Quarterback Cody Pickett's teammates like to tease him about his growing up on Chicken Dinner Lane in Caldwell, Idaho, the son of former rodeo world champion Dee Pickett and a good enough roper in his own right that he could, he claims, lasso a pigeon. What the Huskies take seriously, however, is Pickett's toughness, which he showed after separating his right shoulder in the third game last season. Says coach Rick Neuheisel, "He reminds me of the guy in the Monty Python movie who gets his arm chopped off and says, 'Flesh wound!' "
Pickett didn't merely play with pain; he excelled despite it. After sitting out one game, he passed for a school-record 455 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28, come-from-behind win over Arizona, one of five fourth-quarter comebacks he engineered during Washington's 8-4 season. The 6'4", 205-pound Pickett, who underwent shoulder surgery last January, also set school marks last season for passing yardage per game (240.3) and completions of 50 yards or more (five). One of his favorite targets was 6'4" wideout Reggie Williams, who set conference freshman records in receptions (55) and yards (973).
Thanks in large part to Pickett and Williams, Washington scored 353 points during the season—almost as many as its injury-plagued defense allowed (370). The Huskies, whose rushing D was last in the conference, gave up a combined 112 points in their final two games alone, losses to Miami and Texas.
That unit now has a year of experience—23 lettermen return, including five starters. Despite the questions surrounding the defense, Williams is characteristically confident about Washington's prospects. He's planning on a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where he wants to play "some team from the South," he says. "People say those teams are the best anywhere. Well, I beg to differ."