Injuries cut Nicol’s season short

SEATTLE – Washington released its depth chart for this week’s season opener Monday, and the biggest news was the name that didn’t show up.

Cornerback Cory Nicol, who had been in the running for a starting spot, was not only missing from the depth chart, but also the latest roster.

It turns out that Nicol, a Woodinville High School product, left the team over the weekend for health reasons.

Plagued by injuries in high school, Nicol had a groin injury while playing in junior college that eventually required surgery. Coming into camp, he finally felt healthy, but after a week or so, the pain was back.

“It felt good for maybe the first week, but after that it hurt pretty consistently,” he said. “It’s definitely disappointing. Things were going pretty well, but that’s football. It is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Nicol, a walk-on, was one of the feel-good stories of camp, having played well enough to fight for a starting spot. Now, he doubts he’ll play competitive football again.

“We’ll see,” he said. “At this point I’m not thinking football is in my future.”

Nicol emphasized that it was “solely the injury” that led to his departure, and that he was otherwise happy in the program.

His departure means freshman Vonzell McDowell, who was battling Nicol for a starting job, will start at cornerback opposite senior Roy Lewis.

Nicol’s teammates were surprised and saddened to see him go.

“It’s terribly unfortunate,” said Lewis, who at the time was unaware of the reason for Nicol’s departure. “I thought Cory was happy. He definitely came in and made some plays and proved that he could play. He was definitely in a spot to contribute to the team. I don’t know the reason behind it. Everything seemed really good. His morale seemed really good. I came to practice one day and he wasn’t there. It’s just sad to see.”

Other depth chart news: There weren’t many other surprises on the depth chart. The battle at left tackle still appears to be unsettled, as the starter was listed as Cody Habben or Ben Ossai.

Three tight ends were listed under the “or” category, which was expected. Michael Gottlieb, Johnie Kirton and Robert Lewis are expected to all see significant playing time depending on the offense the Huskies are in.

Jared Ballman is listed as the first-string punter ahead of Ryan Perkins, and Perkins is listed ahead of Ballman at place kicker.

Anthony Russo, less than three weeks removed from surgery on his broken pinkie finger, is expected to start at wide receiver and punt returner. Freshman tailback Brandon Johnson is listed as the starting kickoff returner.

Another position that has been up in the air and still appears to be so is that of backup tailback. J.R. Hasty is listed behind starter Louis Rankin along with freshmen Curtis Shaw and Johnson.

On the light side: Quarterback Jake Locker, who is listed as 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, said that might be “about 15 pounds inaccurate.” Locker, who is noticeably bigger that he was at this time last year, then laughed when asked if that meant he weighed 195 pounds.

“Yeah,” he said with a smile, “195.”

Dome knowledge: Both Locker and coach Tyrone Willingham think the quarterback’s high-school playoff experience could help a little bit when the team plays in the Carrier Dome Friday.

As a junior and senior at Ferndale, Locker played in state semifinal and championship games at the Tacoma Dome. While he admits that playing in the Tacoma Dome and a packed Carrier Dome are two different things, Locker said he learned a few things.

“That’s something that I feel is a benefit for me,” Locker said. “I played four games in there. It gets really hot in there, you sweat a lot. I lost a lot of weight in those games. I kind of learned each time what to eat before, what to drink. About taking care of your body. I think that was something that will help me out.”

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