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Tuesday, August 8, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW Football: 10 questions for the Huskies

Seattle Times staff reporter

1. Does this team have any legitimate chance for success?

Outside observers don't seem to think so as Washington was picked last in the Pac-10 media poll, and at or near the bottom in virtually every preseason magazine. But coach Tyrone Willingham said in the spring he thinks a bowl game is a realistic goal for this team, something he states again in this year's media guide. "The No. 1 thing for me, clearly, is to get to a bowl game," Willingham is quoted as saying. "We have to make that our goal."

2. Will Jake Locker play this year?

The best-case scenario for UW is that Locker, the highly regarded freshman quarterback from Ferndale, doesn't play.

That would mean that returning starter Isaiah Stanback is having a good season and playing well, and that Carl Bonnell and Johnny DuRocher ably filled in if needed.

Key dates


Today: First practice.

Saturday: Picture Day at Husky Stadium, 1 p.m.

Aug. 25: Final day of two-a-day practices.

Sept. 2: Season opener against San Jose State, Husky Stadium, 12:30 p.m.

But should the veteran QBs struggle or get hurt, Locker could be called on. Locker says he wants to play so well that he forces UW coaches to not redshirt him.

Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano says Locker will be given a chance to play this year, but adds that coaches will tread with caution.

"The last thing we will ever do to that kid is throw him to the wolves," Lappano said.

Lappano also states the obvious that it's a lot to ask a guy to go from Ferndale High School (or just about any high school, for that matter) to playing quarterback in the Pac-10.

"I know he is going to pick the system up well," Lappano said. "The whole key is how fast is he going to pick up the speed of the game? The speed of the game is going to be a lot different than it was at Ferndale High."

3. So is there any real quarterback battle?

Not for the starting position; Stanback has a firm hold on the job. But the backup position will be competitive. Bonnell is No. 2 heading into camp, having overtaken DuRocher during spring drills. But Lappano said Bonnell is far from a slam dunk to stay there, though DuRocher has to become more accurate with his throws.

"I still think we are going to let Carl and Johnny battle that out," Lappano said. "However, I do feel Carl made a significant move in the spring. We're trying to do a couple of things with Johnny's release where he will be a little more accurate, so that battle is not closed yet. Carl still has to prove it through training camp. But I was really happy with the way he improved this spring."

4. What's the biggest concern?

Without a doubt, the offensive line, which appears about as green as any in recent memory. Of the combined 55 starts up front last year, 42 were by players who have since graduated. Washington's depth chart after spring ball featured two starters who have never played a down of college football, including redshirt freshman Ben Ossai at the all-important left-tackle position.

5. Will they have enough running backs?

With J.R. Hasty academically ineligible and Kenny James nursing a broken arm, depth is at a minimum, meaning that staying healthy will be job one for Louis Rankin and Shelton Sampson. Tight end Johnie Kirton will likely get a look at playing running back in short-yardage situations, and who knows what other juggling might occur to shore up the spot.

6. What's the top battle?

The most intriguing could be free safety, where touted JC transfer Ashlee Palmer is expected to make a big impact once he reports to camp. He's reportedly still clearing up some eligibility questions and may not be able to practice today, but is expected to be eligible for the season. Palmer committed to both Oregon and Nebraska before finally signing with UW, and while he wasn't eligible to practice in the spring, he was often watching on the sideline. He's listed at 6-3, 215 pounds, reminiscent of many great UW safeties of the past.

The prospect of Palmer's arrival convinced coaches to move Dashon Goldson, the starter at free safety the past two years, to cornerback in the spring. Mesphin Forrester and Chris Hemphill were the top two players at the spot at the end of spring.

7. Are there any other newcomers of note?

Aside from Palmer and Locker, the most intriguing might be JC transfer receiver Marcel Reece, listed at 6-3, 240, though likely at least 10 pounds heavier. Reece is said to have already forged a chemistry with Stanback during informal summer workouts and has a chance to become the go-to receiver the team has lacked the past few years.

8. Any changes with the coaching staff?

Just one, with J.D. Williams taking over for Steven Wilks as secondary coach. Williams, who played seven years in the NFL, is the older brother of former UW safety Curtis Williams, who died in 2002 from complications from a paralyzing injury suffered during a 2000 game at Stanford.

9. What's with Jordan White-Frisbee?

Apparently, he's ready to go after missing last season with a foot injury. That would be a huge boost for the defensive line. White-Frisbee flashed immense ability when he started eight games as a true freshman in 2004. If healthy, he could make the defensive line one of the team's strengths.

10. Will the special teams be any better?

They'd better be. The Huskies ranked in the bottom half of the conference in virtually every special-teams category last season. Drawing the biggest spotlight is kicker Michael Braunstein, who will take over for the graduated Evan Knudson. Braunstein was in a battle with freshman Ryan Perkins for the kicking job before Perkins suffered a knee injury in the spring game that will likely sideline him all season.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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