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Originally published Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 11:41 PM

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Former coach Jim Lambright likes what he sees at UW

Blasting music at practice wasn't in the former UW coach's playbook, but he likes the team's energy and enthusiasm

Seattle Times staff reporter

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With heavy metal, rap and hip-hop music blaring for every minute, this wasn't exactly the type of practice Jim Lambright remembered from his more than three decades as a UW player, assistant and head coach.

"It's a new era," Lambright, now 67, laughed while watching Washington's practice Thursday at Husky Stadium. "This is like Tweeting and whatever else as far as our new world. But if it helps you win, I'd put that sucker [the loud speaker] all over everywhere."

And the man who was head coach of the Huskies from 1993 to 1998 said he thinks the winning will soon return, saying he has been nothing but impressed by what he has seen since Steve Sarkisian was named the new coach last December.

Thursday was Lambright's first practice of the fall but he also took in a few in the spring and has been a frequent visitor in the coaches' offices.

"There is no comparison as to the energy and the kids' enthusiasm," Lambright said.

Both, he said, were sorely lacking last season. As a former coach, Lambright was one of the few who was allowed regular entry to the practices during what turned out to be the final season for Tyrone Willingham. Sarkisian now allows the public to see practices during fall camp, while all of Willingham's practices were closed except to a select few.

"There was no fight in the kids [last year]," said Lambright, who is employed with a local construction company doing team building and other motivational work. "And there's no way you could win like that."

Lambright said he thinks there's no question the Huskies will be vastly improved this season but cautioned there is still work to do.

"It's still going to take time to get their system established and to get enough talented kids in here to play with the best in the conference," Lambright said.

As for the music, Sarkisian said it's really just a new-age approach to dealing with an age-old problem — the potential distractions of the game-day atmosphere. Sarkisian, who spent all but one season since 2001 at USC, said music throughout practice was not done by the Trojans but something new he's trying here.

"The biggest reason is that we are trying to get our guys to stay focused when they could be distracted," he said. "Because ultimately when you get in a football game, there are a lot of distractions. So if our guys can stay focused, if it's a song they like or a song they dislike, it's exciting for them. Also as coaches, we have to get used to that environment, to coach through noise, the different things, and for our guys to be able to hear certain things."

Huskies take another JC hit

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Sarksian said after practice that it was unlikely junior-college transfer cornerback Dominique Gaisie would get approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse and will likely not be eligible for this season. Gaisie, projected as a candidate to at least add depth at cornerback this season and possibly contend for a spot as a returner, practiced Monday before UW learned of issues with his transcripts.

"At this point I'd be very shocked [if Gaisie is deemed eligible]," Sarkisian said.

He also said it's best to assume that two other JC players, defensive lineman Johnny Tivao and offensive lineman Daniel Mafoe, will not make it in.

That means three of the six JC players UW signed last February likely won't make it in. Tight end Dorson Boyce, punter Will Mahan and safety David Batts were cleared and are practicing.

The probable loss of the three continues a trend in recent years of UW having trouble getting junior-college players eligible. In 2006, Willingham signed eight junior-college players with only four getting eligible.

Sarkisian, however, said signing six JC players last year was mostly the result of a late start in attempting to put a class together and that it won't be a staple of recruiting in the future.

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

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