Aug. 20, 2005
SEATTLE - Perhaps the biggest, most experienced unit on this season's Husky football team is the defensive line. The d-line features 11 returning lettermen for only four starting positions, and of those 12, seven have served as starters at some point in their career.
As Coach Tyrone Willingham has been quick to point out all through the current fall camp, that experience is a good thing, as along as those players come back better this season than last.
The players will tell you that all those experienced teammates lead to more competitive practices and a true struggle for playing time. And while more players may mean less time to share between them, they'll all tell you that there really aren't any negatives to having such a big group.
"The downside is that it's harder to get reps in practice, but that's about it," junior Dan Milsten says. "But there are a lot more positives than negatives. We have a lot of depth in case we lose anyone. There really shouldn't be a lot of dropoff from the starters to the backups. A lot of us have played before."
The fact that, for most one-a-day practices, the team has been split into two groups, means that players still get plenty of practice work despite the size of the unit.
"Right now, we have a lot of d-linemen," says senior Mike Mapuolesega, "so it's a good thing that we've been having split practices. Everybody gets to show what they can do."
"There's a lot of competition right now," Mapuolesega says. "We don't know who's going to start right now. Nobody's guaranteed a position right now. But we all get our chance to show the coaches who should be on the field."
Competition, one of the watchwords of this Husky camp, seems to always come up as a positive when the players or coaches talk about practices.
"The competition is great," says sophomore end Caesar Rayford, "but that's what brings out the best in all of us. It pushes all of us to work hard to get better."
Also, when it comes to defensive line play, most coaches were prefer the option of rotating players at least two deep at each position during the course of the game to offset fatigue. With more good players, that's much easier.
"You want fresh guys out there all the time, so there's a lot of rotation during a game," Milsten explains. "It's always good to get fresh legs out there to get after the quarterback."
"Even with so many good players, I know I'm probably going to see good time this year," Rayford explains. "I'm still going keep working hard because we all want to start, but I know I'll get some chances during games."
Saturday, practice day 12 of the Husky football camp consisted of full squad workouts both in the morning and afternoon. Sunday, the team will practice once as a full squad before another round of two-a-days Monday.