C Brad Vanneman (PHOTO - UW Media Relations)
Coach: Tyrone Willingham
1st year
2004 Record: 1-10
at Notre Dame LOST 3-38
at Stanford LOST 13-27
at Southern California LOST 0-38
at Oregon LOST 6-31
at Washington State LOST 25-28

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

This once-proud program has fallen on hard times and is coming off the worst season (1-10) in school history. Now, the Huskies look wisely to Tyrone Willingham to guide the turnaround. Willingham didn't fulfill his promise (or his entire five-year contract) at Notre Dame, but he certainly brings more stability to this program than either of his two predecessors (Rick Neuheisel and Keith Gilbertson).

Willingham is a no-nonsense guy who has already made an impact by making his players more clean-cut (a small thing that makes a difference in establishing Willingham as THE leader), and engineering shorter, but more demanding, practices than the Huskies were used to. In terms of changes on the field, Willingham scrapped the Gilbertson offense (which included the option) in favor of his 'West Coast' style - more short passes to go with a balanced running game. The changes on defense will be more subtle, as the Huskies will still operate from a base 4-3 alignment.

Changing the offense and tweaking the defense are good first steps, but what Willingham and his staff needs is for the players to execute better. This is a team that committed 42 turnovers in 2004 and ranked 116th in turnover margin. They also couldn't score (14.0 points per game), couldn't come up with plays to keep drives alive (31 percent conversion rate on 3rd down) and gave up way too many big plays. Their work is cut out with a talented group that needs some confidence instilled, and quickly.

The Huskies are still a year away from becoming a team with legitimate postseason bowl hopes, but they have the talent to make a nice turnaround. Worrisome is the unsettled quarterback situation, but the offense will be better, and the defense won't be so easily picked on. Opening the season with four consecutive games in Seattle sets the Huskies up for a nice start, but the Pac-10 schedule will chew them up and keep them "middle of the pack". Mark September 24th - Willingham will surely have his guys ready to go and have something to prove against the new-look supplied from South Bend.

Projected 2005 record: 4-7
QB - 3 DL - 3
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 2.5 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Casey Paus, 274-116-17, 1476 yds., 5 TD

Rushing: Kenny James, 172 att., 702 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Sonny Shackelford, 21 rec., 298 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Kenny James, 5 TD, 30 pts.

Punting: Sean Douglas, 63 punts, 42.6 avg.

Kicking: Evan Knudson, 7-10 FG, 3-4 PAT, 24 pts.

Tackles: Evan Benjamin, 105 tot., 48 solo

Sacks: Manase Hopoi, 9 sacks

Interceptions: Evan Benjamin, 3 for 34 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Anthony Russo, 15 ret., 17.6 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Anthony Russo, 8 ret., 3.4 avg., 0 TD


DT Manase Hopoi (PHOTO - UW Media Relations)
OFFENSE: Charles Frederick-WR, Bobby Whithorne-WR, Khalif Barnes-OT, Ryan Brooks-OT, Jon Lyon-TE, Zach Tuiasosopo-FB
DEFENSE: Sam Cunningham-CB, Derrick Johnson-CB, Jimmy Newell-SS, Tim Galloway-LB

Here's all you need to know about Casey Paus' performance as a full-time starter in 2004: It's quite possible he'll now be fourth-string. Willingham opened up the QB competition, and he won't show his cards until the fall. We think Isaiah Stanback wins the job. He's got an incredibly strong arm and tremendous speed (4.4-sec 40). He's also been a workhorse in the film room in learning the new system. Oregon-transfer Johnny DuRocher brings his strong arm to the Huskies, and he'll be behind Stanback. Paus (former prep all-American) just couldn't get it done last year (42.3 completion percentage; 5 TD to 17 INT) and may even wind up behind Carl Bonnell, a Washington State-transfer.

Running Back
It's amazing that the Huskies were so bad on the ground (ranked 90th), because they've got a stable of talented backs. There's a good chance the Huskies go with a backfield by committee, but Kenny James is the best of the bunch. He's fast but uses his leg strength to be a power back. The team's leading rusher in 2004, he'll get the bulk of the carries again. Also-quick Louis Rankin is turning heads, though. Fast and strong Chris Singleton, as well as the super athletic Shelton Sampson, will also get carries. The starting fullback will once again be James Sims, who has tailback ability, but fullback toughness. He's versatile running the ball or catching it. Depth at both spots means fresh legs and strong results will be expected into the fourth quarter of most games.

There certainly isn't a lack of talent here with Craig Chambers (No. 11 prep WR in 2003), Charles Smith, Corey Williams and Sonny Shackelford. As talented as they are, none has really emerged as a big-time player. Shackelford (4.4-sec 40) is one of the strongest and fastest in the group. The bet is that he'll step forward and be the top option. Chambers showed off his brilliant speed in 2004 (21.5 yards per catch), but had a subpar spring. He'll bounce back and have a big year. Williams will find open seams, and smallish Smith will also make an impact. Of course, having a quarterback with the ability to get these guys the ball would help most.

Tight End
The Huskies are searching for a starter here, after moving their most experienced TE - Joe Toledo - to tackle. That will leave the starting job to Robert Lewis, a former top recruit at LB. He's big, has good speed (4.55-40), and now has the most experience, having just caught five. "Power forward" Dash Crutchley will also get some snaps here.

Offensive Line
At least this one area is settled…well, sort of. The Huskies return four of their five starters. For all the struggles UW had in 2004, the offensive line did an admirable job, allowing just 23 sacks. The 3.2-yards per carry on the ground can improve, and it will with the experience the Dawgs now have. The one spot that isn't settled is at (the volatile) left tackle spot. Because of experience at tight end, Toledo has got the quickness to be quality blindside protection.

Offensive breakdown - ironically, it's an accurate description for the Husky ball movement(s) in 2004. Washington was the nation's lowest-scoring team and ranked 103rd in total offense. What became a one-year experiment to bring in some "option" ended with the departure of head man Keith Gilbertson. Willingham will install the West Coast offense he tried to employ at Notre Dame and did employ at Stanford. Willingham has better athletes here than he did in South Bend, though. The QBs, especially, are more of what his system needs - strong pocket guys who can also run (not the other way around, like Quinn was). Even with the uncertainty surrounding the QBs, the Huskies will be a much improved offense in 2005, scoring about a touchdown more per game.


RB Kenny James (PHOTO - UW Media Relations)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Casey Paus-Sr Isaiah Stanback-Jr
Carl Bonnell-So
FB James Sims-Sr Ty Eriks-Sr
TB Kenny James-Jr Chris Singleton-Sr
Shelton Sampson-Jr
WR Craig Chambers-So Sonny Shackelford-Jr
Anthony Russo-So
WR Corey Williams-So Quintin Daniels-Jr
Charles Smith-So
TE Robert Lewis-So Dash Crutchley-Jr
OT Chad Macklin-So Joe Toledo-Sr
OG Clay Walker-Jr Juan Garcia-Jr
C Brad Vanneman-Sr Brandon Leyritz-Sr
OG Tusi Sa'au-Sr Stanley Daniels-Jr
OT Robin Meadow-Sr Nathan Flowers-Fr
K Evan Knudson-Sr Michael Braunstein-So



Defensive Line
The best player - and best pro prospect - on this team is DT Manase Hopoi. The former DE has been Washington's best pass rusher since he arrived, and he racked up nine more sacks in 2004. Hopoi isn't just a pass-rush specialist, though. He's got great speed and quickness for his size, which is why he led the Pac-10 and finished second in country in TFLs (22). He's a first-team all-Pac 10 lineman and an across-the-board all-American candidate. There's decent talent around him, with massive Jordan White-Frisbee manning the other tackle spot, where he's a rock against the run. The DE spots haven't been settled, but Greyson Gunheim will lock down one side. This soph is a tremendous athlete, possessing the speed (4.49-40), power and agility (36-inch vertical) to be a quality player.

Say this for the Husky linebackers: they make plays. Evan Benjamin (105 tackles), Joe Lobendahn (100) and Scott White (83) all return after finishing 1-2-3 on the team. Benjamin's athleticism made his transition from safety to LB (a year ago) a smooth one. He will fly all over the field and make impact plays against the run and the pass. Lobendahn and White are similar players, in that both have the instincts to be in the right place at the right time, as well as the toughness to get the job done. Both are TFL and sack savvy. This is the unquestioned strength of this D.

Defensive Back
The Husky pass defense actually ranked as one of the nation's best (17th), but finished much lower (61st) in efficiency. Since teams ran it easily, therefore, their passing games were effective when tapped, but they obviously then weren't needed for huge chunks. Now, they have to replace both cornerbacks. Last year's No. 3 corner, Matt Fountaine is the top returner. He's a strong tackler and also has the speed needed (10.71-sec 100) after spending time on the Husky track team. A pair of "transfers" - Roy Lewis (San Jose State) and Chris Handy (Nevada) - will be counted on to fill the void(s), as well. Lewis is a strong cover corner with the speed to hang with any receiver(s). Handy is a wild card - he's got the physical skills to be a good corner, but also has a rap sheet (dismissed from Nevada after misdemeanor battery). As much uncertainty as there is around the corners, the safeties are just as solid, with C.J. Wallace and Dashon Goldson returning to their starting spots. They'll be the leaders of the secondary and both are great at providing help in downfield coverage.

When the new coaching staff took over, they noticed that, more than anything, Washington gave up too many big plays. DC Kent Baer is out to change that. He's had success as Willingham's coordinator at both Stanford and Notre Dame. The run defense and scoring allowed (both ranked 83rd) were what hurt the Huskies most, while the pass defense was somewhat solid. The front seven is sound with Hopoi as the anchor and all three linebackers back, while the secondary should be fine with the talent supplied. Underneath routes may be open early as the LBs are needed for run support. We'd be surprised if the Huskies were as bad on defense as they were a year ago.


LB Evan Benjamin (PHOTO - UW Media Relations)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Mike Mapuolesega-Sr Brandon Ala-Jr
NT Jordan White-Frisbee-So Dan Milsten-Jr
DT Manase Hopoi-Sr Wilson Afoa-So
DE Greyson Gunheim-So Caesar Rayford-So
OLB Evan Benjamin-Sr Tahj Bomar-Jr
ILB Scott White-Jr Dan Howell-So
ILB Joe Lobendahn-Sr Kyle Trew-So
CB Matt Fountaine-Jr Kim Taylor-Jr
CB Roy Lewis-So Wade Gurnett-Fr
SS C.J. Wallace-Jr Chris Hemphill-So
FS Dashon Goldson-Jr Darin Harris-So
P Sean Douglas-Jr ..




Evan Knudson and Michael Braunstein shared this spot a year ago, and they'll probably battle most of this year, too. Knudson continues to have the same anomaly as always: he's money up to 30 yards, and solid from 40-45, but between 30 and 39 yards, he's spotty. Braunstein is great from short range, handling most of the PAT duties, but missed all four field goal attempts beyond 30 yards. The kick coverage was mediocre, but should improve with Willingham's schemes.

The Huskies are happy here. Sean Douglas has a strong leg (42.6 avg) and knows how to kick his team into better field position (19 punts inside the 20). The punt coverage unit will again be solid when Douglas actually gets his kicks off (the Huskies gave up five blocks).

Return Game
Improvements here also look probable. The Huskies were anemic on punt returns (ranked 111th) and kick returns (88th), so they can't wait for the arrival of JUCO-transfer Marlon Wood, a speedster who routinely had big returns in junior college. The stable of RBs should have an extra hat to lend, too.