Joe Toledo (UW Media Relations)
When Joe Toledo was switched from tight end to left tackle this past spring, it meant that his days of catching touchdown passes were over. Recently, Toledo was asked to relive the dramatic touchdown catch he made against Oregon State last season. Hearing this request, Toledo’s face grew wide with a smile.
“That was a good feeling,” he said. “Isaiah (Stanback) made a great pass. I was running a corner route. Isaiah dropped back and started scrambling to his left. I saw him scrambling so I got over there to that side of the field. I kind of leaned on the corner one way, and Isaiah threw it out there. I got a little bit of separation, and dove out for it. It was a good pass. I caught it and went sliding in the end zone. It was cool. It was probably one of my better plays here at U-Dub.”
As the disastrous 2004 season entered November, the once-vaunted home field advantage had frittered away to naught. From agitated fans, the frustrated boos cascaded down from the Husky Stadium grandstands, entering the ear-holes of every Husky helmet. Especially late in the season, the players were also quite aware of the thousands upon thousands of empty seats surrounding the field of play. Toledo was asked about this.
“Obviously we want to play in front of a packed crowd,” he said. “Husky Stadium is known as being one of the best stadiums in the country. At times, I was upset that people weren’t coming to watch our games. But rightfully so, because we weren’t a great team. We had the worst record in U-Dub’s history. So I don’t blame them for it, you know? It’s our job this year to go out and win and get those people back out to watch us.”
There was also a point last October when a portion of the playbook was completely abandoned. The Husky offense had entered the season with an emphasis on running out of the shotgun formation and utilizing misdirection, until the coaches went another direction. Toledo was asked to describe how that scenario unfolded.
“We had spent that whole spring running a different offense with the old coaching staff. When we scratched it in mid-season, it was a big surprise for all of us. We had spent so much time working on it. I don’t want to talk bad about the old coaching staff. I think this spring we were a lot more productive. But when you run a certain offense, and you’re used to making certain calls, and then it’s scrapped in the middle of the season, it’s tough to get everyone on the same page and going in the same direction.”
It was in the spring of 2005 that Toledo and Coach Tyrone Willingham mutually agreed to move Toledo to left tackle. It is being deemed by many as a mutually beneficial move. It gives the Huskies an athletic and agile-footed behemoth at left tackle, while giving Toledo a higher likelihood of an NFL career. Toledo was asked what the personal struggle was like to learn a new position, and how it feels to see progress in himself.
“In spring ball, I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed, but I was struggling a bit with it, just with the footwork of it,” he said. “I’ve always been used to playing football with the ball in my hands. I played tight end and wide receiver in high school. It was kind of different for me this spring to play the game, without ever touching the ball. So that was kind of new for me. Coach Denbrock and all the guys on the line helped teach me what I needed to know. As camp progressed, I began feeling more comfortable out there.
“A big difference I think is the communication across the line,” he said. “You’ve got to relay things from tackle to tackle; everybody’s got to know what is going on. If the defense is going to rock in a certain direction, or bring a blitz, somebody’s telling you that you’ve got to work the guy (one spot) over, and then the whole line has to work a guy over. And if I see something then I echo it down (the line), if the center sees something, they echo it down, etc. Someone just needs to start the communication that the defense is tipping something. We all need to know what is going on. It just varies on who says what and when. And that part of it is new to me.”
In conclusion, Toledo was asked what evidence he sees that the Husky offense will be improved from last year.
“We’ve got two weeks to go until Air Force, to keep getting better,” he said. “I think the line is working together real well. We’ll need to make adjustments against Air Force (because of their unconventional 3-5-3 defense). But we’ve been watching a LOT of film of them, and I think that will make a big difference.
“I think our offense is now on the same page,” he said. “And we’re doing what we need to do to be successful. We just need to be more consistent, and not turn the ball over. We’ve got good running backs and a veteran offensive line. We think we’re going to be able to run the ball better this year.
“And we’ve got a couple more weeks of practice,” he said. “Then it’s game time.”
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