Practice report - 4/7 PM

Emotions were flying high as the Huskies returned to the practice field Monday, fresh off their first off-day of the Spring. It was a day of fights, a day of rain, and a day that Husky coach Rick Neuheisel finally started to open up about some of the players who've been making an impression early on in Spring ball.

The head coach singled out several players on both sides of the ball for their performances on Monday. Offensively, he was encouraged by the play of freshman tailback Kenny James, sophomore guard Tusi Sa'au, and two of the team's up-and-coming tight ends, Jon Lyon and Ben Bandel. Defensively, he pointed to the play of Greg Carothers and Tyler Krambrink at SAM linebacker, both seniors, and safety Jimmy Newell.

Several other players that Neuheisel failed to mention showed signs of making strides as well. Fulback Ty Eriks continued to impress. He put his athleticism on display on several different occasions, catching passes out of the backfield with ease.

Eriks had the play of the day on a play that started relatively routine, but ended with senior cornerback Roc Alexander laying flat on his back. Eriks caught a pass out of the backfield on the right side of the field and immediately ran forward for more yards. When Alexander tried to make the tackle, the muscular Eriks just ran him over.

It could have very easily been the most memorable play of the spring thus far.

Matt Griffith, one of the team's most promising walk-on receivers out of a pack of about seven or eight, had the catch of the day. It came in passing drills with no defenders involved, but that shouldn't take away from the level of difficulty that was involved.

Griffith ran across the field expecting a pass in front of him, but as the ball came behind him Griffith instinctually batted it back towards his body to haul it in.

Defensively, a name that has become quite familiar over the past week popped up again for the play of the day – Matt Fountaine.

In a one-on-one drill with a walk-on receiver, Fountaine stayed with his man and read a Casey Paus pass perfectely on a comeback route, darting in front of it for an interception.

Fountaine is a quick learner with above-average coverage skills and solid hands. The coaching staff thinks enough of his hands that they have been trying him as a punt returner along with the incumbent at the position, Charles Frederick. He looks like a natural.

Overshadowing the individual performances Monday, though, were three skirmishes that broke out over the course of the practice. First it was a matchup between walk-on receiver Matt Griffith and Newell. Soon later it was Reggie Williams and safety Evan Benjamin.

Then it was the usually mild-mannered defensive lineman Tui Alailefaleula and Robin Kezirian. With jobs up for grabs and the coaching staff always watching for signs to alter their depth charts, tempers were flaring all day long.

The coaching staff got things in order each time, and resumed practice in a quick fashion.

Cody Pickett had a nice day throwing the ball, even if it meant trying to connect with several walk-on players still trying to adjust to the position. Behind him Neuheisel said he is going with a rotating system with Paus and Isaiah Stanback to be fair to each of the young quarterbacks.

Paus had an up and down day. He had one of the prettiest passes of the spring on a 40-yard ball thrown to a sprinting Frederick at the corner of the endzone. Later, though, several of his passes fluttered high and out of the reach of his receivers.

Stanback saw extensive work running the option, teaming with James and Shelton Sampson. With each snap he takes the second-year quarterback appears more comfortable orchestrating the option, but he still has a ways to go. He's already shown enough behind center to make it difficult for any the coaches to move him to receiver any time in the near future.

Husky Notes:
Robbins Update: Neuheisel told reporters after practice that tests showed that Justin Robbins has a strained MCL in his left knee. Robbins will see the Sonics' surgeon tomorrow in hopes to learn more about the injury. The fourth-year receiver will likely miss the remainder of the Spring, said Neuheisel.

More Attrition: Just two days after it was announced that Will Conwell and Matt Lingley would not be a part of the 2003 team, Neuheisel announced after practice that the same would be true of two more scholarship athletes, Mike Savicky and Eric Shyne.

Savicky, an undersized defensive end who would have been a redshirt sophomore, told Neuheisel that he'd like to transfer to a school where he could get more playing time.

Neuheisel said that Shyne, a second-year cornerback, was dismissed from the team and sent to a junior college where he could get his grades in order. If Shyne takes care of his grades, he would be eligible to return to next season.

Attrition Continued: Walk-on fullback John Gardenhire, who came to the UW after staring at Kentwood High, is not currently with the team after two seasons on the scout team. Neuheisel said he a shoulder injury prevented him from getting clearance to play, and his return is questionable.

Where Are They Now: Dan McCourtie, a highly-touted fullback who played at the UW in 2001, and former Husky signee Demar Baisy have both enrolled at Pima Junior College in Arizona, according to Kevin Lustgarden of McCourtie has been moved to linebacker, and the early feedback has been positive of the former Othello High star.

Familiar Faces: John Anderson and JaWarren Hooker both strolled in to Husky practice today. Anderson, a four-year letterman kicker at Washington who played his final game at the Sun Bowl in December, was there from the start of practice on. Hooker, the former UW deep-threat receiver who gave up the sport for track after two seasons, walked in during the tail end of practice.

What's ahead?: The Huskies will have three more padded practices/scrimmages this week, offset by off-days in between. They will practice on Tuesday and Thursday, scrimmage on Saturday, and have days off on Wednesday and Friday. Top Stories