterday's practice.