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Originally published Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Linebacker E.J. Savannah sidelined with poor grades

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham made a point of telling reporters before his team's first practice Monday that there were 101 players...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington coach Tyrone Willingham made a point of telling reporters before his team's first practice Monday that there were 101 players on the roster.

The spotlight, however, inevitably fell on a few players who surprisingly weren't there, most notably linebacker E.J. Savannah, the team's leading tackler last season.

The junior from Bellevue was expected to miss the beginning of practice because of a broken humerus bone in his arm. But Willingham announced that Savannah is academically ineligible, and said that if he gets that cleared up, there are other unspecified issues that must be addressed before he could return to the team.

"The parties involved know what they are," Willingham said, adding that he wouldn't guess as to when Savannah could be back. "Sometimes those things can change overnight. Sometimes they may be forever."

The development is the latest setback in what has been a rocky UW career for Savannah. He was relegated to second team at the beginning of camp last season for academic reasons then suspended for spring ball for not adhering to unspecified responsibilities that Savannah later said were related to offseason workouts.

Savannah attended the beginning of UW's practice after being seen talking with Willingham near the football offices. He greeted some of his fellow linebackers during early warmups, with the cast removed from his arm and wearing a Huskies T-shirt, then left.

Coaches said his loss could be a big blow — his replacement at the moment is former walk-on Josh Gage, a junior who has made seven tackles, primarily on special teams.

"When you lose a guy that you think is a top player, it's a bit of a setback," said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. "But you really don't have much of a scheme if one injury knocks you down, or two. That's part of coaching, to have contingency plans."

Also not on the roster were four incoming freshmen — defensive linemen Craig Noble and Senio Kelemete (Evergreen High School), running back Demitrius Bronson and defensive back Vince Taylor (Eastside Catholic). All are facing academic issues and Willingham wouldn't say when, or if, any of the four will enroll. Quarterback Dominique Blackman also will not enroll until January for academic reasons.

Izbicki facing

two charges

That wasn't the only bad news. Redshirt freshman tight end Chris Izbicki was charged with two misdemeanor crimes Monday and will be arraigned in King County District Court in Burien on Aug. 14.

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Izbicki was charged with criminal trespass in the second degree and minor in possession of liquor after an incident July 20 while attending the KUBE Summer Jam at the White River Amphitheatre.

According to a police report, Izbicki was charged with criminal trespass for attempting to get into a restricted VIP area and failing to leave after being asked to do so twice. He was then given a breathalyzer test and recorded a reading of .241, resulting in the second charge.

Izbicki participated in practice Monday.

Locker hoping for 65 percent completions

Quarterback Jake Locker said his goal for the season is to complete 65 percent of his passes, which would be a significant upgrade from the 47.3 percent of last season.

"That's a good number to shoot for," he said.

Locker said he thinks greater knowledge of the offense will be the biggest factor in improving his accuracy this season.

Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano noted that Locker completed 65 percent or better in every scrimmage during the spring. "He can do that," Lappano said. "But I told him that how you really judge a quarterback is wins and losses."

More bullets?

After losing to Oregon last year, 55-34, Willingham said the team needed to get more "bullets" to be able to compete.

Asked Monday if he feels like UW has more ammo now, he said "I think we are getting closer. It's going to be interesting in camp to see how some of the speed and explosiveness that we have starts to fit together and how the confidence builds and how they play off of each other. That's a good thing."

Players cool about

Willingham hot seat

Players at the media luncheon mostly brushed off talk that the uncertainty over Willingham's future will impact their season.

"We all have the same goal here that we've had every year that coach Willingham has been here, and that's to win games," Locker said. "And that hasn't changed and that never will. We are going to do whatever we need to to the best of our abilities to make that happen. So it's not a distraction that we talk about or think about. Our focus is winning games."

Recruiting update

Aaron Grymes of West Seattle High School has accepted a scholarship offer and said the Huskies envision him as a cornerback.

Grymes became the second cornerback to commit to the Huskies on Monday, after Kenneth Pinkard of South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas.

Grymes, who played safety, wide receiver, running back and even quarterback last season as a junior, said being a Husky "has been my dream since I was little."

Grymes, 5 feet 11, 160 pounds, said the Huskies extended the scholarship offer Saturday and he accepted Monday. He said Boise State, Oregon and Idaho had shown interest in him.

"Since coming to the games as a little kid, I've wanted to play here," Grymes said.

The Huskies will be getting a capable student. Grymes has a 3.5 grade-point average and said he has passed the SAT.

"He's got a real love for the game," said West Seattle coach Davis Lura. "He works hard and he's also a good student."

Pinkard, 6 feet, 180, was also offered a scholarship Saturday in Seattle.

Pinkard and Grymes are the second and third players to commit. The first was quarterback Keith Price of Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com; staff reporter Craig Smith contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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