Tacoma News Tribune: Players are the same, but the attitude's new
Sept. 1, 2008
TACOMA, Wash. -
By DOUG DROWLEY; For The Tacoma News Tribune
When the Western Washington football players start talking about the term "T1," they aren't talking high-speed Internet access.
For one thing, they want their "T1" to be a smoothly running machine that will help the Vikings turn around a dismal 2007 season. But this "T1" has a deeper meaning to the Vikings.
"Trust one, trust everyone," sophomore offensive lineman Nick Bassett said.
It's a motto WWU has embraced this fall as the Vikings attempt to turn around a 2-8 season from a year ago behind great experience - especially along the offensive front. The Vikings return their entire offensive line, among nine starters returning to an offense that showed flashes of brilliance but little consistency in 2007.
Two of those returning starters on the line have local ties. Bassett is a Peninsula High graduate, while senior Chris Corey hails from Federal Way's Decatur High. The group is led by senior captain Dan Trask from Aberdeen.
It is a unit that intends to lead the Vikings back from a season in which they won their fewest games in two decades.
"There is no question," Western coach Robin Ross said. "Most of those guys basically have been three-year starters. We're expecting great things from this unit."
With quarterback Adam Perry, who threw for 1,587 yards a year ago, back to guide the offense, and a talented corps of receivers, the linemen understand what they need to do.
"As an offensive line our duty is to protect our QB for passing," Corey said, "and give our playmakers a chance to make a play. We're an older group, a lot of experience coming back. But it's not just the offensive line. We have a lot of seniors all over the field."
No matter whether faces are new or old, the Vikings think there is a new sense of purpose around their Bellingham campus this fall. It started last winter.
"We've tried to do a lot of team-building exercises," Ross said. "The players feel like this is a new beginning. It's a new conference, and we're playing Northwest teams again."
Western and Central Washington both return to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference for 2008, after the North Central Conference broke up. New things go beyond that, however, according to the players.
"We call it the `Viking Air,' " Bassett said. "It's a new air from last year. Times have changed."
Corey takes it a step further.
"We see ourselves as a train moving fast," Corey said. "Either you hop on or you're going to get left behind."
While the offense feels in place, the question marks at Western may be on the defensive side of the ball, where six starters return.
None are in the linebacking corps, where the Vikings graduated five seniors and lost three other experienced players to injuries during spring drills.
But Ross said his young group is coming along.
"We can't go as fast," Ross said. "We can't do what we did with all those seniors last year. They have to understand they are not going to know everything, not going to play everything right. We just need to get better as the season goes on."
Get better, and trust in the "T1" connection.
About the Vikings
Coach: Robin Ross, third year.
2007 record: 2-8 overall, 1-7 North Central Conference.
Returning lettermen/starters: 39 lettermen/16 starters (nine offense, six defense, kicker).
Home field: Civic Stadium (4,000 capacity), Bellingham.
For a team that started 2007 with what was considered a huge upset at the time over Cal-Davis, only to have its season crash in disappointment, spirits are high with the Vikings heading into their opener Saturday against Western Oregon. Experience is one reason for optimism, especially on offense, where nine returning starters include four offensive linemen. Quarterback Adam Perry (138 of 263 for 1,587 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions) has had a great fall camp, according to Ross, and should have plenty of time to throw the ball this season behind that experienced line. At running back, there will be new faces after the departure of leading rusher Craig Garner. Junior college transfer Randall Eldridge, from Lynnwood, is taking over primary rushing duties. Redshirt freshman Kevin Sampson backs up Eldridge. It is on defense where many of the question marks lie for Western. A green group will fill the linebacking corps after the Vikings graduated five seniors - including Shane Simmons, who just last week signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent - and lost three more linebackers to injuries during the spring. That defense gave up 431.8 yards a game, 27 touchdown passes and 32.1 points a game a year ago.
Players with local ties:
Nick Bassett (OL, so.) Gig Harbor/Peninsula; Jordan Carey (DB, jr.) Olympia/Capital; Reggie Christor (DB, rs fr.) Spanaway/ Graham-Kapowsin; Chris Corey (OL, sr.) Federal Way/Decatur; Justin Emerson (DB, fr.) Buckley/White River; Joshua Gray (LB, so.) Tacoma/Wilson; C.J. Green (LB, jr.) Federal Way/Federal Way; Dincer Kayhan (DL, jr.) Gig Harbor/Gig Harbor; Lepon Mamea (DL, fr.) Tacoma/Lincoln; Pat McCann (WR, sr.) Olympia/Olympia; Justin Mundell (DL, jr.) Maple Valley/Tahoma; J.D. Neumeister (TE, so.) Gig Harbor/Peninsula; Patrick Prentice (DB, fr.) Tumwater/Tumwater; Tim Satterwhite (WR, so.) Federal Way/Jefferson; Chad Tester (LB, fr.) Port Orchard/South Kitsap; Don Thomas (DL, so.) Kent/Kentwood; Dan Winter (LB, jr.) Lacey/North Thurston.
Date Opponent Time
Sat. Western Oregon *7 p.m.
Sept. 13 at Humboldt State *6 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Eastern Washington 6 p.m.
Sept. 27 Dixie State *6 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Western Oregon *2 p.m.
x-Oct. 11 Central Washington *6 p.m.
Oct. 18 at North Dakota 11 a.m.
Oct. 25 Humboldt State *1 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Dixie State *noon
Nov. 8 at Central Washington *noon
*=Great Northwest Conference games
x=At Qwest Field
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