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Valley / Ventura County Sports

Guarding the Backdoor

Silvers, from Agoura, protects quarterback Huard's blindside as weakside tackle for Washington.

November 06, 1998|DAVID WHARTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saturdays are for playing games.

Except it seems strange to use the word "play" or "game" to refer to what Elliot Silvers does on Saturdays.

"It's like a street fight," he said. "You do whatever it takes."

Silvers is an offensive lineman for the Washington Huskies, who play at Oregon on Saturday. More specifically, he is a weakside tackle. Let his quarterback, Brock Huard, explain the significance of that position.

"He's got my backside," Huard said.

Week after week, opponents send their most talented pass rushers hurtling at Huard's backside. On Saturday, it will most likely be defensive end Terry Miller, who has four sacks for 26 yards in losses this season.

There will be hand-to-hand combat, a pitched battle for which Elliott has spent all week preparing.

Mondays are for watching game film.

"Watch the player and read his stance and see his favorite pass-rush moves," Silvers said.

A kind of chess game begins, with Silvers trying to think two moves ahead.

"Let's say the other guy likes to go upfield on you," he said. "If you took that move away, what would he try next? Would he bull rush you? Swim you?"

The preparation was never so thorough when he was an All-Southern Section lineman at Agoura High in 1995. Back then, size and strength sufficed. At 6 feet 6 and 300 pounds, Silvers has never lacked either.

"In high school, I just went out and played," he said.

Now, he spends days focusing on the task at hand. He has been known to tape a photograph of his opponent inside his locker so "there's no way I can't think about him."

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for sweat.

"We're full pads in practice," he said. "We're full go for three hours."

The guy across the line, the scout-team player, wears the jersey number of the opponent Silvers will face. He tries his best to imitate the opponent's playing style. Silvers offers suggestions.

"I can tell the scout-team player, 'This guy likes to beat me to the outside or maybe he's spinner,' " Silvers said. "I can say, 'Go ahead and spin a lot.' "

Even as he focuses on strategy, Silvers must continue his education in fundamentals. Hands. Feet. The redshirt sophomore has been thrust into a starting role while still learning the basics.

"A lot of people rely on brute strength, but footwork will carry you a long way," he said. "You can never stop working on technique."

Thursdays are the last day to get physically sound for the weekend.

The Huskies kept Silvers on the sideline as a redshirt in 1996. Last season, he played in parts of the first four games before dislocating a kneecap against Arizona State.

None of that prepared him for the rigors of playing every down, every week.

"I've been in about 400 plays so far," he said. "It takes its toll on your body."

When game time arrives, there will be no chance to relax.

"We're in a tough conference," he said. "You have to be on the ball every play."

Fridays are for traveling.

Some players hate to leave home, the buses and planes, the hotel rooms in strange cities. Silvers loves it. Doesn't matter if it's San Francisco or Lincoln, Neb., he wants to go.

The destination was familiar last week when Washington played USC in the Coliseum. The Huskies lost, 33-10, but Silvers had family and friends in the stands.

Now the team travels a relatively short distance to Eugene, Ore.

"You get to see different places," Silvers said. "You meet all kinds of people."

Saturdays are for getting mean.

"I'm nice off the field," Silvers said. "But when I get on the field, I'll do pretty much anything to stop you from getting to my quarterback."

That's the kind of talk Huard likes to hear.

"He's got that mental toughness," the quarterback said. "That temperament, for a first-time player, that's important."

All the film study. All the hours of practicing footwork. All of that takes a back seat to attitude when game time comes around. Silvers is ready to wage war.

After all, Saturdays are for playing games.

"As you walk down the tunnel, you hear the crowd rumbling," he said. "It sends chills down your spine. There's nothing else like it."

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