September 4, 2008

Willingham Discusses Team Mentality and BYU Match-up

After a lopsided loss to Oregon, one would expect the Huskies to possibly come to their first practice of the week lacking intensity. While that was the case for the start of Monday's practice, the team picked it up in Willingham's view.

"For the most part, a little sluggish to get started, but picked up the pace as we went through the session of practice, and it ended up a solid day for us. Injury wise, most notable, Michael Gottlieb came back and did the majority of practice. I believe he felt pretty good with the session he was able to put in. We're very comfortable and delighted with that fact. Jake [Locker] moved around well - no obvious effects of the previous ball game. He's still, I don't think, all of the way back yet, but hopefully that will come in time."

When asked if Gottlieb will be available to play in the BYU game, Willingham responded:

"Based on yesterday, I would say yes. But as we go through the week, we'll see exactly what the progress is and how well he'll be able to perform."

Willingham discussed Johri Fogerson's move from running back to safety.

"Obviously Johri is a very talented athlete, and he continues to show himself that way. One of the things we'd like to do, is get our best athletes on the field at some point. The secondary may afford him that opportunity a little sooner than the running back position. We made an adjustment with him yesterday and worked him into the defense. He started to pick up and learn some things and do some service team work to kind of get his feet up under him. We'll see how far it allows him to advance."

Willingham discussed whether or not Fogerson will be ready to play in the game against BYU.

"It always depends on what you do with him. If you gave an individual a couple of limited plays, than maybe he could be ready Saturday. But if you're asking him to be able to decipher the entire defensive package that's been put in place, that might be a little much."

When asked if Fogerson's move to safety was due to what he saw in Fogerson or what he saw in the rest of the team, Willingham responded:

"A little bit of both, because there was always the debate about where you play him. I think everybody remembers the hit he had in the state championship, as one of the nice defensive back hits you saw all year. You recognize throughout the course of the year if you watched him, it wasn't just his offensive talents that stood out. So what we're trying to do, is find places for our good athletes to get on the field. Obviously he would have been third, maybe three and half at the halfback position. Hopefully now, he may be able to step up and be better than that in our secondary."

Willingham addressed ways to improve the Huskies' tackling.

"You want to create as many one-on-one's as possible, to try to get athletes in space where you can get those one-on-one's, where you have to make that individual tackle. That would be the number one thing that we would try to do is create those kind of match-ups. You can't assume tackles will be made. You go to work on them to try to improve them, and as the opponent, you simply say what do we offer. This particular case, they've got some big backs and some nifty receivers, so that makes it a very difficult task."

Willingham discussed the opportunity special teams play gives younger players to gain experience.

"You hope so. You hope your special teams can serve as a place to do that. But again, the key ingredient is making sure you're getting the best player on the field to do that. The opportunity is nice, but you can't afford the opportunity if it weakens your football team."

Willingham further discussed special teams play enhancing a player's prospects at his particular position.

"It gives you experience number one, game experience. Number two, the fundamentals that are needed at special teams will be needed at another position. If you're a defensive back, you're going to have to tackle. If you're a receiver or a running back or on a punt return team, you've got to block, you've got to position your body, and you've got to be able to maintain contact with the opponent. So all of those things are transferable."

When asked if facing a more traditional offense like BYU's rather than a spread offense like Oregon's will be easier for the younger players, Willingham responded:

"I don't see them as a traditional offensive team in a sense, even though they don't do as much of the option as some of the other people now with the spread package. But if you notice, they will do a lot of things out of the spread look, spread concept - three wide receivers, etc. That back of theirs is very capable of being a receiver. Even as a big man, he's very capable of being a receiver. I think you see a lot of things that are non traditional within their set, but they do have a great comfort in their system, which is kind of based on the traditional aspects of passing the football."

Willingham had this to say when asked what problems Washington may encounter with facing very different offenses in back-to-back weeks.

"Again, I don't see some aspects that dissimilar. Obviously the option aspect of it is, that is great variance there. But some of the passing standpoints - we're going to see some very similar routes to what we saw last week, from a passing game standpoint. The running backs will be utilized to some degree, so we've got to be well prepared for that. What's going to be a critical element, I think, is our ability to pattern read, and make sure we understand exactly where they're trying to take the ball within their given formations."

When asked if there is a Pac-10 offense similar to BYU's, Willingham noted the similarities between Washington and the Cougars' offenses.

"I might say we might be a little bit along that line to some degree, because you'll still see us do some of the things out of the two backfield, I-backfield set, which is kind of a traditional run game along that line, yet still be able to open it up. But we do, I think, a little bit more of the option, because of our quarterback. I don't think they see their guy as an option runner."

Willingham gave his opinion of BYU's starting quarterback, Max Hall.

"He's very solid, very good. I love the fact that he understands his system and knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball as soon as you show your hand and show what you're doing. He knows quickly, without any hesitation, where to take the football. That's what makes him very dangerous."

Willingham discussed the team's mentality coming off the tough loss at Oregon.

"A little hurt, a little beat - that's where I think a little bit of the sluggishness came in at. Just trying to get that out of your system, and get back to being on the field. I think there's a little bit of that there. I think the biggest thing, was just trying to get that taste out of their mouth, get that thing off their back, get back to working and get back to being what we thought we could be."

Willingham touched on Byron Davenport's and Mark Armelin's injuries.

"Byron is just day-to-day, week-to-week. He hasn't fully made the progress back to be worked back into the lineup. Mark just has his foot injury, and it will probably be a couple of weeks on that."

Safety Jason Wells is still recovering from a knee injury suffered last season. Willingham discussed the possiblitiy of Wells earning a medical redshirt.

"As you know, any play basically cancels his ability to redshirt, so you're kind of thinking along those lines right now."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!