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Wednesday, April 2, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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UW Football

Two-sport star may drop one

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel might have thought his recruiting was done for the year.

Instead, Neuheisel will today meet with one of the rising stars of the Huskies — sophomore-to-be cornerback Nate Robinson — and attempt to talk him into remaining a member of the football team.

During a pre-spring practice meeting with reporters yesterday, Neuheisel acknowledged what has been increasingly rumored about in recent days — that Robinson is thinking of giving up football to concentrate on basketball.

Neuheisel met with Robinson — who started six games at cornerback for the football team last fall then led the UW hoops team in scoring at 13 points an outing — yesterday afternoon. The issue was apparently left unresolved.

Neuheisel and Robinson are expected to meet again this morning to clarify the matter for good. UW's spring practice begins tomorrow afternoon and Neuheisel said Robinson has to be there to be considered a member of the football team.

"If he is going to play, he needs to be there for spring football," Neuheisel said, adding he didn't want to set what he called a "slippery slope" precedent of allowing players to skip spring practice, then turn out for the team in the fall.

Neuheisel said he decided to confront Robinson after hearing increasing rumors in recent weeks that the Rainier Beach grad was thinking of playing only hoops. Neuheisel said he thinks Robinson — who couldn't be reached for comment — is receiving lots of advice that he needs to play basketball full-time to make it as a professional. Neuheisel said he can make just as good an argument that Robinson would have just as bright a pro football future. But Neuheisel said he thinks mostly that Robinson shouldn't let his future determine his present.

"My argument to him is that I don't know what the future holds, and I don't think anybody can guarantee him what the future holds," Neuheisel said. "But I do know that he has made one of the most amazing impacts as a freshman athlete I have ever seen, and if he were to continue that for three more years, his future would be bright whether it included pro sports or not. I just think he would have himself a golden ticket in the city of Seattle."

Neuheisel said he doesn't include UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar among those who he thinks is trying to influence Robinson.

"I don't think he is recruiting him away because I know Lorenzo knows football is the reason for him getting here," Neuheisel said. "But I know Lorenzo is infatuated with his ability."

Romar said Robinson has mentioned to him the possibility of giving up football. "But Nate mentions a lot of things," Romar said." ... If you talk to Nate, he says he loves basketball. That's not any secret."

Robinson told The Times in February that he figured he would have to make a decision someday. "It's coming," he said. "Two years. Tomorrow. ... But right now, I think (playing both) is fun."

Interestingly, Neuheisel had plans this spring to give Robinson a try as a wide receiver, primarily at slot back, in part to fill in for the team's lack of depth at the spot but also to take greater advantage of Robinson's talents.

As for Robinson's professional future, one NFL draft analyst said Robinson's height — he is listed at 5 feet 9 but is more likely at least an inch shorter — makes it murky no matter what sport he chooses.

"If he's got a pro future, I think it's in the NFL," said Rob Rang, owner of the Web site boomersdraft.com. "There are a lot more 5-7 guys playing cornerback in the NFL or the CFL or wherever than there are 5-7 guys playing point guard."

Notes

• Neuheisel said again that Isaiah Stanback will get a good look at wide receiver this spring but emphasized that he is still a quarterback. "There will be a careful, careful division of his time," Neuheisel said. "But he will get the lion's share at QB."

• The Aug. 30 opener at Ohio State is expected to kick off at 5 p.m. PST, though no official announcement has been made.

• Among the players who will miss spring drills are LBs Tim Galloway (shoulder) and Marquis Cooper (shoulder), RB Rich Alexis (shoulder), TE Joe Toledo (shoulder), DT Josh Miller (back) and centers Todd Bachert (shoulder) and Brad Vanneman (foot). Formerly injured players who will return include S Jimmy Newell and CB Roc Alexander.

• Neuheisel reiterated that Greg Carothers will move from safety to WLB, where he is expected to compete to take over for the graduated Jafar Williams.

• Neuheisel said a few assistant-coaching jobs have been clarified. Tim Hundley will coach all the linebackers and be the coordinator for the front seven of the defense, new addition Phil Snow will coach the corners and coordinate the secondary, and Cornell Jackson, who last year coached the inside linebackers, will coach the safeties. Special teams will again be split up among almost all the assistants.

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