By John Sleeper
SEATTLE — They don’t come home to Miami as conquering heroes.
Oh, yes, each has had his shining moments. And the Washington Huskies wouldn’t be the Washington Huskies without them.
But to say that Charles Frederick, Rich Alexis and John Anderson are enjoying seasons that will make the folks back home throw a parade is stretching things. The come home to face the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes, hopeful that they can show more Saturday than they’ve shown this season.
"I haven’t had the best year, obviously," said Anderson, a junior place-kicker who was the first of the three to come to Washington from Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton, Fla. "I’ve made some kicks when I’ve had to, a couple of game-winners, and that’s big. I’ve shown here and there. It’s just been another year for me."
Although Anderson had marvelous success in his freshman and sophomore seasons, he has been inconsistent this year, in part because of a pulled hip flexor he sustained in mid-season. Related to that, Anderson said, his back has grown sore from favoring the hip.
Anderson has converted 14 of 21 field goals, with a long of 47 yards. He has, however, missed three extra points and five attempts between 30 and 39 yards.
It’s pretty typical of what’s been happening with the other two as well. Like Anderson, Alexis and Frederick have shown enormous talent and unique skills on occasion, but consistency figures to come some time in the future.
"They’re wonderful young people," UW coach Rick Neuheisel said. "I’m not sure that they are having the seasons that they had anticipated for themselves, but that may be the case for our football team as well. We always have high expectations here at Washington. The fact that we’re not controlling our own destiny with respect to our conference race is a little disappointing.
"The bottom line is that we have weathered adversity and I think the same can be said for these three kids as well."
As for Anderson, Neuheisel said the snapper-holder-kicker trio has not been consistent.
"He’s had a great career since he’s been here," Neuheisel said of Anderson. "He’s missed some kicks that he normally makes. But you have to remember that it’s a three-man job."
Alexis, a sophomore, set a school true-freshman rushing mark of 726 yards and led the team with nine touchdowns. That year, he averaged 6.2 yards a carry, including a 50-yard TD run against Miami in the Huskies’ 34-29 victory over the Hurricanes.
Alexis is discovering just how good last year’s offensive line was. This season, with four new starters on the line, including two sophomores and a redshirt freshman, Alexis has had to learn the nuances of the position. Not easy, since he really played only one year of football in high school.
This season, Alexis has 316 yards on 117 carries, an average of 2.9 yards a carry, in a backup role to senior Willie Hurst.
"I’m frustrated," Alexis said. "I want to produce. I don’t want to come back knowing I had six carries for 18 yards. They brought me way across the country to run the ball and make yardage and I’m not doing that now."
He will, Neuheisel said, once he learns to follow his blocks, find holes and simply play more.
"Rich burst onto the scene last year," Neuheisel said. "He became an instant hero here in Seattle. They’re selling No. 24 jerseys here in our bookstore. He became this certain Heisman Trophy hopeful of the future. He hasn’t had that kind of season. People ask what’s wrong with Rich. There’s nothing wrong with Rich. He’s going to be fine. He just hasn’t had a lot of experience."
The youngest, Frederick, also has had moments of brilliance, such as a punt return for a touchdown against Idaho. Certainly, his speed and jitterbug quickness make him a dangerous returner. He is third in the nation in punt returns with a 15.6 average per attempt.
Frederick, however, has yet to catch a pass and has been overshadowed by Washington’s other prize freshman recruit, Reggie Williams.
He got off to a rocky start, suffering a pulled muscle in his side during preseason drills. He also had a nasty bout of homesickness and briefly left the team. Only after pleas from Alexis, Anderson, family members and coaches did Frederick return to practice.
"I think he got through it in good style," Neuheisel said. "I know he’d like to be playing more at wide receiver, but he’s learning. He handles our kick-returning duties and he handles them really well.
"I think the future is very bright for Charles and I think if he remains patient, he’s going to have a wonderful, wonderful career."
The three will stay behind in Miami for a few days to visit family after the game. It won’t be an unwelcome homecoming. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nation postponed the game from Sept. 15. It’s been a long disruption.
"I haven’t been back in Florida since August," Anderson said. "I’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time."