Washington sophomore wide receiver Reggie Williams jokingly told Seattle papers the reason he missed the first day of practice this past weekend was because he’s “holding out” and practicing for the NFL.

Paul Wong
Michigan defensive end Shantee Orr designed a practice shirt for motivation.

Truth be told, Williams is reportedly expected to be out just one week with a strained left foot. But his coming-out party last year could have led others to believe he wasn’t kidding about his professional plans.

Williams, the first Huskies’ freshman to start in the first game of his college career, caught four balls for 134 yards in Washington’s 23-18 come-from-behind victory over Michigan last season. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Williams broke two Pac-10 freshman records with 55 catches for 973 yards.

But come Aug. 31 when the ninth-ranked Huskies battle No. 12 Michigan in the Big House, Williams could have another talented, trash-talking sophomore staring him in the face.

Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson draws comparisons to former Wolverine and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson in terms of his competitiveness and will to win – not to mention talent. Jackson said the rematch with Washington is pretty clear cut.

“It’s going to come down to our defense against their offense,” Jackson said. “Me and Reggie Williams are going to battle, our defensive line is going to put some pressure on, and we’re going to try to prove why we know, in our hearts, we can have the best secondary in the country.”

Washington’s offense wasn’t the problem against Michigan last year, however. The Wolverines held the Huskies without an offensive touchdown and were up 12-6 with just over nine minutes to go. But a blocked punt and interception by Washington’s Omare Lowe – both returned for touchdowns – quickly took the momentum away from Michigan.

That game started a string of heartbreaking and pride-piercing losses for the Wolverines, who lost to rivals Ohio State and Michigan State in the same season for the first time since 1987 and suffered their worst bowl defeat in program history, a 28-point loss to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

Michigan defensive lineman Shantee Orr made sure the Wolverines didn’t forget about their failures last season during their summer workouts. He made a practice t-shirt with the team’s record of “8-4” on the front and the score of the loss to Tennessee on the back, “45-17.”

It was just to “show everybody we have to do better,” Orr said. “Don’t settle for mediocrity.”

Michigan isn’t the only team with a bitter taste left in its mouth.

Washington finished with an 8-4 season of its own, especially disappointing after starting the season 7-1 – with Pac-10 and national title hopes still on their minds. But the Huskies’ defense let them down, giving up a total of 161 points in three of their last four games – all losses – including a 65-7 shellacking at the hands of the eventual national champion Miami Hurricanes.

Thanks to its problems defensively, Washington ended up being outscored 370-353 by opponents last season. This comes despite having an explosive offense with scrambling quarterback Cody Pickett, NFL draft pick Jerramy Stevens and Williams at its disposal.

Washington “is coming in and it will be an excellent opportunity to say ‘we’re back,'” senior fullback B.J. Askew said.

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