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Originally published Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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UW Fooball | Dan Cozzetto in on ground floor of rebuilding

Added responsibility, a larger salary and longer contract helped convince Dan Cozzetto to leave Arizona State in February to take over as...

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Added responsibility, a larger salary and longer contract helped convince Dan Cozzetto to leave Arizona State in February to take over as offensive-line coach and running-game coordinator at Washington.

But so, too, did unfinished business.

"I felt like I wasn't here long enough the first time back," he said.

That was in 2003, when Cozzetto worked one season as offensive-line coach for Keith Gilbertson. He had been hired a few months earlier by Rick Neuheisel, who was let go as UW head coach that summer.

Shortly after the 2003 season, with Gilbertson's situation tenuous, Cozzetto accepted an offer to coach in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers for longtime friend and boss Dennis Erickson. He later followed Erickson to Idaho, then to ASU before getting the call from the Huskies in February.

The UW opening came when Jim Michalczik, who had been on staff less than two months, left to coach for the Oakland Raiders.

Cozzetto coached ASU's tight ends the past two seasons.

"The opportunity to coach the offensive front again," he says, was a big lure. "And sometimes you just need a fresh start."

Cozzetto, a Spokane native who attended Idaho, also said Seattle is something of a second home. His wife, Debbie, got her MBA at Washington and operated a bakery in Madison Park. "Two of our kids grew up here," Cozzetto said.

By getting in on the ground floor of new coach Steve Sarkisian's rebuilding project, he hopes he has a chance to stick around. He has a two-year, $300,000 guaranteed contract.

Cozzetto had a reputation as a no-nonsense, old-school coach during his first UW tenure. His new players say that still fits, especially compared to Michalczik.

"Coach Cozzetto is a more fiery and all up-in-your-face type of guy," said guard Morgan Rosborough.

Cozzetto has some rebuilding to do with a line that was regarded as one of the UW's most underachieving units last season. Three starters return, but the losses included center Juan Garcia, considered the emotional leader of the unit.

Replacing Garcia "was my biggest concern," Cozzetto said.

He initially moved guard Ryan Tolar to center, where Tolar experimented a little last season when Garcia was injured.

Friday, Tolar was back at guard with freshman Mykenna Ikehara running with the ones at center. It was the third different No. 1 line in three days as Cozzetto tries to mix and match to find the right combination. The coaches say everyone has a clean slate. Ben Ossai, a starter the last three years at left tackle, ran with the No. 2 unit at guard Friday.

"Coach Cozzetto told us that every day you come in you might go up [the depth chart], you might go down," said Rosborough, who ran with the starters on Wednesday and the second unit Friday. "Each practice you don't know what's going to happen. You have a bad practice you go down, a good practice you go up. It's a roller coaster right now."

Cozzetto said it's all about trying to find the right fit.

"I think there are some good players here," he said. "I really do. It's just getting them molded and putting them in the right positions, see where they fit, how they are playing together."

Notes

• Redshirt freshman Luther Leonard, a graduate of Evergreen High of White Center, has moved from quarterback to receiver. He was competing with walk-on Taylor Bean for the No. 3 QB spot behind Jake Locker and Ronnie Fouch. Touted recruit Keith Price arrives in the fall to add further quarterback competition.

"We just felt like we are trying to maximize his ability," Sarkisian said of Leonard. "He's a great athlete. He just wasn't getting enough reps at quarterback. We felt like we've got a really good athlete on the roster, let's try to utilize him."

• The team will hold its first major scrimmage at 1 p.m. today at Husky Stadium. Sarkisian said it will go about 80-95 plays.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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