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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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April 26, 2008 10:38 PM

Spring game thoughts

Posted by Bob Condotta

So the next time the Washington Huskies present themselves for public view, they will be in Eugene, taking on the Oregon Ducks in a game that looms pivotal to the future of Tyrone Willingham. A fourth-straight loss to the Ducks, especially if by a decisive margin, obviously won't go over well with anyone and would put the Huskies at the bottom of the Pac-10 before September begins.

So did they look today like a team ready to go into Eugene and win?

Not necessarily. But then, I've rarely seen a spring game in which everyone left feeling like the team they just watched was ready to win a national title or something. The nature of spring games --- the fact that it's all the same team, the rules are different, the coaches limit the playbook, etc. --- makes mass generalizations risky.

As I wrote earlier this spring, what I do think such contests are good for is assessing specific personnel, rather than how a certain unit performed.

UW defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said exactly that when I asked him about the score of the game. "I wouldn't read a lot into that. Tim (Lappano) and myself are working together on these things, we're out there working our kids.'' Meaning, they aren't necessarily playing to impress anybody, but to get their team ready.

Also, the running clock made for a quick game and fewer plays than normal. There were 104 plays --- the Huskies ran 95 by themselves last year at Stanford.

Here are some other notes and thoughts:

--- Jake Locker, I thought, definitely looked better throwing the ball, an improvement that has apparently been there all spring (media got to see three complete practices including today). He was 13-17 and probably 14-15 of 17 if not for a drop or two. Hard to tell what the blame was on the interception --- some intimation that maybe the route wasn't run correctly. Ronnie Fouch (16-33) looked a lot better, as well. Willingham said he thought only three passes weren't put right where they would have wanted them. That may be a bit too high of a number, but the overall sentiment seemed valid.

--- The defensive back end definitely looked more active. E.J. Savannah; Nate Williams and Victor Aiyewa made their presence felt (even if each showed there is still lots of room for improvement in pass coverage); Darrion Jones had some nice moments at defensive end; and the other LBs (Mason Foster, Trenton Tuiasosopo and Donald Butler) also gave proof that position should be a strength next season.

--- The young receivers looked like that --- young receivers. There were at handful of dropped passes (though the one real noticeable one in the first half was by senior Charles Hawkins), and it was telling that the biggest day was turned in by the most veteran of the group in terms of playing time, sophomore D'Andre Goodwin. Oregon will present one of the best secondaries UW will face all year (safety Patrick Chung and cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd are all all-conference candidates for next season) so UW's crew will need to show some quick progress in the fall.

--- Hard to really assess the running game with the line a little of a mismash with Ryan Tolar and Juan Garcia out and Matt Sedillo hobbling, the restrictions on Locker (which meant little real use of the option), and minor injuries that also appeared to slow Brandon Johnson and Brandon Yakaboski. The O-line didn't look overpowering, but you also never saw today the line that will likely start against Oregon as Sedillo played sparingly and Tolar not at all. Lappano said again afterward the coaches will look at the O-line and figure out if changes need to be made during the summer. He said he's still holding out hope Garcia may be back but that if he can't return "we'll go to put the best five out there and make a decision about who is going to be out there.'' He said the critical thing now is keeping everyone else healthy "because if you lose (anyone else) then you come pretty vulnerable there. Then you have some dropoff.''

--- Willie Griffin had the best day of the backs earning praise from Lappano who said "he's not a home-run hitter. That's not him. But he makes a cut and hits it and makes 5-6 yards. That's what he is and he ran really hard today. Probably as hard as I've seen him.''

--- Even though they kept a lot of things under wraps there were still a few new looks from the defense, such as over-loaded D-lines (more than two linemen to one side) and Trenton Tuiasosopo lining up as a down linemen at times. Donatell also talked a bit about disguising coverages in the secondary. "We want to coach our safeties not to give their looks away because the best quarterbacks play in this league so you obviously want to make it a little harder on them,'' he said. "That's our intent. But we're not there yet.''

--- A lot's been made of the smallish defensive line, but Donatell leaves open the chance that several of the true frosh coming in will play in the fall which would change the look quite a bit. Asked how many of the true frosh coming in, Donatell said "I don't totally know the answer to that but when you have four chances (meaning four players) it's better than two, so we are playing the percentages. There is always the challenge of the physical aspect of it that you are coming from high school. But we are already talking to these guys. They are all big kids, so they should be able to hold their own. So what we are going to do is keep talking to them, giving them information, so they can be as good as they can possibly be.''

--- The kicking game looked far from mid-season with the FG kickers going just 1-4 and Keil Rasp struggling as the backup punter, averaging 24 yards on three punts. Jared Ballman appears to have the punting spot heading into the fall but the PK job look wide open with Ryan Perkins (46), Ballman (48 blocked) and Erik Folk (34) all missing. Walk-on Cory Rutkowski was the only one who made an FG while the three scholarship guys missed, hitting from 39 yards out.

--- There were no new injuries but Josh Gage sat out with an injury from last week and TE Michael Gottlieb sat out with an illness.

--- Chris Izbicki got more time with Gottlieb out and had a nice day with two catches for 23 yards, one coming on fourth down and the other on third down, picking up a first down each time.

--- Chris Polk was steady when he had the ball, but not spectacular, which might have been disappointing to some. He also struggled in pass blocking at the end when he was torpedoed by Daniel Te'o-Nesheim once and run through by Chris Stevens a few plays later. But given just coming up from high school, his overall production --- four catches was the third-most for the day --- was solid.

All for now.


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