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

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August 5, 2008 8:42 PM

Camp nightcap, day two

Posted by Bob Condotta

I've gotten a couple of comments that certain news and notes can get overlooked when buried in earlier posts. So what I'll try to do each day of camp is recap a few of the highlights, sometimes reprising info from earlier posts and sometimes throwing in stuff that never made it in the first place.

WHAT HAPPENED --- The Huskies held one practice today, going in helmets and shorts. This was their second practice of the fall.

THE BIG STORY --- After the flurry of the first day, there wasn't as much real hard news today. The only roster change was the addition of walk-on linebacker Fred Wiggs, an O'Dea grad who played in all 13 games last year on special teams, making eight tackles.

UW coach Tyrone Willingham said Wiggs had some unfinished academic business that led to him missing the first day. The addition of Wiggs gives UW 102 players on its roster --- the NCAA limit is 105 (85 of whom can be on scholarship). With five players currently attempting to get eligible and theoretically potentially able to come back this year, looks as if the coaches may know that some of those players may not make it back --- or maybe just assuming a few of them won't make it until school starts, when rosters can expand to 115.

THE BIG STORY, PART TWO --- Potentially of a lot more import were the statements of center Juan Garcia that he didn't think "I'd be this far ahead'' in his recovery from a foot injury. But while it all sounds good, coaches caution that his situation is still "tenuous'' and there's a long way to go yet to returning to the field.

Garcia will likely try to return to full-action sometime in the next week or two to determine exactly where he is in his recovery. Garcia will have to prove he can withstand the rigors of full-contact activity before coaches start penciling him into the lineup. You can read all of Garcia's comments here.

ROSTER SHUFFLE --- As discussed earlier, a few Huskies are getting tryouts at different positions than their regular spots, notably Ryan Tolar at center and Chris Polk at tailback.

Tolar said the move is just fine with him.

"It's a new challenge,'' he said, adding he has never played center before at any competitive level. He said he's happy to try whatever the team needs him to do.

Tolar also revealed that he played last season with a torn labrum, having suffered the injury in the spring of 2007. It was decided after the season he would have surgery. That caused him to miss spring of 2008, though he said he thinks he's getting back in the swing just fine.

INJURY REPORT --- The only new injury revealed today was a pre-exisiting foot injury to DL Alameda Ta'amu. He sat out part of Monday's practice, leaving the field, apparently having the foot examined. This could be a blow as it was hoped that Ta'amu might he able to play immediately to add depth to a rebuild defensive line. UW is already without two other frosh it hoped could help --- Craig Noble and Senio Kelemete --- for academic reasons. Willingham said the team will continue to be cautious with Ta'amu and that if he misses significant practice time, it will obviously impact his ability to contend for playing time.

QUOTABLE --- "You get a better understanding when you lose everything you thought you were supposed to have. You get a whole new perspective on things and coach Willingham could see that in me and he gave me an opportunity,'' --- walk-on WR Chancellor Young on his return to the Huskies. I'll have more on that tomorrow in the paper and on-line.

UP NEXT --- The Huskies will hold one practice and it will be the first split practice of camp, meaning half the players practice at one time, then the other half.

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August 5, 2008 6:03 PM

Polk still finding his way

Posted by Bob Condotta

I talked with a recruiting expert last winter after Chris Polk signed with UW and when I told him it sounded as if the Huskies planned to play Polk at receiver, the guy responded that he thought the Washington coaches were missing the boat.

Polk, the guy said, was the best high school running back on the West Coast last year.

Maybe Polk will end up there yet.

I actually had to miss the 25 minutes of open practice today for personal reasons, but I'm told Polk was again lined up at tailback in what could be about a 10-day tryout or so to see what his best position may be.

Polk isn't alone in that situation, said UW coach Tyrone Willingham.

"Our football staff will determine those roles for not only Chris Polk but the other guys on our team as we move forward that best allows them to have the most impact on the game and positively affect our football team,'' Willingham said. "We'll go through that process the next week-and-a-half with not just Chris Polk but other guys also.''

Polk, however, will be one of the most interesting to watch, gaining a lot of notice last winter after he initially committed to USC, then changed his mind, in part due to the prospect of immediate playing time at UW.

Polk said before practice today he doesn't consider this a permanent move just yet. "They just want me to play a little more running back and get used to it, get ready for it,'' he said.

Polk added that UW coaches told him heading into the summer to plan for more time at running back in camp and that he spent a lot of his time in voluntary drills this summer working out of the backfield.

He makes it sound like that's where he'd rather be, as well.

"I'll do receiver, but I'm more comfortable at running back,'' said Polk, who rushed for 2,561 yards last season at Redlands (Calif.) East Valley High. "I only played receiver two years in my whole life, so I'm more comfortable at running back. But I'll play wherever I'm needed.''

He also sounds as if he's better built to handle the punishment at running back now, as well. Listed at 5-11, 200 pounds, he said he now weighs 210 pounds.

He said he hit the weights with a vengeance this summer after learning a valuable lesson during spring ball --- he participated after graduating early from high school.

"I'm not the fastest person on the field anymore,'' he said. "I just can't outrun people like I did.''

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August 5, 2008 3:07 PM

Notes from Willingham

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW coach Tyrone Willingham just met with the media for his daily session and there wasn't much earth-shattering. But I'll pass along a few quick notes:

--- In what might be the most newsworthy item, he said incoming DL Alameda Ta'amu is continuing to recover from a foot injury suffered in high school and will be monitored closely. Ta'amu sat out some of practice Monday with what was likely something related to that injury. He said that could impact the ability of Ta'amu to play this season by restricting his practice time but that it was too early to tell.

--- He said TE Chris Izbicki will be punished "within the structure'' of the team but otherwise wouldn't elaborate.

--- He said De'Shon Matthews is up to about 275 pounds and could still end up at either tackle or end. As with some other players, he said fall camp will tell a lot about sorting that out.

--- Chris Polk told reporters today he prefers TB, the spot he spent most of his time at in practice Monday (I'll have more from Polk on this later). Willingham said he expects that Polk would prefer running back since that it the position he has the most experience, but that he will continue to get looked at both RB and WR with camp determining where he ends up the most.

--- He said he is pleased by the progress of Juan Garcia, saying "everything we've seen so far indicates good things ahead.''

--- Walk-on LB Fred Wiggs is back on the roster after getting some academic issues cleared up.

More later.

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August 5, 2008 1:26 PM

Denbrock happy with O-line condition

Posted by Bob Condotta

What is an annual question early in fall camp --- the condition of the offensive linemen --- appears to have a good answer for the Huskies.

UW offensive line coach Mike Denbrock, who is one who doesn't usually skirt the truth, said "we did a nice job on the conditioning test'' on Monday and that the overall shape of his troops appears to be good.

"I'm really happy with what we did over the summer time,'' he said. "We seem to be well ahead of where we were a year ago at this time. With guys this big, you are always watching their weight and making sure they are in the realm of what's acceptable and what's not, and we are pretty close.''

That's good news for the Huskies as the O-line looms as a key for UW this year as potentially the biggest strength on the team aside from quarterback. At least three starters return --- left tackle Ben Ossai and guards Casey Bulyca and Ryan Tolar --- and it could be four if center Juan Garcia can make it back. The one new starter, right tackle Cody Habben, got significant experience last year, including three starts.

Garcia, recovering from a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, told reporters earlier in the day that he has it in the back of his mind that he could be back for the Oregon game, and is definitely hopeful of returning in time for the BYU or Oklahoma games.

Denbrock remains more cautious on that front, however, knowing that any setback for Garcia could cause a significant delay in his return.

"We all understand what a tenuous situation that is and we are going to progress really cautiously and see how that progresses,'' Denbrock said.

The uncertainty over Garcia is why the team has Tolar now also working at center --- he will apparently rotate between center and guard with Denbrock saying he envisions a four-man rotation in the middle of Tolar, Bulyca, center Matt Sedillo and guard Jordan White-Frisbee (and obviously five if Garcia makes it back).

Playing Tolar at center "gives us a chance to get a little more deeper up front and just make us better in the long run overall, no matter what, in case something happens during the season where we need more guys in there. ... Especially early on we'll just keep rotating guys in there and getting them as much work as we can.''

Denbrock said there were a few bad snaps yesterday with Tolar but that "some of that stuff is going to happen in there, particularly the first day.''

The tackle spots are more set with Ossai and Habben. Ossai, long touted as one of the most talented UW linemen, is one who has been criticized for his conditioning in the past. But Denbrock said he appears to have had a good summer.

"'He's growing up,'' Denbrock said. "Some guys progress faster than others. He's progressing in that. Definitely I'd like to snap my fingers and say 'hey, here's that All-American I promised you.' But little by little, I think he is making progress in that direction and I like the direction he has gone, particularly last spring and headed into fall camp. He has himself headed to being the type of player we need him to be on the left-hand side, so we are happy where he is at right now.''

Denbrock said Mark Armelin is the backup at left tackle with Skyler Fancher the backup at right tackle --- each is a redshirt freshmen. Nick Scott, the walk-on transfer from Drake, could also work himself into the depth at tackle, Denbrock said.

"He's an experienced guy who will hopefully those guys along and maybe work his way into the depth, as well,'' Denbrock said.

Morgan Rosborough also remains in the conversation as a backup at right guard, with Denbrock noting the Huskies have more depth up front than any time during his tenure.

"We've got 17 bodies out there, which is more than we've had in the past,'' he said. "And it's kind of nice.''

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August 5, 2008 12:38 PM

Garcia: "I didn't think I would be this far ahead''

Posted by Bob Condotta

UW center Juan Garcia just met with reporters here a little while ago and said he is ecstatic with the progress he has made so far while pointing out that his recovery is still a day-to-day process with no guarantees.

Garcia took part in a few warmup drills on Monday and said "I didn't think I would be this far ahead.''

He said in the back of his mind he's hoping he can return in time for the opener against Oregon though he thinks a more realistic goal is the second game against BYU.

"This week we are taking it to see where I'm at,'' he said. "Everyday I'll do a little more stuff and next week I'll get in for a drill or too if my leg holds up. I'm taking it day-by-day rihgt now, but I'm happy where I'm at. I didn't expect to be at this point. I thought by the time I'd be out there doing a drill it would be sometime after camp.''

Garcia said the real test will come when he decides to go full-go in full-contact drills. He said coaches want him to be patient with that but he's not sure how long he will be able to wait.

"I was talking with coach (Mike) Denbrock and it was like 'man, one of these days I might just have to go full-speed and either I'm going to be able to go or that's the end of that,''' he said. "I'm tired of seeing my guys out there and I'm not with them.''

Denbrock described Garcia's sitation as still being "tenuous'' and wouldn't guess when Garcia might be able to return this year.

Garcia said the foot hasn't healed completely but has gotten a lot stronger. "It's coming along,'' he said. "They didn't expect me to be at this point and everybody says the best thing you did was not getting surgery. It might be a miracle, I don't know, but I'm happy.''

Asked if he could make it back for the Oregon game, Garcia said "it's not even there right now. I'm hoping in the back of my mind. But I don't know. I'm just hoping, before it was like mid-season. Then it was like 'you might be ready for Oklahoma.' I'm just thinking BYU right now. If I can do good this week and next week it might be the opener.''

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August 5, 2008 8:39 AM

Tuesday links

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few Husky-related links to start your day:

--- Times columnist Jerry Brewer chipped in with a column today saying this is a "Do or die season'' for UW coach Tyrone Willingham, with Willingham saying the key will be to get the team to "play older'' than its listed years.

--- Here's my wrapup of the events of the day.

--- And here's my daily "camp glance'' which will be a fixture throughout training camp. It will include news and notes that don't make it into the main story of the day.

--- ESPN's Ted Miller has his weekly power ratings with UW seventh.

--- Miller also has this roundup of Pac-10 news, including a story that one Oregon's quarterbacks, Chris Harper, is continuing to battle a shoulder injury.

--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman has this list of the top 10 secrets in college football, leading off with one UW will face on Aug. 30.

--- Here's a nice story on Isaiah Stanback's transition to receiver, appearing to be more of a success every day.

--- Marcel Reece has been moved from tight end to a "fullback-like role'' according to the San Jose Mercury News.

--- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a note on Roy Lewis, calling him "one of the rookie standouts in training camp.'' Lewis is attempting to make the team as an undrafted free agent.

--- The Bleacher Report lists the top 25 most intriguing non-conference games of the season, with UW involved all three of them --- and obviously, that's all three of their non-conference games.

All for now.

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