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Originally published Friday, April 8, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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UW Football

Notebook: Toledo takes on new role

Joe Toledo showed up for a pre-practice interview yesterday wearing a black T-shirt with a white "83" over the chest pocket. That's about all that's...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Joe Toledo showed up for a pre-practice interview yesterday wearing a black T-shirt with a white "83" over the chest pocket. That's about all that's left of his University of Washington career as a tight end.

"This," said his position coach, Mike Denbrock, "is the deal."

That's a different way of saying that the move of Toledo from tight end to left offensive tackle is more than an experiment, it's a declaration. He might be impossible to contend with on a tackle-eligible play, but that's the apparent extent of his future catching balls.

"If it happens, it happens," smiled Toledo, now wearing No. 67. "If not, I'll be happy blocking."

Toledo, who will be a fifth-year senior, came to Washington in Rick Neuheisel's regime, heir to the rich tradition of tight ends at Washington. He liked what position coach Keith Gilbertson had to say, especially against the uncertainty of his other choice, USC, which had a new coach in Pete Carroll.

"They (the Huskies) were coming off a Rose Bowl win," Toledo reasoned, "and I couldn't see myself living in L.A."

Hindsight — USC's two national titles and the Huskies' 1-10 record in 2004 — might suggest Toledo whiffed on that one. But he's too busy learning a new position to have regrets.

"The former coaching staff kind of put it in my ear a little bit toward the end of the year," he said. "Then I talked to coach (Tyrone) Willingham, and he kind of said, 'We think this is going to help the team more.' "

Departing senior Khalif Barnes left a big hole, more pronounced because James Paulk, a transfer from College of the Canyons, committed originally to Gilbertson, wavered and eventually saw the scholarship offer pulled because of academic concerns.

It's also been said that Toledo's long-term future might be better at tackle. So he made the move, bulked up to 310 pounds and hasn't looked back.

"Footwork" is the word that keeps getting repeated in assessments of Toledo's adjustment.

"There's some carryover, but a lot of the footwork is different," Toledo said.

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Fortunately, he's athletic enough to cover for some of the mistakes.

"He has the ability athletically to maybe not be in the right position, but recover," said Denbrock.

"So far, it's going very well," said Willingham. "That doesn't mean it's been without some hiccups, but I think it's going very well."

If that continues, Toledo could see the future in an observer at yesterday's practice. That was Barnes, whom many are forecasting as a late first-round pick in the NFL draft April 23.

Lobendahn out

Linebacker Joe Lobendahn might miss most of the rest of spring drills with an apparent back injury.

Willingham wouldn't specify or confirm the nature of the injury but said it would be "probably two weeks before he's able to do anything, if at that time."

Linebacker Scott White "may be out for an extended period of time," Willingham said, saying it's unrelated to football. White was on the sideline at yesterday's practice.

Notes

• Willingham said QB Isaiah Stanback is being kept out of some team drills with what's believed to be a sore hamstring.

• Jackson HS product Johnie Kirton, 280 pounds, has seen some action at tight end and fullback as well as his listed tailback. Regarding any possible position-change experiments elsewhere, Willingham said he and his staff are probably a few days away from acting on any.

• Willingham, speaking before yesterday's workout, noted little separation yet in the quarterback derby.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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