Huskies could shift Arnold back to tailback

  • John Sleeper / Herald Writer
  • Monday, September 24, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By John Sleeper

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Injuries to the Washington Huskies’ tailbacks in Saturday’s victory against Idaho already have forced the UW coaching staff to make one drastic measure and may lead to others.

The latest: Paul Arnold could return to tailback.

“We’re still working out the details,” coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Starter Willie Hurst will miss Saturday’s game against Cal and possibly will be out longer with a hamstring injury. Braxton Cleman, a senior who has played both tailback and fullback, fractured a clavicle against Idaho and will be out considerably longer.

Sophomore Rich Alexis gets the starting assignment against the Golden Bears, but at 230 pounds (up 15 from last season) and his lack of productivity, questions have come about his conditioning.

Chris Singleton, a true freshman, saw action against Idaho, which was contrary to what was hoped. Neuheisel wanted to redshirt Singleton, but his playing time against the Vandals likely tossed that idea aside. Singleton carried seven times for 12 yards against the Vandals.

Neuheisel said Ty Eriks, a true freshman from O’Dea High School, and starting fullback Matthias Wilson, are other possibilities.

“We’ve proven in the past that we’re willing to move the shells around to try to create a full team,” Neuheisel said.

That also leaves Arnold, who missed four games last season and moved to wide receiver this season because of a degenerative back problem.

“Paul is a very team-oriented guy and happy to do whatever he can do to help,” Neuheisel said. “He likes being outside and playing wide receiver and he’s put a lot of investment into doing so. So we’ll tinker with him at tailback.”

The possibility is noteworthy because the Huskies moved Arnold to wideout to save him from the physical pounding he was taking at tailback. Arnold’s back condition is such that the only way to relieve it is rest. Arnold has had no recurrence of the condition since he moved to receiver.

“He’s been our workhorse,” Neuheisel said. “Of all our wide receivers, he’s the only one who’s not missed a drill. He’s been unbelievably reliable from that standpoint.”

Arnold has caught two passes in two games, one a 14-yard touchdown against Idaho.

Stevens may play in bowl game: Tight end Jerramy Stevens, who broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot against Idaho Saturday, likely will be out eight weeks, Neuheisel said. Ditto for tailback Cleman, who broke a collarbone in the same game.

Hurst, then starting tailback, will miss Saturday’s game because of a strained hamstring. His status is week-to-week after that, although Neuheisel said the injury didn’t appear to be long-term.

“Anytime you have to the hamstring, you’re nervous,” Neuheisel said. “It’s impossible to know how long you need. People can say you’re fine, but we’ve had a couple hamstrings where we thought the guy was healed and all of a sudden he tweaks it again. So you want to err on the side of conservatism. I think it would be wise not to hurry him back.”

Linebacker Tyler Krambrink, who broke a bone in his wrist in the offseason, was projected to come back within the next two weeks, but the bone has not yet healed and he may not return until late October.

Williams may attend: Injured former Husky safety Curtis Williams may be a spectator for Saturday’s game. Neuheisel said David Williams, Curtis’ brother who has done the brunt of his care, has arranged transportation to get Williams to the game from his home in Fresno, Calif. Neuheisel said it still is unknown where Williams will sit, although Cal officials are working on it.

“Our hope is that he will be in attendance,” Neuheisel said.

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