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

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August 4, 2008 10:41 PM

More thoughts on Savannah

Posted by Bob Condotta

Seemed like a real whirlwind there for a while today with lots of personnel news left and right, as is often the case on the first day of practice.

Assuming all of the high school guys become eligible eventually --- and that we already knew about Craig Noble, the one of that quartet who was probably being counted on the most this year --- the biggest news could end up being that involving E.J. Savannah.

We knew he was a longshot to be ready for the start of the season due to injury. What became clearer today is that the issues that dogged him last year in terms of academics and other more unspecified stuff are still there, meaning it's hard to know right now what his future is as a Husky.

And make no mistake, he figured to have quite a role in the Husky defense this season after leading the team with 111 tackles last year. After his standout performance in the spring game, coaches raved about him and he raved about the new system (read this story here if you need a refresher).

It was the return of Savannah, as well as a handful of other experienced LBs, that had a lot of people speculating UW might go with a 3-4 defense at times this season, in part to make up for the lack of experience up front. The Huskies still might, though they were only in a 4-3 today (though I wouldn't have expected anything else given that they knew this practice was open to the media, which could be the only one).

But obviously having Savannah around would make a 3-4 easier to implement, and maybe more effective.

I asked UW defensive coordinator Ed Donatell today if not having Savannah will change his plans. He admitted it could, while adding he has no idea how long Savannah will be out.

"We always like to look at the strongest players we have in a system and feature them and bring out their strengths because it's more mental pressure to the opponent,'' he said. "But since I've been coaching we've had setbacks all the time. Right now, it's like he's sprained his ankle and he can't play.''

And Donatell said not having Savannah for however long may simply open the door for someone else to become a defensive leader.

"Don James used to talk about a guy they had at Kent State named Bob Bender,'' Donatell said recalling James' early-70s stint as head coach at Kent State before coming to UW in 1975. "Everybody thought he was the greatest thing they'd ever had. Then he decided not to play football and they said 'oh no, we can't line up without this guy' And they had this tall skinny guy take his place, 208 pounds. His name was Jack Lambert. The rest is history. Sometimes there are guys like that, you just don't know.

"So we are looking at it as an opportunity to develop depth and if he makes it back, we will have those things ready for him. If not, we will go another direction.''

I hadn't heard the Bender-Lambert story --- and yes, it's kind of ironic that it's the same name as the former UW hoops coach --- but it's corroborated in this article on Lambert from Sports Illustrated in 1984.

So maybe Josh Gage becomes the next Jack Lambert. Hey, on the first day of practice, anything seems possible. Certainly, you wouldn't expect the coaches to view it any other way.

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