Dawgs could be in tight spot

  • John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, September 27, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By John Sleeper

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — Conventional thinking was that the Washington Huskies could lose just about any frontliner off its offense and survive just fine, thank you.

Any frontliner, that is, except tight end Jerramy Stevens.

But when the preseason All-America pick limped to the dressing room in the first half against Idaho Saturday, that scenario became reality. Stevens, who caught 42 passes last year, is out eight weeks with a broken left foot. Eight weeks. The entire season, really, save a possible bowl game.

And so the 13th-ranked Huskies will find out much sooner than they’d hoped what life will be without Stevens, who has said he would enter his name into the NFL Draft next year.

"We’re minus a weapon, no question, Washington coach Rick Neuheisel said.

The candidates, starting Saturday at Cal: Two seniors and a junior who have caught 10 passes collectively since they came to Washington. One has switched positions three times in his tenure at Washington; another is married to a Seattle Seahawks cheerleader; the other has spent time in the coaches’ doghouse for refusing to move to offensive guard and has played in just five games in two years.

And all three are professed card-carrying members of the Jerramy Stevens Fan Club.

"He’s an awesome player," said one, Joe Collier. "We always tell Jerramy that (when he plays in the NFL) and he comes to the town we’re at, we want tickets. That’s all we want, are some tickets to the game.

"I wasn’t worried having to be behind Jerramy my entire career. I don’t mind playing the backup role at all, especially with such a great player in front of me. Jerramy’s a stud."

Here’s a closer look:

  • Collier, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior from Spokane, never played tight end before he was moved there from the defensive line in 1999. Then he tore up a knee and missed the entire season.

    Collier was recruited as an offensive lineman in the 1997 class, but found he had trouble putting on weight, he hasn’t gained weight in two years.

    "I tried all the weight-gainer stuff, but it’s never worked," Collier said. "I’m just not a really big eater. I can eat a ton, then I’ll just go to the bathroom more. I’ve put on five pounds since I came here as a freshman."

    Collier’s shining moment came in the Rose Bowl last season, when he caught two passes for 30 yards.

    "He’s not Jerramy Stevens, in terms of his abilities downfield," Neuheisel said. "He certainly can handle the line of scrimmage and do some neat things in the passing game."

  • John Westra, a 6-5, 250-pound senior, suffered a severe knee injury against Air Force in 1999, but has come back from the injury.

    A highly-hyped recruit out of Mesa, Ariz., Westra was one of 10 true freshmen to play in 1997. He missed the 2000 Idaho game because his wife, Haley, a Seahawks cheerleader, was giving birth to their daughter, Taylor.

    Westra said he worked at winning over Haley only slightly less than he worked at football.

    "She was my high school crush," Westra said. "She didn’t know I even existed. I didn’t have the (guts) to ask her out until I graduated. Then I did. We went on a date on my best friend’s boat. That brought us together. We had a good day on the boat and ever since then, it’s been nothing else."

  • Kevin Ware, a 6-3, 275-pound junior, was penciled in to start against Michigan, but pulled a quadriceps muscle the day before and had to sit out. as a prep, Ware visited Colorado and sat in on the team meeting in which Neuheisel announced that he was quitting to come to Washington. Then he followed the coach. At Washington, Ware annoyed his coaches when he was asked to try guard but declined,

    "He’s certainly gifted," Neuheisel said, "and he’s certainly got the opportunity now."

    All three do. Now the idea is to take advantage.

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