UW coach Tyrone Willingham held his final press conference of the season today. He looked back on what he said was a year of progress, but said he was ultimately disappointed because the team fell short of his goal of a bowl victory.
However, he mostly looked forward to the coming season. Here are some of those highlights.
&bullOn his off-season plans: "The few weeks really we start to plan out our recruiting; that will be the primary focus for the coaching staff. We try to see if we can capture the attention of some young men and try to get them to join our program and move one step closer to what we want to be: a really good football team and program. For our players, we hope that they will take this time to get home for Thanksgiving and really enjoy their blessings because it's amazing that sometimes you don't count them, and there really is one out there every day for us. Then we'll begin the physical and mental condition and preparation for Syracuse (the 2007 season-opening game)."
&bullOn UW's recruiting needs: "Obviously, we need more of everything. But I think we need to see if we can find a way to bolster our corner position. Then we'll be looking to give ourselves depth in the offensive line. I always look to see if we can find a truly great pass-rusher, a strong safety (and we will add a punter)."
&bullOn his quarterback depth chart: "I haven't made that decision of what the order will be. We will probably start with Carl (Bonnell) being your No. 1 because he finished the season there. But there may be a change. We could come with a totally different order when we get to spring practice.
&bullOn whether Bonnell's late season experience helped his standing: "It gave me a much clearer picture of where he's at and maybe things that we need to work on if he is going to be our starter."
&bullOn redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker: "I will be the last guy to list Jake as some type of savior. I'm very excited about him. I think he will give us a lot of good things. But like any other position, it takes some time to develop, it takes some time to grow and mature. But he is a young man that has really enjoyed that type of pressure and responsibility. It will be interesting to see exactly how it plays out."
&bullOn whether he wants his entire staff to return: "Yes. I think the great programs have continuity. Now, there has to be a responsibility in all of those areas – it has to be done right, it has to be done well. But your players need to have some continuity, and that's one of the things I want to bring to our program."
&bullOn what unknown players could make a contribution next season: "The key will be not necessarily guys that you haven't heard from, but guys that you have heard from. How much better are they? So you start talking about Greyson Gunheim, Wilson Afoa, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, E.J. Savannah, Dan Howell, Donald Butler – guys who are coming back and have some playing experience. How much better will they be? How much better will our leadership be? How much better will Juan Garcia be, will Chad Macklin be?"
&bullOn the tailback position: "That is one of the positions where hopefully we'll get some depth. We've got some young guys coming in, and that is one of the positions that you can potentially play early in your career. We lose (starter Kenny James), and we may also gain something, and hopefully we'll begin to add some depth at the position so it's not as thin as we have been. (He pointed out that Louis Rankin will return, that he expects that J.R. Hasty will return from academic ineligibility, and that Texas transfer Michael Houston remains in school but suspended pending resolution of his October arrest on suspicion of auto theft.)