Ronnie Fouch (Dawgman.com)
Injuries seem to be the most consistent thing about the Washington offense this year. The running, passing, and receiving corps have all had their share of bad luck. The shuffling of players has resulted in a highly effective offense at times, and at other times has created nothing but confusion.
At the running back position Brandon Johnson is recovering from off-season knee surgery, Chris Polk is out for the season with a shoulder injury, David Freeman has been slowed down by an ankle injury, and Brandon Yakaboski had some off-season hip trouble, compounded by a knee injury suffered Wednesday. One running back that at least seems to be injury-free has been Willie Griffin.
“I’m the type of the player, I’m going to take advantage if you’re injured or not injured,” Griffin told Dawgman.com this week as the Huskies were getting prepared to travel to Arizona. “I mean with the injuries being out there, that probably opens the window a little bit more, but the advantage is always there for me to take.” With injured backs outnumbering healthy ones, Johnson and Griffin should play major roles against Arizona. Combined, the two have carried the ball 24 times for 56 yards in limited action this season. The Wildcats are fourth in the Pac-10 in rush defense, allowing 118 yards a game.
The wide receiver position has appeared to be fairly healthy, but with their go-to man D’Andre Goodwin suffering from sore ribs, other receivers will need to be more consistent. Redshirt freshman Alvin Logan is hoping to be that target for Ronnie Fouch.
“Injuries do take a toll on a team, but at the same time it allows new talent to get in there,” said Logan. “I have complete respect and complete confidence in everybody that’s going to step up and play the position for anybody who’s injured. “
Ronnie Fouch will be making his first collegiate start this Saturday in Tucson, and a big, sure-handed target should help him get into a rhythm throwing the football. Logan is 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds and ready to contribute. “If it comes my way I’ll be prepared for it,” said Logan. Even though he is listed as a starter Logan only has three catches for 22 yards on the season. With Goodwin’s injury, Logan is hoping to be Fouch’s main target like Goodwin has been for Jake Locker.
At the quarterback position with Jake Locker out for 6-8 weeks and the always-looming possibility of another injury the next QB in line is red shirt freshman Taylor Bean. Bean walked on at UW last year and has been studying and preparing for this exact situation. “Well I mean, you always have to be ready, I guess that’s the mentality. Even at third string it’s two plays away, you still have to prepare for the game just like everybody else does,” said Bean. “I’m ready, I’ll be getting a lot of reps this week which is good. It’ll help me be prepared for Arizona. I feel like I’m really confident in my ability if I was ever called on.”
The idea of having a walk-on redshirt freshman without any live snaps at your most important position might be frightening to some, but UW Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano has confidence. “He’s come a long ways. He’s really worked hard. The thing I like about him is he really takes coaching well, he studies the game and he’s benefiting from listening to coaching and watching and learning,” said Lappano. “He did a pretty good job in the scrimmages in the bye week. He took his team down the length of the field a couple times, 80 yards.”
Bean hasn't played in a game since high school, so his skills are virtually unknown outside the team. For all the people who haven’t seen him play yet, he had some reassuring comments. “They should expect me as a player to make smart decisions and be a leader out there," he said. "I’m not really known for my playmaking ability. Jake (Locker) has a lot pressure on him so I feel like I can just go out there and play. I feel like that might help me out - the ability to just go out there and play and not have all that extra pressure and stress.”
Sports Illustrated once called Washington 'Tight End U', noting how the Huskies always seemed to produce talented tight ends for every class. The last few years have been a struggle, but senior Mike Gottlieb wants to buck that trend. First, he needs to get past a nagging hamstring injury, limiting his action in the first third of the season. Against Stanford he regained his typical form with a nice diving catch and also managed three other catches for a total of 65 yards.
Gottlieb’s injury did open the door for true freshman Kavario Middleton. But as has been the trend this year, that door led right to the training room. This time it was Middleton’s knee, hurt against BYU. In the first three games the highly-recruited tight end from Lakes used his massive frame and soft hands to reel in eight catches for 65 yards.
With both Gottlieb and Middleton returning from their respective injuries they are ready to make some plays. Fouch will have his work cut out for him against Arizona. The 'Cats are only allowing 103.3 yards per game through the air, putting them first in the Pac-10. Conversely, with Arizona’s high-powered offense rolling at home, the Huskies will need to find ways to score. A lot.
With Fouch starting the game, the mystery he brings to the UW attack could have its benefits in this game. With Washington's leading passer, receiver and rusher all out or significantly hampered, Arizona will have to figure out the puzzle of players that just might catch them off guard.