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UW football: Who are these guys? Corner picks endless
Seattle Times staff reporter
Roy Lewis arrived at Washington last September after transferring from San Jose State and immediately put his old tailback skills to use on the offensive scout team.
He was Reggie Bush one week, J.J. Arrington the next.
"It was cool," he said. "I liked it."
But this year, he plans to make a name for himself, penciled in as a possible starter at UW's new-look cornerback position.
UW returns nine defensive starters from a year ago — all but cornerbacks Derrick Johnson (now with the 49ers) and Sam Cunningham.
That has inevitably led observers to peg cornerback as the biggest question mark on defense.
But Lewis, one of two newcomers who should provide immediate help, begs to differ.
"There's no need to worry about us," he said. "We will definitely show up."
Lewis ended spring ball starting alongside junior Matt Fountaine, who got two starts a year ago and played in the rest as UW's No. 3 cornerback.
Fountaine seems a lock to be one starter with Lewis appearing to have the upper hand on the other job. But there's no lack of competition as the Huskies also brought in Chris Handy, who started at Nevada in 2003, and have gotten back Josh Okoebor — a junior-college transfer who missed last season with a knee injury — and Clarence Simpson, a junior who sat out the spring for personal reasons.
Wilks said Fountaine has had a good camp and is getting better at understanding "the game of the secondary" — reading the offense's formation before the ball is snapped, for instance.
Lewis and Handy have Division I experience to draw on. Lewis made five starts at San Jose State in 2003 before deciding to leave, drawn to UW in part by the encouragement of safety Chris Hemphill, his cousin.
Handy, meanwhile, has experience playing at Husky Stadium, starting at cornerback for Nevada as a sophomore in 2003 when it beat the Huskies 28-17. He turned in one of the key plays in the game, returning an interception 37 yards for a touchdown.
"I don't harp on that too much," Handy said. "I get teased a little bit by coaches and players, but I'm happy to be on this side now."
He left Nevada late in 2003, where he was coached by current UW assistant Chris Tormey, after being involved in a fight and pleading guilty to battery and receiving a one-year probation. But Tormey gave Handy, who attended Pasadena (Calif.) City College as a student only last fall, a solid recommendation and UW coach Tyrone Willingham said he was "very comfortable" with bringing him to UW.
Before coming to camp, however, Handy hadn't played football since 2003 and admits he was a little rusty. "I'm just trying to get back into football shape," he said.
The same can be said for Okoebor and Simpson. Okoebor missed last year after hurting his knee in fall camp. Wilks said Okoebor "is still hampered by the knee but we're counting on him. We're seeing some great things out of him. He just has to keep pushing himself to fight through the soreness."
Simpson, a native of Sylmar, Calif., played in eight games as a true freshman in 2003 when coaches pegged him as a future star, but disappeared a year ago bothered by nagging injuries that limited him to four games. He then sat out the spring. saying, "I had some things I had to take care of" without going into specifics.
He remained at UW, saying he worked out daily by himself, and sometimes played pickup basketball games with the likes of Brandon Roy and Joel Smith.
He also met weekly with Willingham and Wilks and was put back on the active roster at the beginning of summer. Wilks said Simpson is in the mix for playing time.
"It was more mental for me getting my mind right," Simpson said. "I had to get myself to grow up a little bit. Everything is back to square one now. It's a fresh start."
As part of that fresh start, Simpson also said he wants to be known as Clarence and not Dre, a nickname by which he is still referred to in the team's media guide.
That should fit right in with the rest of the new names at cornerback.
• The Huskies were scheduled to hold one practice in the afternoon yesterday but it was canceled by Willingham. "It was just the right time to do it," Willingham said without elaborating. The Huskies are scheduled to have two full practices today and will have their final two-a-day Wednesday.
• Willingham reported no new major injuries, though Simpson (infection), guard Tusi Sa'au (back) and tackle Morgan Rosborough were limited in practice Saturday.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company