4/5 Practice Notes

Day three of the spring ball meant full pads for the Huskies, a change of pace after two consecutive days of limited contact practices. Though the weather forecast called for clear skies, Mother Nature didn't cooperate as the Huskies battled through rain and wind for the entire practice.

Nobody suffered from the conditions more than the quarterbacks and receivers, who had a difficult time connecting all day long. Cody Pickett, who has grown quite accustomed to rainy Seattle days over his four years with the program, threw the best out of the three quarterbacks. Both of the youngsters, Casey Paus and Isaiah Stanback appeared to have a tough time gripping the ball and hitting their marks.

Paus did manage to have the pass of the day, finding redshirt freshman tight end Ben Bandel, big No. 89, in traffic over the middle of the field. Bandel hung on and carried two defenders a couple yards before hitting the turf.

The competition at tight end this spring with Bandel and junior-college transfer Jon Lyon is tight. Bandel is a load and a big target at 6-foot-7, 270 pounds. Lyon, who wears No. 82, is no tiny guy either at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds. With Joe Toledo out this spring, relegated to jumping rope on the sideline after offseason shoulder surgery, both Bandel and Lyon have shown the ability to catch the ball. Where each stands as far as blocking goes, time will tell.

At tailback the competition continued between junior Chris Singleton and freshmen Kenny James and Shelton Sampson. Through three practices, none of the three of outdistanced themselves from the pack. Each of them got plenty of carries on Saturday, with mixed results.

Sampson was probably was the most impressive, but it didn't come without some growing pains along the way - he fumbled the ball twice on the day and got an earful from runningback coach Chuck Heater. Still, Sampson had the best run of the practice during the a matchup of the first-team offense versus the first-team defense. He took a handoff, went straight through the middle of the line, then bounced outside to his left avoiding a defensive back. From there, nobody could catch him.

Singleton's highlight of the day was one he'd like to forget. He was the recipient of the hit of the day, coming courtesy of redshirt freshman Matt Fountaine, who the coaches haven't been able to say enough about in the early going this spring. Singleton took a handoff and ran to his right. While moving laterally while waiting for a block from the right tackle, Fountaine came out of nowhere and laid into the junior tailback from Etiwanda, Calif., drawing head butts from his fellow defensive teammates.

At fullback, Ty Eriks got the bulk of the work as Zach Tuiasosopo wore a red jersey today. Tuiasosopo suffered a sprained ankle during Thursday's practice, but it isn't considered serious. Given the chance to step up into the starting role, Eriks made a positive impression on the coaching staff. The redshirt sophomore appears in top physical condition, and showed some hands out of the backfield on a 10-yard catch when the first-team offense scrimmaged with the first-team defense.

In Tuiasosopo's absence, fifth-year senior Adam Seery moved up to the number two fullback.

The absence of Justin Robbins left just two scholarship receivers taking part in practice today. Reggie Williams and Charles Frederick stood head and shoulders above the seven walk-on receivers, as they should. Of the walk-ons, Matt Griffith has been the most impressive. Griffith, in his third year with the team, has the body to go over the middle and possesses good hands.

A day after getting owned by the offensive side of the football, the defense stepped up with an impressive day.

Donny Mateaki had a standout day. Mateaki, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, was everywhere all practice long. His shining moment came on a drill where thevdefensive player has to get around one blocker to make a play on the runningback. Mateaki beat Khalif Barnes in the drill to bury Kenny James into turf, drawing a roar from his defensive teammates.

Terry Johnson backed up his stellar showing on Friday with another today. In the 11 on 11's late in practice, he routinely pushed his way through the line to get to the runningback. On one play, he got James three yards behind the line of scrimmage and bounced up from the pile barking to anyone who would listen. TJ is one of the emotional leaders of the team, and he's come a long ways since his early days in the purple and gold.

Manase Hopoi had a nice day as well. The offensive line had a tough time containing Hopoi's speed, often getting a view of big No. 56's wild black hair flying right by. The junior forced a fumble in the 11 on 11s to cap what was already a great day of practice. Graham Lasee recovered the fumble.

In the secondary, Fountaine is the guy that is exploding on to the scene. With junior corner Sam Cunningham out for spring drills, the redshirt freshman has stepped up into the two-deeps and looking great. Cornerbacks coach Phil Snow loves his work ethic and his ability to absorb everything so quickly, and instinctually Fountaine appears right at home already. The loss of Nate Robinson could be lessened if Fountaine steps up and continues to progress at his current rate.

Coach Neuheisel said after practice that the defense is currently ahead of the offense, but added that such is usually the case early on in spring ball.

After a day off Sunday, the Huskies will return to the practice field Monday.
Husky Notes:

So Long: Rick Neuheisel announced after practice that two scholarship players have decided to leave the team. Former Kentwood standout Will Conwell, who would have been a redshirt sophomore linebacker, told Neuheisel that he had decided to give up football the day before spring practice started. Matt Lingley, a fourth-year linebacker, gave word to the head coach on Friday that he would like to transfer to a smaller school where he could get more playing time.

Robbins Update: Neuheisel said that Justin Robbins will have an MRI on his left knee today to determine the extent of the injury. Neuheisel said that Robbins told him the knee was a bit stiff and swollen after Thursday's practice. The results of the MRI will be available on Monday.

Two-iasosopo: Two more Tuaisosopo's were present today as it was Junior Day at Husky Stadium. Anybody going to argue with that? Matt Tuiasosopo sat with his family during practice up in the bleachers and out of the rain. Trenton Tuiasosopo, a cousin from Mariner High in Everett, stood on the sidelines and weathered the storm.

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