Picture of Washington's tight-ends group comes into focus
Chris Izbicki was the Kavario Middleton of Washington's Class of 2007. Like Middleton, a Lakes High senior who was the gem of the Class...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chris Izbicki was the Kavario Middleton of Washington's Class of 2007.
Like Middleton, a Lakes High senior who was the gem of the Class of 2008, Izbicki was a local star tight end, regarded as a must-get for UW coach Tyrone Willingham.
But in the 24/7 sports world of today, his signing 14 months ago can already seem like old news.
When the UW coaches talk about the injection of new talent on this team, however, Izbicki is one of the players they have in mind, with the former Lake Washington star now fully in the mix to become a key player for the Huskies in the fall.
After redshirting last fall, Izbicki has jumped to No. 2 on the depth chart behind senior Michael Gottlieb because of the graduation of Robert Lewis and the move of Johnie Kirton to defensive line.
"This is what I've been waiting for, for a whole year, to get a chance," said Izbicki, a graduate of Lake Washington who was rated by Scout.com as the No. 4 high-school tight end in the country in fall 2006 and the top prospect in the state of Washington.
Izbicki's eagerness is just one facet of his game apparently making a good early impression on new tight-ends coach Brian White.
"He's a physical kid, he's got really strong hands, and he should be a really good blocker," White said. "He's smart. He's tough. I like him."
He's also a bit bigger than the 230 pounds at which Washington lists him. After a fall of redshirting and a winter of conditioning, the 6-foot-3 Izbicki said he is up to about 248 pounds. He's also healthy after having missed three games during his senior season of high school with a separated shoulder.
"Redshirting worked out the best for me," he said. "I just don't think I was ready to play."
The addition of Izbicki and Middleton in the past two classes could begin to put UW back on track to living up to its image of Tight End U. — Sports Illustrated once tabbed Washington as the school best adept at producing NFL players at the position.
"I think it's great that we signed him," Izbicki said of Middleton. "It's more help for the tight ends and will make the tight ends we have work a lot harder. It's going to be great competition so we are going to produce a lot of great tight ends."
It might also compel the Huskies to use the tight ends a little bit more. The move to a more fully-integrated spread-option offense last year took the tight end out of play at times, though coaches insisted there were still plenty of instances where the tight end remained a primary option.
Whatever the case, the reality is that the tight-end spot was more unproductive than expected with Gottlieb (12), Kirton (two) and Lewis (six) combining for just 20 receptions, a far cry from the days when Jerramy Stevens grabbed 48 in 2000 or Kevin Ware 42 in 2002.
"As a group of guys, we have to prove to the coaches that we can be consistent enough and run good routes," Izbicki said.
UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said he sees some encouraging signs.
"Gottlieb's more consistent right now, running a little bit better patterns and he's made some nice plays," Lappano said. Izbicki, Lappano said, is getting better.
"He's going to be a real good football player for us," Lappano said, "especially in the run game."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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