Aug. 6, 2008
SEATTLE - Day three of the Husky football fall practice season featured a bit of new schedule for the team. After morning meetings and lunch, the players will take part in their first split-squad practice in the afternoon.
The team is divided into two groups. Group A then workd out for an hour and a half before group B arrives. Then, the entire team works on special teams before group B goes through the same basic format as group A did before them. The idea is that with smaller units, each player has more repitions of each drill and play and there's more instruction for each player.
Coach Tyrone Willingham met with the press during the lunch hour, and while there was no true "news" to report, he did field questions on a variety of topics.
Willingham commended his veteran players for readily stepping up to provide guidance to the younger players and, not surprisingly, he had praise for quarterback Jake Locker.
"You have to be continually amazed at the effort of our quarterback," Willingham said, referencing the team's conditioning tests on Monday. "He had the fastest times in our testing. And it's not just a test of speed, but also of your ability to bounce back."
On the subject of conditioning and conditions, Willingham was also pleased with the hotter-than-average weather in Seattle during this first week of the camp session.
"I love hot days," he said. "You're always concerned about dehydration, but you're talking about adding another factor to the practices."
Lastly, Willingham was asked about how the freshmen have caught on to all they've had to learn in these early days, but noted that things only get more complicated as new plays, new schemes and new drills are introduced.
"They all look like they're swimming," Willingham explained. "It's a tough transition, but the first few days are the easiest. The trouble comes as you add more information."
One veteran that Willingham has commended for his work mentoring younger players at his position has been Michael Gottlieb, a senior from Mercer Island. GoHuskies.com talked with Gottlieb recently. Here's what he had to say:
What are you looking forward to in fall camp?
"For me it's just exciting being a senior. I've accumulated all the knowledge over the last four years and gotten better athletically and it feels like it's all going to come together this year. I'm excited to be the best I've been."
As one of few veteran players how do you see your role changing?
"I'm going to have to take a stronger leadership position. I haven't been much of a vocal leader in the past, but I'm going to have to start doing that. I'm just going to do whatever I can to help the young guys along."
How will you adjust to having young receivers all around you?
"I'm hoping that means I'll be used to open things up a little bit more. I am comfortable with that. I'm comfortable knowing that I'm going to have to be a foundation in the middle and I'm ready to take on that challenge."
How will you help the younger players at your position?
"Just mentally. Both of those guys I'm really excited about. They are really good football players. They're really good athletically. Tight end is tough because you have to learn all the run schemes and all the pass schemes. So if I can just help them along and maybe make things a little bit easier then I'll be able to help."
What are you looking forward to during the season?
"I kind of feel like the season will be an accumulation of everything. Last year we were in pretty much every game. Losing all those games by just a touchdown here or a touchdown there, and then knowing we are a little bit better makes it exciting. Our schedule was just as tough last year. We were right on the brink last year so we have the potential to have a really really successful year."
What are your thoughts on the schedule?
"The way that the Oregon game was scheduled is amazing to me. It's such an intense rivalry and it's having our first game of the year in such a hostile environment. It gives us just a really excited energy and I'm really ready for that right now."
How do you think having three "byes" will affect the team?
"I think the bye weeks are going to really help out physically. Mentally it gets tougher as the season goes longer and longer, but we're going to have to stay sharp. With the bye weeks we'll be able to stay fresh and hopefully that will help out the mental side as well."
This team is replacing a lot of very good players on offense. Does it have enough remaining pieces to compete?
"The talent is definitely there. Coach Lappano said in the meetings that we have more speed around here than we've had in a very long time. We have tons of speed and tons of talent. To know that we have a front six back and the quarterback means we have a strong foundation."
You expect over 70,000 fans for a couple of games this season. What is that environment like?
"It's surreal. We've only seen it a couple of times, but it sticks with you. You know what to expect, but it's just an amazing energy. You can only benefit from it. You feed on it. It's going to help us out a lot. It's going to be a lot of fun."
NOTE: A reminder that Husky Picture Day will be held at Husky Stadium this Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Every UW player will be available for autographs, photos, etc., on the Husky Stadium turf, along with members of the UW soccer and volleyball teams. With free parking, no admission charge and free hot dogs and sodas, it's a perfect event for any Husky fan.