Thursday Practice Report:
Like yesterday, practice was divided into two sessions, with the offense/defense switching off on the turf.
Richard Brehaut had a fairly nice day, completing a couple of good looking passes to Randall Carroll during red zone drills. In the one session of two minute, Brehaut drove the offense down the field for a 35 yard field goal from Tyler Gonzalez, who, given a non-slanted goal post, would have gotten it in there.
In the 7 on 7, Brehaut had a nice pass to Josh Smith that he bobbled in the back of the end zone. Joe Tresey had to vehemently remind the defensive backs to lock up their receivers instead of looking at the quarterback- maybe too hungry for picks.
Field goal kicking-wise, it looks like Gonzalez has seized the job, going 5 for 5 on kicks including one that looked like it was from about 45 yards. Jeff Locke pushed his first attempt badly to the left, but then straightened it out a little and finished 4 for 5.
In the punting/kickoff period, Locke showed some massive leg, kicking a few punts that went 50+.
Defensively, it was a bit of a mixed bag today as the depleted secondary matched up against the scout team offense. Dietrich Riley had a nice interception, showing some good hands and awareness on a pass from Nick Crissman that was tipped at the line. Worryingly, though, the scout team offense actually looked fairly decent, with Devin Lucien in particular showing some serious play making ability. He probably had the catch of the practice, making a leaping grab on a Crissman pass in the corner of the end zone over Brandon Sermons. He had a couple of other nice catches as well, including one where he pulled the ball away from Stan McKay.
Glenn Love spent practice doing some light jogging on the sideline, but also seemed to be favoring his left leg. Tony Dye also didn't do much during practice.
Overall, it was a pretty light day, with no hitting and the break up of the practice between offense and defense. Tempo wasn't great, but that's probably a direct result of the break up in sessions.
Neuheisel: "I thought it was another good week of practice. I was pleased with the way people adapted to the scheduling changes. I believe guys are anxious to play. We've talked more about the challenge ahead with Washington State right now. But looking forward to Saturday night and anxious to play an inspired game and get our second win in the conference and see if we can't fight our way into this conference race."
Q: Price's knee- has it shown any marked improvement at all?
Neuheisel: "Absolutely. Absolutely. We expect him to be available in the Arizona game."
Q: (Rambling lead in to the effect of: Washington State has scored a lot of points, but they haven‘t played anyone). The teams that Washington State has played are not very good. Do you convey to your players that you can't look at them as this world beater, or is it the opposite?
Neuheisel: I think it's important to concentrate on your level of play. Concentrate on what we can do. You know, we squandered some scoring opportunities this last weekend. One fourth down, one first and goal opportunity on our first drive that didn't result in points. One on a fumbled punt that cost us a drive that was going to begin on the 50 yard line. One on downs that we got down on their end of the field that we didn't convert on a fourth down. And yet we still scored three touch downs, so there was an opportunity to score five, maybe six. To get where we want to go we have to learn how to do that. Now, what keeps you from doing that are the little things that start to bog down offenses and that's what we need to do. Now, defensively we've got to figure out how to get stops. We are a good team when we can get people stopped on third down and we've had lots of opportunities and certainly we credit the opponent for being good enough to move the chains but we've got to find ways to get off the field. And if we can get those two things accomplished we're gonna be fine because we certainly have enough explosiveness as an offense to score with these teams that we're going to be playing. And we certainly have the ability to control the clock with the teams that we're goin to be able to play. Now defensively we need to be able to handle the ability to get off the field. That's where it comes down to.
Q: How much do you take from the Washington State game last year?
Neuheisel: "I think it's a great barometer and it certainly helps me as a head coach to make sure my team is ready becase there was a team that hadn't had much success coming into that game and yet there they were ahead 28-20 late in the game. So you know, we're not going to overlook them. That won't be the problem. I hope there is no problem. I hope we play our tails off and play inspired football as we did last week. I just hope it's cleaner and I hope that the result is different.
Q: And that was Richard's first start last year.
Neuheisel: "Yeah, and I thought he played well. He didn't have a turnover, he was 12 of 23. Took what the defense gave him. And I think certainly he's improved a lot since that time and hopefully we're poised for another big game from him."
Q: What are some of things Jamie Graham brings to the table?
Neuheisel: "He adds quality depth to our secondary. He adds experience to our secondary. It's hard to say experience when he's only been on this team for a short time but he's played in this defense. He's also kind of that gregarious kid that's kind of made a bunch of friends so far. So it's easy to accept him into the brood and I think he's a very popular guy and that he's going to have a huge impact helping our defense.
Q: Does he have the speed to play a lot?
Neuheisel: "No question. That was not going to be the issue, mentally at least. Physically, we'll wait and see. I think he's ready to play what his role calls for which is going to be somewhere between 20 and 30 plays."
Q: How do you feel about the team getting together to talk about leadership and accountability?
Neuheisel: "I think they understand that this team has the talent to be good. They want to make sure they're impressing it upon each other, not just hearing it from me or their position coaches. I took it as apositive sign. I don't feel any lack of dedication. I don't feel any lack of belief in what we're doing. I think we are on the verge of a breakthrough, and I'm hopeful it's Saturday night."
Q: I know when you were inside the five at Stanford you said you thought Richard should have kept the ball on one of those. How close is he to really grasping when he should give it and when he should keep it?
Neuheisel: "I think he gets better all the time as anybody would. It's not an offense he grew up in, but he's handled it well. He's kept the turnover margin down. And I think that we're gonna see him get better and better."
Q: Given Kip's status right now, are you solidified on what you're going to do on Saturday?
Neuheisel: "Well, we're going to let Tyler have a shot, at least in the short stuff. We'll see how it all plays out. It's a heck of a story now, from soccer manager to starting kicker. I mean, shoot."
Q: He doesn't have to wash uniforms here, does he?
Neuheisel: "No, no we've actually taken that load off of him."
Q: Have you got an idea what his range is at this point?
Neuheisel: "He can make it from 50, but I don't know if we'd ask him to go from that far."
Q: How can you calm him down for this?
Neuheisel: "I think it'll be more me being calm than anything else. I think it's a great story. I think he's going to go in there and do fabulous."
Q: Could you see sending him out there for a game winning kick, if it comes down to it?
Neuheisel: "If it comes down to it, go make the kick, man. Every great movie needs a great ending, right? Let's create it."
Q: So you wouldn't use Locke in a longer yardage situation?
Neuheisel: "In longer yardage situations, yes. Jeff has proven he's capable of doing that and I don't lack confidence in Jeff. I'm just taking that off of him and want him to go back to being the best punter in the country.
Q: Do you have an idea where the demarcation point is between the two of them?
Neuheisel: "In my mind, I think 40, but we'll see how things go."
Q: Chris Ward, is that a multiple week thing at this point?
Neuheisel: "Well, my guess is he's getting better. The reports are that he's getting better. And given that we don't play next week, I'm expecting him, like Sheldon, to be available for Arizona."
Q: Guys like that, if it's something where you don't necessarily need them heading into a bye week (can you afford to just sit them), or can you not play that game right now?
Neuheisel: "No, that's not the game. If he were available he'd be ready to go, but we've got to trust the more learned people in such matters. But my guess is that with twelve days between this game and the next, that he'll be ready."
Neuheisel Quotes, Practice Notes
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