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Originally published Wednesday, November 22, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Next season for UW football starts next week

The end of one season simply means the beginning of another. So while it was just two days from the victory that helped put a little smiley...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The end of one season simply means the beginning of another.

So while it was just two days from the victory that helped put a little smiley face on the 2006 season for the Washington Huskies, it was also pointed out at the last media luncheon of the year on Monday that it was just 284 days until the first game of the 2007 season, at Syracuse.

The Huskies will take this week off, with school breaking for the holiday.

But next week, coaches hit the recruiting trail and players will begin offseason workouts, with 2007 already in focus.

Coach Tyrone Willingham said Monday, "We need to get better everywhere. There's not one area where we don't need to improve."

As for specific recruiting needs, Willingham said, "We need to find a way to bolster our cornerback position. Then we'll be looking to give ourselves depth in the offensive line. And we're always looking to see if we can find a truly great pass rusher."

Here's a quick overview of the roster as one season becomes the next:

Quarterback

Monday's news about Johnny Durocher means the Huskies will have just one experienced quarterback returning, Carl Bonnell.

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Willingham said Bonnell will likely enter spring as the starter ahead of freshman Jake Locker, whose shirt is no longer red. Willingham said he won't place on Locker the burden of being the program's "savior" and reiterated that Locker has a lot to learn. But the expectations will be high.

UW also has a commitment from high-school QB Ronnie Fouch and may need to get another one for depth (walk-on Felix Sweetman was a senior).

Running back

Kenny James graduates, leaving Louis Rankin as the only tailback who has had a carry in a game. But the Huskies are also planning on the return of J.R. Hasty from academic purgatory, and Texas transfer Michael Houston could also be in the mix if his legal problems are resolved. Houston was arrested last month in an auto-theft case, but charges have not been filed.

The Huskies will likely sign two or three high-school running backs and already have commitments from Nate Williams of Kennedy and Brandon Yakaboski of Mount Si.

Fullbacks Luke Kravitz and Paul Homer return. The wild card is Johnie Kirton, who might get more playing time next season.

Receiver

Leading receiver Sonny Shackelford graduates, but every other non-running back who caught more than two passes this year could return, including juniors Quintin Daniels, Anthony Russo and Cody Ellis.

JC transfer Marcel Reece's transformation in the Apple Cup bodes well. A big question mark is Corey Williams, who at times has been viewed as a potential go-to guy. He caught just 10 passes this year, and only three in the last 10 games. Willingham said last week that Williams is among the fourth-year juniors whose return isn't certain.

All three tight ends return, including Michael Gottlieb, who was key in the Apple Cup.

Offensive line

UW will lose guards Stanley Daniels and Clay Walker, but return center Juan Garcia and tackles Chad Macklin and Ben Ossai. Those five took virtually every snap this year, however, so no experienced depth was developed.

Players such as Morgan Rosborough, Casey Bulyca and Ryan Tolar will have a chance at filling those guard spots. Then there's Jordan White-Frisbee, who had one more surgery on his foot a few weeks ago in an effort to finally get it right. If healthy, he could be a factor.

Defensive line

This may be a strength. The four players who emerged as the primary starters at the end of the season (ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and tackles Jordan Reffett and Wilson Afoa) all return. Reffett was one of the team's most improved players this season and won the team's most inspirational award.

Depth remains a concern. One addition will be sophomore DE Darrion Jones, who sat out this year after playing last season as a true freshman.

Linebacker

This is a position that has UW coaches optimistic despite the loss of two starters — weakside linebacker Scott White and middle linebacker Tahj Bomar. The Huskies have promising young players at each spot (Donald Butler behind Bomar and Chris Stevens and E.J. Savannah behind White). Dan Howell will return on the strong side.

Secondary

The Huskies take a big hit here with the loss of cornerback Dashon Goldson and strong safety C.J. Wallace, each three-year starters. Reserve cornerback Matt Fountain also graduates and Chris Hemphill, a fourth-year junior suddenly turned a senior, also apparently departs.

The Huskies have one commitment from a cornerback, Vonzell McDowell of Rainier Beach. Wallace's safety spot could be filled by Ashlee Palmer, a JC transfer signee from last year who didn't get eligible but is still apparently planning on coming to UW if his academics get worked out.

JC transfer Jordan Murchison, who didn't play this season, will also return.

Special teams

Almost a total turnover here. Punter Sean Douglas was a senior all year and kicker Michael Braunstein and returner Marlon Wood suddenly became seniors two weeks ago (Wood has used up his eligibility while Braunstein is one of the fourth-year juniors not expected back).

The Huskies have a commitment from high-school kicker Erik Folk of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and will seek a punter.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

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