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Senior Ron Holmes, Washington's left defensive tackle, is a little worried. "I gave the Rose Bowl watch we won three years ago to my father," he says. "My reasoning was that I'd have another one by now." That was most everyone else's reasoning as well. In each of the past two seasons the Huskies needed only to beat Washington State in the final game to smell the Roses, and on both occasions they failed. If Washington can adequately replace all-conference quarterback Steve Pelluer, the Huskies once again could be in position to win the Pac-1O championship and gain the Rose Bowl berth by beating their personal gremlins from Pullman on Nov. 17.
The defense will be better, starting with Holmes, a big teddy bear of a fellow who was all-conference as a junior and is a possible NFL first-round draft pick. He's the latest in a line of outstanding Washington defensive tackles, which includes Doug Martin of the Minnesota Vikings. Coach Don James says, "Ron could be as good as any of them, including Doug." At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Holmes has come a long way from the days when "they used to put a private eye on me to make sure I got to the weight room." These days opposing teams put two blockers on him because of his quickness.
The linebacking and secondary are experienced and deep. The most versatile linebacker is junior Reggie Rogers, a 6'7", 235-pounder who's the brother of Don Rogers, a UCLA All-America defensive back last year. Reggie played for Washington's basketball team the last two years and reported late for spring practice. However, he made an immediate impression with his ferocious hitting. "He'd have fouled out of three games by now," said basketball coach Marv Harshman as he watched Rogers play football last spring. Rogers will either start at outside linebacker or join Holmes on the defensive line.
Two of the Huskies' other top athletes are pass catchers. They're senior Danny Greene and sophomore Lonzell Hill, the son of former pro wide receiver J.D. Hill. Greene had seven plays of 37 yards or longer (six for TDs) in Washington's last six 1983 games—four on passes and three on punt returns of 71, 53 and 57 yards. Yet Hill may turn out to be a bigger threat.
And who'll get the ball to Greene and Hill, as well as to senior Mark Pattison and tight end Tony Wroten, two other fine receivers? James staged a three-man derby during the spring, and the job is now Hugh Millen's to lose. A walk-on who spent last season quarterbacking the scout team, Millen doesn't have the experience or savvy of Paul Sicuro, Pelluer's backup last year and a premed student, or the reputation of redshirt freshman Chris Chandler, a schoolboy All-America, but he has the physical skills. Millen prepared for the task ahead by hiking around such football hotbeds as the Greek island of Corfu over the summer with his father, an Army computer programmer stationed in West Germany. "Don't worry," says Millen, "I took a football."
Such an exotic summer vacation for tailback Jacque Robinson might have been disastrous. Last season he reported to practice at 213 pounds, 13 overweight, after having summered with Marcus Dupree in Philadelphia, Miss., where Robinson has relatives. "I think he adopted Marcus's training regimen," says James. "Don't run a lot and eat well." Robinson was out of shape, frequently injured and of little use all season. He ended up with only 48 carries.
Until Robinson regains the form that enabled him to lead the Pac-10 in rushing as a sophomore in 1982, the job belongs to Ron (Cookie) Jackson. However, if Cookie crumbles, Robinson says he's ready. If he is, and if center Dan Eernissee and tackle Dennis Maher get some help on the offensive line, Holmes just may be able to tell time by the Roses.