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

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July 24, 2008 9:29 AM

UW notes from media day

Posted by Bob Condotta

Nothing really earth-shattering from the Husky contingent at Pac-10 media day (and one thing to remember is that these guys are available away from the podium so people who are there may have additional notes and quotes).

UW coach Tyrone Willingham was asked about the health of center Juan Garcia and really didn't say anything specific, saying "we are cautiously optimistic'' and that he could be back at some point this season, "sooner rather than later'' if things go well. He said again if the recovery does not go as planned, he may have to have surgery that could knock him out for the year. As detailed here about two weeks ago, Garcia said the recovery is going better than expected and he thinks he could be back by the Oklahoma game if all goes well. But there's still a ways to go with that.

Here are some other comments from Willingham:

On the team: "We have a blend and mixture of youth and experience and hopefully experience at the right spots and hopefully inexperience at some spots we have concerns about but that we think with good coaching, proper preparation and luck at the right spots we can hit this thing just right.''

On the schedule: "I look at it as our team has accepted it as a challenge. Obviously we have one of the most difficult starts because we open with our rival and also a conference game on the road. If we can do well down there, then you think you can do well against other teams we will play at home.''

On Jake Locker, who was with Willingham: "I value the person more than the athlete because it’s the person that creates the athlete. He's as solid a young man as I have had the pleasure to coach. ... No one on our team works harder or prepares better.''

Willingham was also asked about the team's close losses last season and what UW can do to prevent them. He said the coaches looked at three things --- the team's conditioning, coaching, and the team's mentality in those situations. He said the Huskies "beefed up our conditioning a little bit'' to make sure that isn't a factor; will make sure that the coaches "clearly understand those situations, making sure that our guys understand how to handle those situations''; and will work on making sure the players look at those situations with a "glass half-full'' mentality and "that they are looking for great things to happen in those situations.''

He was asked about playing close against USC and said "just the fact that it's USC'' has helped get the team hyped to play the Trojans the last few years but that the Huskies "need to not just make it close.''

Asked if Locker will run less this season he said: "We will let the game dictate what happens there. The preference, obviously, is to not have him run at all but that would take away a very valuable threat that the opponent has to prepare for. ... we'll try to figure out the right balance for that and let the game dictate that.''

Asked if the youth at RB, WR and TE will change the emphasis of the offense any, he said he hopes the "emphasis is winning'' then added that he thinks the talent level is good in those areas and that "if we can bridge the experience gap than those positions can be strengths for us.'' He noted the presence of Brandon Johnson at RB and his 100-yard game last season against Cal but said it's "still not sufficient'' to say he is replacing Louis Rankin, who had a lot more production last season.

LOCKER NOTES

Locker was also there, and predictably enough, given that the media day is held in LA, the first question that came his way was to compare the linebackers for USC and Ohio State, who play early this season.

He was later asked about his summer playing baseball and said he liked simply doing something that was competitive but that "it didn't take away from what I did football-wise.''

After Locker concluded his answer about baseball, Willingham said he liked that Locker was able to be competitive this summer and that "honing the competitive edge, that's what competitors really love.''

He also spoke of his leadership role with the team and said "I feel like I really improved myself as a football player this summer from a leadership standpoint. We are young at receiver and in the backfield, so being able to be around those guys and work with them and making sure they understand what they are doing has helped me to take a bigger leadership role this year because of our necessity to have them understand what they are doing. ... One of the best ways to learn is to teach. I've been able to kind of improve myself through helping those guys out.''

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