14 Washington The Neuheisel fiasco overshadows an offensive juggernaut led by receiver Reggie Williams and passer Cody Pickett

August 10, 2003

Reggie Williams runs away from cornerbacks, safeties and
linebackers, but he doesn't run away from conflict. Two years
ago, at a meeting to introduce freshmen recruits on the first
night of preseason training camp, Williams told his new teammates
he considered himself the best receiver in the room. That lack of
humility earned him a visit from a few clippers-wielding
upperclassmen, who left him with half his head shaved. "Maybe I
got off on the wrong foot," Williams says.

He hasn't made a misstep since. With 2,429 receiving yards, the
best two-year total in Pac-10 history, Williams has won the right
to call himself the best pass catcher in the room, the conference
and perhaps the nation. He and prolific passer Cody Pickett
(4,458 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2002) are big reasons that the
Huskies' offense is expected to travel mainly by air.

The only hang-up was waiting to see who their pilot would be. In
June coach Rick Neuheisel was removed from his post by athletic
director Barbara Hedges for participating in a high-stakes NCAA
basketball tournament pool, and offensive coordinator Keith
Gilbertson was designated the "supervisor" of the program pending
resolution of the issue. Neuheisel appealed Hedges's decision and
met with university and NCAA officials, but his firing was
upheld, and on July 29 Gilbertson was named head coach. "Coach
Neuheisel told us that, regardless of whether he's here or not,
we have to keep fighting for a national championship," says
Williams, "and that's what we're going to do. We're thinking
big."

Obviously Williams talks big, too. "Self-confidence has never
been a problem for Reggie," says Gilbertson. Fortunately for
Williams, he has the talent to back his smack. With his size
(6'4", 225 pounds) and strength, he routinely outjumps defenders
for the ball and is a fine blocker. A former high school triple
jump standout, he also has the speed to leave a secondary in his
wake. Against San Jose State last season, Williams turned a
10-yard curl into an 89-yard touchdown. "I saw three or four guys
who had an angle on me," he said after that game, "but I just
reached into my back pocket and pulled my burners out."

Despite the distractions of the Neuheisel affair, the Huskies
appear primed to return to the national elite. If that happens,
rest assured that Williams will make sure you hear about
it. --Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: ELAINE THOMPSON/AP WHERE THERE'S A WILL The outspoken Williams backs up his talk by catching practically everything thrown his way.

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 7-6 (4-4, T4 in Pac-10)
FINAL AP RANK NR
RETURNING STARTERS 14

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

QB Cody Pickett (Sr.)
Threw for 516 more yards than Carson Palmer

WR Reggie Williams (Jr.)
94 catches for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns

LB Marquis Cooper (Sr.)
Speedster tied for team lead with 100 tackles

CB Derrick Johnson (Jr.)
Team-high five picks; knocked down 10 passes

WR Charles Frederick (Jr.)
Averaged 108.4 all-purpose yards per game

TELLING NUMBER

968
Team rushing yards last season, the first time Washington failed
to reach 1,000 since 1939, when the Huskies had 906 in nine games.

SMART MOVE

Confident that senior Greg Carothers has the quickness and
strength to rush the passer as well as the speed and instincts
to drop into pass coverage, the Huskies shifted him from
starting strong safety to outside linebacker. The defense needs
an impact player, and Carothers, a three-year starter, may be
the answer.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 30 AT OHIO STATE
SEPT. 6 INDIANA
20 IDAHO
27 STANFORD
OCT. 4 AT UCLA
11 NEVADA
18 AT OREGON STATE
25 USC
NOV. 1 OREGON
8 AT ARIZONA
15 AT CAL
22 WASHINGTON STATE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)