Talk to him off the field and the junior linebacker is the master of understatement.
During Saturday's two and a half hour practice, Washington absolutely leveled one of the toughest, most physical players on the CU offense, senior V-back Lawrence Vickers. The play, in which Washington glided to his left, filled a running lane and put Vickers, the ball carrier, on his backside, caused a loud cracking noise. It also caused an uproar among Washington's fellow defensive players, as well as some shouts of admiration from the spectators gathered to watch practice.
Asked after practice about the hit on the wonderfully loquacious Vickers, Washington turned coy.
Reporter: Were you making a statement with that really big hit on LV?
Washington: Nahhh. … I don't feel better if I hit Lawrence than if I hit someone else. I just see them as the same. He's my teammate and he's a great player.
Reporter: It seemed like the defense had a pretty big reaction to it.
Washington: (smiling) Yeah. I don't know what to say on that.
Reporter: So there's nothing about shuttin' him up?
Washington: (smiling) Nahh.
Reporter: Did you say anything to him, or did he say anything to you after the hit?
Washington: (smiling) I was just trying to find out if he was OK. (laughter)
Sure Thad. Vickers was slow to get up, but he was OK.
Mind you, this was a practice in pads and shorts, and tackling was not allowed. Washington didn't wrap up LV, and he actually let up on Blake Mackey on another play, that nonetheless sent the receiver to the ground. (To Mackey's credit, he bounced up and made a great catch in the end zone soon after — probably the day's best catch).
CU's first full-contact day is scheduled for Monday. But after plays made by Washington and most of his veteran teammates, it's obvious the squad can get a lot of work done on days not designated as full contact. In fact, Barnett said the team may practice in just shorts and shoulder pads more than in recent falls.
The team worked on goal line situations and ended practice with a lengthy 11-on-11 session. As Barnett pointed out, although there was no tackling, it felt like a full-on scrimmage.
"We didn't lose anything in this practice. That looked like a padded practice," Barnett said. "If you have a mature team you can do that. You have to teach young guys how to practice in shorts. This team has done it for a year. We may practice less in full pads than we have in the past."
Where's Iwuh? Speaking of big hitters, Colorado's version of Where's Waldo continues. After one of the rookies got rung up on Friday by senior buff linebacker Brian Iwuh, who along with Washington is the team's fiercest hitter, coaches and players started yelling "Check Iwuh, check Iwuh," when the offense and defense squared off.
"When they line up, we tell all the new guys, ‘Find our where Iwuh is,'" Barnett said. "Brian brings it."
Asked if he thought Iwuh was underrated among the Big 12 linebackers, Barnett said he didn't know about ratings. But, he said, "If you ask players on our team, they'd probably say he's our most valuable defensive player."
New quarterback drills
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/receivers coach Shawn Watson is putting the six quarterbacks through some new drills.
|(l to r) James Cox, Brian White and Patrick Devenny. (BSN)|
Watson came to camp with the drills after swapping ideas with colleagues in the pro and college ranks.
"We've all got common issues or problems, no matter what level you coach at," he said. "We try to really research each other. We share information as much as we can."
One is a footwork drill that involves three foam blocks set on the ground about three feet apart. Watson barks out orders and the quarterback, facing forward ready to throw, jumps forwards and backwards and around over the blocks until he's told to throw the football. It helps the quarterbacks stay focused downfield while avoiding would-be tacklers or fallen teammates in the backfield.
Another drill involves a net that's approximately 10 feet wide, by six feet high. Three different colored shapes (a yellow triangle, red rectangle and blue square) are sown into the netting. The quarterbacks go through their footwork until Watson yells out a color. Then the quarterback finds his center and fires at the target from 12 to 15-yards away.
"It's a balance drill that is incorporating accuracy," Watson said. "The whole purpose is to get to balance, and then be accurate once you get to balance."
Saturday, Joel Klatt was the most accurate of the passers in this drill.
The new workouts are part of the coach's evolution.
"I just always try to improve myself," Watson said, when asked about the new drills. "We ask these (players) to, and we need to improve as coaches. I don't want to stay the same. I go out and research better ways to do what I do."
Scholarship situation on hold
It appears that CU may have an extra scholarship to give now that Chris Hollis is a medical hardship with a spinal cord injury. But the NCAA has rules about how and if a suddenly vacated scholarship can be distributed elsewhere. As of Saturday, Barnett wasn't sure if he'd be able to award it to one of the several walk-ons.
"At this point in time, I don't know how that's going to go," he said. "I don't know yet if I have any to give. It depends on a couple of things."
Sophomore center Bryce MacMartin suffered an ankle injury in one scrimmage situation. He was walking gingerly and helped off the field by two trainers, then watched the rest of the practice with ice on his right ankle. Barnett said it was probably a high ankle sprain. No word on how long he might be out.
Asked if any of the young players were jumping out at Barnett after three practices, he said, "Gardner McKay, Terry Washington. Alvin Barnett's made tremendous headway since last spring. So has Patrick Williams. Ben Burney has shown up. And Maurice Lucas, out of the young guys, is who I've noticed."
|Cornerback Gardner McKay has been a standout among the freshmen. (BSN)|
The HYPE (believe it or not)
The team continues to practice at a very up tempo pace. They just seem ahead of where they left off in the spring. That could be because of the good summer workout. We'll get a more complete feel once they put on the full gear and are allowed to hit on Monday.
But here are some thoughts from Saturday:
For a former quarterback, Ryan Walters continues to impress with his physicality at safety.
Ben Burney has decent size and moves pretty well. He's been a bit of a surprise for a kid who wasn't heavily recruited out of Mullen High.
Paul Creighton worked mostly with the tight ends Saturday, after working with fullbacks the first two days.
Walk-on Tim Lemon looks like he's starting to get more comfortable out there. After looking out of place in some of the drills Thursday, he drew some praise Friday. Saturday, he actually made some plays in the one-on-one drills vs. the cornerbacks. There are a lot of players ahead of him on the depth chart at receiver, but it'll be interesting to watch what he does over the next month. It's already apparent he's well-liked.
Patrick Williams, the former option quarterback in high school, has improved his pass-catching technique from the spring. He's catching the ball away from his body with his hands. He got open and hauled in a mid-range touchdown grab from Klatt in the 11-ons.
|Patrick Williams (BSN)|
Terry Washington is the biggest corner on the field. He hung with every receiver he matched up against in a one-on-one drill. Freshman Gardner McKay broke on a Brian White pass and nearly picked it off on one play.
The most fun drill to watch is when the offensive linemen and defensive linemen square off in one-on-one or two-one-two situations. They really go after each other. Mark Fenton was very impressive in one go around, locking up Vaka Manapuna.
Hugh Charles broke through the line, found a seam and got to the end zone on what looked like a 40 yard run late in the 11-on scrimmage, which was great to see.
It looked like J.J. Billingsley was trading back and forth with Walters, running alongside Tom Hubbard at safety with the first team defense. Iwuh, Washington and Jordon Dizon are running No. 1 at linebackers, with Brad Jones, Joe Sanders and Akarika Dawn running No. 2. Yes, this is a linebacking corps to get excited about.