didn’t take much for Joe Toledo to dominate football in Encinitas, California at
La Costa Canyon High School. In just 34 receptions from his tight end position
during his senior year, Toledo amassed 930 yards for an astounding 27.4 yards
But once he stepped onto the Washington campus as a
freshman in the fall of 2001, Toledo’s numbers didn’t matter. The Huskies more
than had the position filled with veterans Jerramy Stevens, Joe Collier and
Kevin Ware who had a combined nine years experience in the program.
So for Toledo it meant a year of paying dues, gaining
strength and the scout team as a redshirt.
“When you’re on scout team you’re not learning as much,”
Toledo said of his role, which focused on preparing his teammates by mimicking
the opposing teams offense.
As Toledo nears the completion of his first year in
college, he finds himself right near the top of the depth chart with the
departure of Stevens to the NFL and graduation of Collier. The Huskies return
only senior Kevin Ware who pulled down 10 catches for 107 yards after having
only one reception in his first two years at Washington.
Because of the more significant role for Toledo, tight
ends coach Keith Gilbertson has demanded a lot of Toledo and fellow freshman
Andy Heater for game action next season.
“I’ve thrown a lot at them,” Gilbertson said. “They’re
probably swimming in it.”
One of the biggest challenges comes from shedding the
defense in order to get open and give the quarterbacks an opportunity to hit the
tight ends. In Thursday’s scrimmage portion of the practice, only Ware caught a
ball at the position out of the 35 or so plays executed. At the same time the
Huskies also need to find out who will earn the starting role at running back
and gave a number of reps to Braxton Cleman, Rich Alexis, Jelani Harrison and
Toledo has had to step his game up from high school
because of the athleticism, strength and speed necessary and it has shown on the
track where he posted a time of 4.86 seconds in the 40-yard dash. In the weight
room Toledo boasts a bench press of 380 pounds and a squat of 500.
On the field Gilbertson has noticed the improvement as
“He gets a little better at something everyday,”
And Toledo realizes that he needs work in areas to find
success in the Pac-10.
“You’ve got to go out and run the routes precisely instead
of just using your playing ability,” Toledo said.
That playing ability will be tested next season when
Toledo reaches the field for the first time when the Huskies meet Michigan in
Ann Arbor on August 31.