Practice report - 4/4 PM

With the wind not playing as much of a factor as a day before and low temperatures not a concern, the Husky football team returned to the field in shells Friday afternoon for their second practice of the spring. Several of the individuals on the offensive side of the ball took the day as an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Cody Pickett looked like the guy Husky fans have come to know over the past two seasons. He was on target whether his receivers hauled in the passes or not. The fifth-year senior rifled a pass to Reggie Willaims to beat a closing Roc Alexander, and later found Charles Frederick on a hard-thrown strike in front of Derrick Johnson for two of his nicer-thrown passes of the day.

His best, however, resulted in a drop when Frederick was unable to haul in a perfectly-placed 40-yard bomb thrown towards the goal line. Pickett threw his hands down in frustration, but it was Frederick who felt worse after the play.

Isaiah Stanback wore the yellow jersey and worked out at quarterback for the second consecutive day. He looked particularly impressive, hitting receivers on stride time and time again. Stanback already possesses a quick-release throwing motion, and most of the concern with him heading into the spring was the accuracy on his passes. He did his part in trying to silence his doubters today. Only one pass got away, sailing high on a route over the middle to Matt Griffith. The athletic signal-caller also ran the option a couple times with Kenny James in the backfield and looked comfortable doing the drill.

Chris Singleton worked out with the one's in the backfield, and had the run of the day when the first-team offense went up against the first-team defense, cutting against the grain for a 15-yard pickup.

James and Shelton Sampson, the two-headed monster vying for the starting job behind Singleton and the incumbent Rich Alexis, each put their young, lively legs on display.

What stands out about James is his ability to make would-be tacklers miss with such a subtle motion. It's almost as if his upper body doesn't even move when he cuts and jukes. James spent time running the option with Stanback, and the duo already appear to have that quarterback-tailback chemistry needed for success. Anybody getting excited?

Sampson received plenty of carries as well on the day. His quickness and burst are exciting to watch, and make him the perfect compliment to James. The shifty 5-foot-9 tailback will have to improve both in blocking and in pass-catching however, before the coaching staff will have the confidence to throw him out there in the game-situations on a regular basis.

Where the offense stood out most was in the trenches, where the o-line had their way with basically any of the big-hogs on the defensive side of the ball. Khalif Barnes, Nick Newton, Clay Walker, Rob Kezirian, and Francisco Tipoti all appeared to have little difficulty with defenders on the one-on-one drill.

Manase Hopoi, Tui Alailefaleula, and Donny Mateaki all had little success getting to the tackling dummy, something that defensive line coach Randy Hart would like to see change in the coming weeks.

The lone bright spot came in the form of Terry "Tank" Johnson, who was just an animal and found his way around anyone that stood in his path to the tackling dummy. TJ hit the weights hard over the offseason with the strength and conditioning staff, and its already paying off on the practice field.

Other than Johnson, a couple other youngsters managed to open the eyes with their efforts Friday. Graham Lasee, who enters spring as the starting REB opposite Manase Hopoi at the "Husky" position, worked his way through the line to get to Pickett on the one-on-one drills. Lasee, now in his third season out of Sehome High in Bellingham, never stops working until the whistle blows, and has a tenacity that makes up for any shortcomings he may have.

Newcomers Jordan Reffett and Mike Mapu, meanwhile, each showed tremendous quickness, running through drills like men more suited to play linebacker. Collectively, they will upgrade the athleticism of the defensive line and be hard to keep off the field come late August.

Husky head coach Rick Neuheisel tested the first-team defense by playing the role of quarterback with the second-team offense. The defenders were up to the task, even reacting to the throwback Neuheisel pump-fake, as the head coach couldn't find any recievers open. On consecutive plays, he had to resort to his last option and throw to the tailback out of the backfield.


Husky Notes:
Robbins Hurtin': Justin Robbins, the junior receiver who missed each of the last two seasons with knee injuries after a stellar freshman campaign, pulled up lame while cutting in a drill midway through practice. The Huskies have only three receivers on scholarship this spring – Robbins, Charles Frederick, and Reggie Williams - so an injury at that position would be especially devastating. After practice, Coach Neuheisel termed it as a "tweak"to the left knee – the same one he injured last season - and said the team doctors will further evaluate the injury to determine its severity.

Strength in Numbers: Defensive end Donny Mateaki, who missed most of his redshirt-freshman season with a shoulder injury, has changed his number from No. 95 to the legendary No. 90. Kai Ellis wore the number over the past two seasons, but it was someone named Emtman who made it famous back in the early ‘90's.

Full Speed Ahead: The Huskies will be in full pads for the first time this spring on Saturday. Practice is set for 11 a.m.

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