"I'll drink to that"

This fan's opinion appeared on realdawg.com, May 2001

To your health
By Richard Linde

Because of their talented receiving corps, the Huskies should have a strong passing attack this upcoming season. Barring injury, either Taylor Barton or Cody Pickett (or both), should be capable quarterbacks. They have the slings and their receivers have the wings to provide an aerial circus. Washington can doff its slothful image and turn into a quick-strike team at any moment. Toss Rambo an automatic weapon and he’s hard to stop.

All of this will depend on some steady play at quarterback. How durable will Pickett and Barton be? For continuity’s sake, it's important to keep both of them healthy. Physically speaking, neither of them appears to be a Marques Tuiasosopo—but not many quarterbacks are. As an aside, rumor has it that the Samoan warrior (Tui) struck an alliance with Hygeia, the Greek God of health, last season. Whether he did or not, Oakland fans will learn to worship Tui, as we fans did at Washington.

Not able to find any elixirs, some of the other Dawgs haven’t been so lucky. There has been a rash of injuries this spring, and that's got to stop. (Because of injury, none of these players participated in the spring game: Mikal Akbar, Rich Alexis, Sam Cunningham, Ossim Hatem, Derrick Johnson, Josh Miller, Rock Nelson, Nick Newton, Justin Robbins, Marcus Roberson, John Schmidt, and Jafar Williams). Rock Nelson (bad back) and Ossim Hatem (blood clots) will not suit up for 2001.

A strong running game will help keep Pickett and Barton off the injured list and avoid an epidemic.

Enter the option.

Eighth in the conference in passing (196 yards per game), Washington led the Pac-10 in rushing last season, averaging 212 yards per game. Ball control was essential to Washington’s success, and as a result, the Dawgs were second in the conference in time-of-possession.

Having one of the Pac-10’s most durable quarterbacks ever, the Huskies worked the option with precision. The cast-iron constitution of Marques Tuiasosopo reminded me of Cade McNown’s (UCLA). Although taking his lumps as a pro, McNown, started in some 43 straight games for the Bruins.

If Pickett and/or Barton can run the option and garner some significant yards on the ground, they can expect to take some extra shots, which could be a catch-22 for the duo. Pickett and Barton will need a strong running game to stay healthy; however, is running the option the best way to keep them healthy? Keeping these two players free from injury is a must. That is not to say that Ryan Porter or Casey Paus wouldn’t be capable replacements should either Barton or Pickett go down. At this time, Porter and Paus are mostly unknowns; whereas, Barton and Pickett have shown considerable promise this spring.

Keeping Washington’s tailbacks and offensive line healthy is another consideration. Rich Alexis' status is iffy at this time, since he missed spring practice. Let's hope the operation on his shoulder proves successful. The offensive line was decimated by graduation and attrition, and one is being rebuilt. Although the starting offensive line looked good in the spring game, there didn’t appear to be much depth behind it. Nick Newton (who will return from the injured list) and Francisco Tipoti (who will enroll in the fall) should buttress the line.

Being able to inject fresh legs (mostly Willie Hurst's) in the second half of each game during the last part of the 2000 season was a big plus for the Dawgs—Alexis' long run against Purdue being a good example. The Dawgs have a number of players who can come off the bench and give the ground game a second wind. Backing up Hurst and Alexis at tailback are Sean Sweat, Braxton Cleman, and two incoming freshman, Chris Singleton and Ty Eriks.

At fullback, John Hart, Ken Walker, Spencer Marona, Brian Cook, and Mathias Wilson can expect to see playing time. Dan McCourtie, an incoming freshman, may be asked to help out at fullback.

As it was for a couple of Pac-10 teams last season, the injury bugaboo might be Washington’s Achilles heal in 2001. Keeping key players healthy—especially at quarterback, tailback and in the offensive line—will be critical for the Dawgs. This is true on defense, too, where Washington cannot afford to lose another quality player of the likes of an Ossim Hatem. Defensively speaking though, the Dawgs are more robust than elsewhere, and this is where their real strength lies.

Will this next season be a rebuilding year for Washington? Heck no. The talent is there, and it’s primed to go. Certainly, Washington can repeat as Pac-10 champs. I’ll drink to that—and to the Huskies. As they say in France, a votre santé, which means “to your health.”

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