Freshman orientation

  • John Sleeper<br>For the Enterprise
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:55am

SEATTLE — One of Kyle Trew’s earliest memories of his days as a Washington Husky, unfortunately, will be of watching defensive tackle Terry Johnson dance.

It was during a team sing-along, which happens occasionally as players unwind after a tough day on the practice field. Johnson, a 285-pound defensive tackle with a bit of a belly, was doing a little bump-and-grind.

“He was going like this,” said Trew, raising his arms and swaying his butt, reminiscent of Demi Moore in “Striptease,” only without the glittery thong. “He was trying to get everybody roused up.”

To Derrick Bradley, a cornerback from Kamiak High School, one of the highlights involved fullback Zach Tuiasosopo and a freshman Bradley won’t name.

At dinner one night, Tuiasosopo motioned the freshman over to sit by him. After some prodding, the nervous freshman complied.

“Then Tuiasosopo grabbed him, kissed him and ran off,” Bradley said.

Ahhh, higher education.

Thankfully, Johnson’s backdoor boogie and Tuiasosopo’s kiss are but small parts of the early moments of UW football for four Snohomish County prep stars. Trew, an inside linebacker from Edmonds-Woodway, is joined by prep teammate Casey Tyler, a tight end who was switched to defensive end on the second day of practice.

Another is Bradley, a highly rated cornerback whom the Huskies also see as a potential kick returner, thanks to a prep track career in which he finished second in the state in the Class 4A 200 meters and third in the 100 meters as a junior.

The crown jewel of the class, many recruiting gurus say, is Craig Chambers, a lanky, 6-foot-5 receiver from Jackson High School who probably has the best chance of the four to nab some playing time this season.

Because Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick are the only two veteran receivers on scholarship, Chambers is one of seven freshman receivers the Huskies recruited. Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has said that as many as three will be asked to contribute early.

It’s not outlandish that Chambers could rise as high as the lineup’s third receiver.

Chambers certainly has the resume. At Jackson, he had 93 catches for 1,972 yards and 18 touchdowns. His height gave him an instant mismatch against anyone unfortunate enough to cover him. And when he didn’t leap over defenders, he used blazing speed to outrun them.

The questions: Can he do it at the NCAA Division I level? And will he get the chance this soon?

“Anybody who comes in wants to play right away,” said Chambers, whose brother Richie was a linebacker at Washington from 1990 to 1995. “It’s a lot better than having to sit out your first year. But if that’s what it comes down to and I have to sit out, I won’t be disappointed.”

Out of many tough days to be a true freshman, these may be the toughest. After a couple of days of orientation and conditioning, the Huskies recently put on shoulder pads for the first time. Full contact and two-a-day practices start when the team moves camp to The Evergreen State College this week.

It’s Football 101. Team meetings. Position meetings. Team pictures. Weight training. Team meals. More meetings. The annual freshman talent show. More meetings. More contact.

“It’s going to be tougher on the young guys, with the amount of stuff they’ve got to learn,” UW coach Keith Gilbertson said. “And now you add some full-speed collisions. It’s tougher on the young guys. If they can keep up and stay with it, then you’ve really got something.”

Tyler got the first curveball thrown at him with the position change. Gilbertson, impressed by Tyler’s athletic ability, said he might be able to get on the field earlier if he switched to defensive end. The young depth at tight end — sophomore Joe Toledo, junior Jon Lyon, sophomore Andy Heater, redshirt freshman Ben Bandel and redshirt freshman Jason Benn — likely would mean Tyler wouldn’t see the field for some time. That isn’t the case at defensive end.

Tyler saw the depth at tight end clearly in drills.

“You stand in line and you don’t even get a rep,” he said. “But now I’m coming in at D-end, I don’t know, maybe third deep, with a lot of seniors ahead of me who are going to be gone next year.”

At 215 pounds, Trew likely has some bulking up to do before he steps out on the field. For now, he knows the best thing he can do is watch and learn.

“It’s kind of hectic,” Trew said. “They throw a lot of stuff at you, a lot of mental stuff. It’s just new terminology … and they’re going to keep throwing more and more stuff at us. The best to learn, I think, is by watching the other guys, then do it.”

Then there’s the playbook, something he never saw as a Warrior.

“We didn’t have a playbook,” he said. “We just learned the plays. Here, the playbook is a binder that’s a couple inches thick.”

Then Trew had to leave. Seems he had some studying to do.

John Sleeper writes for The Herald in Everett.

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