Aug. 22, 2005
SEATTLE - While there are several units on the current Washington football team that can be considered "experienced" -- the offensive and defensive lines come to mind -- perhaps no part of the Husky team is more game-tested than the linebackers.
In seniors Joe Lobendahn and Evan Benjamin and junior Scott White, the Huskies return three players that made a total of 30 of a possible 33 starts last season. All totaled, they've played in a combined 96 games during their UW careers.
Additionally, those three all finished among the top six in the Pac-10 in tackles last year, showing not only experience, but a fair bit of talent as well.
This year, their age and experience will be counted on when the Huskies take the field, and that's no problem for Lobendahn.
"I think the pressure is on us because that's the core of the defense," he says. "That's where it all starts. But to be honest, I don't really care about that. I care about winning games and whoever comes through, comes through."
Sophomore Dan Howell, who started one game in place of White last year and played in every game, knows that fans will expect a lot from the linebackers as well, but he doesn't see it as a burden.
"I don't think we look at it as carrying a load," Howell says. "I think we just look at it as our responsibility, and therefore we try to handle it with maturity."
Each of the three returning starters brings a slight different package to the field. Howell, as both participant and observer breaks down Lobendahn, Benjamin and White as follows:
"Joe is pretty much like the master," Howell says. "He knows all his assignments and he knows the technique. Evan is kind of sneaky sometimes. He can really hit you and he's always consistent. Scott is just an athlete who makes a lot of plays. They all bring a lot of discipline and experience."
Lobendahn's assessment doesn't vary that much.
"As the "mike" [middle] `backer, I usually do the dirty jobs like taking on the blocks," Lobendahn explains. "We all can run fast. Scott is more of a finesse player and he's very smart. Evan's also smart and fast, and he's a playmaker."
While most folks assume that the three returning starters will return to their roles in 2005, competition for playing time (and starting spots for that matter) continues. The good thing is that despite all the experience of players like White, Lobendahn and Benjamin, the other members of the linebackers corps have also had their chances to develop and to play.
"I'm very confident in those guys," Lobendahn says of the rest of the linebacking crew. "They've worked very hard during camp and they're a lot smarter. I'm pretty sure they can make plays out there like us."
The Huskies continued to head down the home stretch of the "fall camp" part of the preseason. Monday featured two full-squad practices, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.