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

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June 2, 2008 9:46 PM

Athlon's picks Huskies seventh

Posted by Bob Condotta

In my latest installment of reading through the pre-season magazines so you don't have to, today's trip to the newsstand yielded the Athlon's Pac-10 preview.

The cliff's notes version is that the magazine doesn't see a great season ahead for the Huskies.

Athlon's picks UW seventh in the conference and 50th in the nation and says there are only two sure-wins in Washington's schedule --- home games against Stanford and Oregon State. The mag pegs the Notre Dame and Washington State games as toss-ups and rates the other eight as losses.

Here's how Athlon's sees the Pac-10:

1, USC
2, Arizona State
3, Oregon
5, Cal
6, Arizona
7, Washington
8, Oregon State
9, Washington State
10, Stanford

In better news, QB Jake Locker was named as to the mag's pre-season All-Pac-10 team, ahead of ASU's Rudy Carpenter, who is on the second team.

But no other Husky is on the first team and only one is on the second team --- OL Casey Bulyca. DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, OL Ryan Tolar and punter Jared Ballman are all on the third team.

Most interesting in the Washington preview section may be a feature tabbed "Scouting the Huskies'' featuring quotes from anonymous opposing coaches.

Among the comments:

"Washington has a chance to be very good because of Jake Locker. Now, with his experience, he has the ability to be one of the better playmakers in the conference with his running ability and the fact that he's becoming more consistent as a passer. He's so competitive, couple that with his experience, I think he's going to be a guy to contend with, for sure.''

"I think they do have talent on their team. Consistency is the thing that seems to be eluding them.''

"They should have a better team than last year, but once again the schedule is brutal. They host BYU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame? Are you kidding me? BYU is very good, Oklahoma can win a national title, and Notre Dame will be better.''

"They have recruited well the past few years. They brought some studs in this year. They have the talent now; can they get it together and win? They have to --- soon. Those fans aren't going to put up with it much longer.''

"Losing (tailback Louis) Rankin will hurt. I thought he was very good for them last year. They have to find a playmaker at that position.''

In its section rating the Pac-10 teams by position, Athlon's judges UW this way:

QB --- 1
RB --- 9
WR/TE --- 10
OL --- 3
DL --- 9
LB --- 10
DB --- 10

Most surprised there to see the linebackers rated last in the league and ranked as even worse than Washington's defensive line, which I think anyone close to the program admits is the shakiest position on the team. I would put UW's LBs a lot higher than that, something I'll discuss in more depth in a future post.

In its look at the nation, the magazine rates Locker as one of "Twelve others to watch'' in the Heisman race after its list of the top six favorites, making about the thousandth reference to Locker being the West Coast's version of Tim Tebow.

Athlon's also has a new feature rating players based on their fantasy football value, with college fantasy leagues beginning to take off. Locker is rated as the No. 16 quarterback and the 77th most valuable player overall.

And in another staple of every such magazine this year, Tyrone Willingham tops the magazine's list of coaches "on the hot seat'' writing that "Washington decided to bring Willingham back after the Huskies limped through a difficult schedule. But this season's schedule includes nonconference games against BYU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, which could make achieving a .500 record unlikely.''

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June 2, 2008 9:55 AM

Answers, volume six

Posted by Bob Condotta

We'll try to get back in our regular routine by answering another set of questions (and by the way, you are more than encouraged to keep the questions coming).

Q: Is it perceived as a huge advantage for the Huskies that they are going into the Oregon game with a new defensive coordinator for whom opponents don't have any scouting tapes?

A: Not sure if I'd say "huge'' since football ultimately comes down to personnel. But it's certainly one of the bigger advantages UW has heading into this game and one that the Huskies will try to exploit as best they can --- expect the coaches to give as little detail as possible about what the new wrinkles in the defense this fall. First games are always interesting from the standpoint that every team is usually debuting something new in its scheme, be it just a few tweaks or a complete makeover, with the Huskies obviously tending more to the latter on that scale this year with Ed Donatell taking over as coordinator. Donatell has worked in the NFL since 1990 so opponents wanting to get a sense of what he might do will have to look at those tapes. But even those may not reveal much as Donatell has said he'd like to incorporate more 3-4 looks into UW's defense, something he never really did in the NFL. UW didn't reveal a lot of that in the spring, but it's likely the package will expand more in the fall, especially once the young DLs arrive and coaches get a sense of just who will be able to legitimately contribute this year and how much.

Q: Do you have any comment on this report that the team is not united behind Tyrone Willingham?

A: Without their being much detail in that report it's hard to really comment a lot. In general, however, I would say that any team that has lost as much as UW has the last few years is always going to have some players questioning things. Willingham himself has admitted on several occasions that at some point players have to see some proof that what you are asking them to do is working or they may start to stray. This is obviously the key year for that, especially given the uncertainty over Willingham's future. Everybody has to be aware that UW either wins this year or Willingham is gone and should the season start off with a few losses whether the players stick together will play a huge role in determining how the rest of the season plays out. It's all about winning this year.

Q: Why does it seem like schools like Oregon keep getting help from the JC ranks and Washington doesn't. Does Willingham even look at JC players?

A: Willingham did early in his tenure at UW, signing seven in 2006. But UW hasn't had much success with JC players under Willingham (something I detailed in this post here last fall) and he has acknowledged those failures helped steer him away a bit from going the JC route. He also said early on, however, that he hoped to go to the JC ranks mostly to fill in holes for immediate needs and then build primarily with high school players. Some close to the program, such as former assistant coach Dick Baird, also say it is more difficult to get JC players into UW since the school doesn't offer a PE major. It's never been something that UW has done a lot of under any of its coaches and I would think that will always be the case. USC, UCLA and Stanford also don't venture into the JC ranks a whole lot, either.

More later.

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