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April 12, 2002
It didn?t take much for Joe Toledo to dominate football in Encinitas, California at La Costa Canyon High School. In just 34 receptions from his tight end position during his senior year, Toledo amassed 930 yards for an astounding 27.4 yards per catch.
But once he stepped onto the Washington campus as a freshman in the fall of 2001, Toledo?s numbers didn?t matter. The Huskies more than had the position filled with veterans Jerramy Stevens, Joe Collier and Kevin Ware who had a combined nine years experience in the program.
So for Toledo it meant a year of paying dues, gaining strength and the scout team as a redshirt.
?When you?re on scout team you?re not learning as much,? Toledo said of his role, which focused on preparing his teammates by mimicking the opposing teams offense.
As Toledo nears the completion of his first year in college, he finds himself right near the top of the depth chart with the departure of Stevens to the NFL and graduation of Collier. The Huskies return only senior Kevin Ware who pulled down 10 catches for 107 yards after having only one reception in his first two years at Washington.
Because of the more significant role for Toledo, tight ends coach Keith Gilbertson has demanded a lot of Toledo and fellow freshman Andy Heater for game action next season.
?I?ve thrown a lot at them,? Gilbertson said. ?They?re probably swimming in it.?
One of the biggest challenges comes from shedding the defense in order to get open and give the quarterbacks an opportunity to hit the tight ends. In Thursday?s scrimmage portion of the practice, only Ware caught a ball at the position out of the 35 or so plays executed. At the same time the Huskies also need to find out who will earn the starting role at running back and gave a number of reps to Braxton Cleman, Rich Alexis, Jelani Harrison and Chris Singleton.
Toledo has had to step his game up from high school because of the athleticism, strength and speed necessary and it has shown on the track where he posted a time of 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash. In the weight room Toledo boasts a bench press of 380 pounds and a squat of 500.
On the field Gilbertson has noticed the improvement as well.
?He gets a little better at something everyday,? Gilbertson said.
And Toledo realizes that he needs work in areas to find success in the Pac-10.
?You?ve got to go out and run the routes precisely instead of just using your playing ability,? Toledo said.
That playing ability will be tested next season when Toledo reaches the field for the first time when the Huskies meet Michigan in Ann Arbor on August 31.