Practice Report - 4/8 PM

Once again, Mother Nature did not find it in her heart to give us a nice warm day for football as the Huskies went full speed for their fifth practice of the spring. With James Brown's "I Feel Good" blaring through the speakers, the Huskies were stretching and trying to keep warm by any means necessary in preparation for another two and a half hours of football in the windy bowl of Husky Stadium.

The first drill for the offense had the quarterbacks, running backs, and the receivers running plays towards the east end zone.

The first team consisted of Cody Pickett, Ty Eriks, and Chris Singleton in the backfield, with Reggie Williams, Charles Frederick, and Andy Heater as receivers.

With Casey Paus at quarterback, the second team was made up of Shelton Sampson and Adam Seery running the ball, with Clayton Ramsey, Doug Clarke, and Jon Lyon receiving.

Isaiah Stanback was still the number three quarterback with Kenny James and a red-shirted Zach Tuiasosopo making up the rest of the backfield and walk-ons Nick Lunzer, Ben Bandel, and the newly converted Scott Ballew as receivers.

Justin Robbins was in uniform today but he was not running any of the drills. Still walking with an obvious limp, Robbins participated in non-contact drills while running half-speed. He is still awaiting another evaluation on his knee.

The problem area of the day was the lack of concentration by the receivers. Frederick had more than one perfectly thrown ball hit his shoulder pads and drop to the ground.

On one play in particular, Frederick ran a route up the middle with Paus delivering a beautiful 40-yard toss. The ball hit Frederick in the palms but was not hauled in. On the very next play, Clarke had the same result. Two picture perfect streaks were not converted.

By this time, Wide Receivers coach Bobby Kennedy saw enough. After doing some push-ups to correct the problem, Frederick found his hands again and began to have a better day. Even Williams fell victim to the dropped ball today.

Overall, the weather may have played a factor, but there just cannot be any excuses for so many dropped balls.

Stanback had a rough day today. He was throwing high and away for most of the afternoon and when he did connect and hit the receiver in the numbers, they did not help any by dropping those balls. Add a couple fumbles, and you have the makings of a day Stanback would like to forget.

With his recent outstanding play, Tusi Sa'au is now running with the first team on the offensive line while Aaron Butler has gone down to the second team.

Clay Walker still has a hold on the top center spot with another red-shirt freshmen in Robin Kezirian manning the second unit.

The defensive line was without the services of Terry Johnson today. "Tank" has a slight shoulder bruise and was given the day off. In his place, Junior Coffin and Tui Alailefaleula got more action and both came out pretty impressive.

The special teams unit was highlighted by Roc Alexander's outstanding play. Alexander was showing flashes of his old self on special teams as he was getting past defenders to block kicks like there was no tomorrow.

On one play, Alexander blew past the defense to make a diving block on a field goal attempt, which drew cheers from the players as well as the coaches. Alexander and Derrick Johnson also handled the "gunner" position on the punt return defense today with both coming out strong. Williams and Frederick took more reps as punt returners as well.

There were also a lot of highlights from the one-on-one drills this afternoon.

Over in the west end zone was the always-entertaining one-on-one match-up between the offensive and defensive line.

Mike Mapu was matched up with Dan Dicks. As the whistle blew, the JC transfer ran full steam ahead only to run into a brick wall in Dicks which got the entire offensive line fired up.

On another play, walk-on defensive tackle Stephen Johnson lined up against Nick Newton. Newton took Johnson and drove him to the ground creating a pancake the folks at IHOP would appreciate.

Even Francisco Tipoti, who many people labeled as a disappointment, got into the act. Against Manase Hopoi, Tipoti held his ground as a charging Hopoi was thrown to the ground.

It was fair to say that the offensive line won the battle today.

Over on the opposite side of the field, the receivers were matched up against the secondary. The match-up of the day was Frederick against Johnson. The two athletes battled relentlessly with each coming out victorious over one another pretty evenly.

Reggie Williams and Matt Fountaine also got into a decent battle as Fountaine continues to impress by breaking up a few passes to Williams.

Ballew delivered the catch of the day. With Paus throwing wide and Chris Massey defending him, Ballew pulled a 'Stretch Armstrong' type of move and hauled in touchdown. Ballew, who is listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds, was converted to a receiver from a safety just yesterday to provide more depth.

To close out the practice, the team ran some 11-on-11's. The fun was just beginning. With the winds picking up and the passing game sort of ineffective today, running was the name of the game.

Singleton, Sampson, and James all had their highlights and lowlights during the mini-scrimmage. On a draw play to Singleton, Coffin and Alailefaleula both came blasting through the line to knock Singleton down before he could see them coming.

Sampson got the next carry and took advantage of it.

The speedster out of Tacoma ran through a huge hole untouched for about 12 yards before being brought down. On the very next play however, Sampson met a charging Brandon Ala and Ben Warren and took a tremendous hit and fumbled the ball. Shaken up, Sampson took off his helmet and walked it off giving way to James, who did not fare much better.

We even saw a little bit of an option. With Stanback behind the center, we may have seen a glimpse of the future. Stanback kept the ball and used his athleticism to attack the defense. It did not go for more than three or four yards, but that option sure was a welcome site.

The defensive play of the day came from Jordan Slye. On the end of practice, Pickett took the snap and went for huge homerun bomb to a streaking Frederick. As soon as the ball left Pickett's hand, Slye, who was playing center field at free safety, got a great break on the ball and made a nice leaping interception to the delight of his defensive colleagues to end the day.


Coach's Corner:
Dick Baird was in the house today and took time to share some of his thoughts. Here is what Coach had to say.

On the coaches: "Phil Snow is really a top-rate coach. He's really a super coach. He's very good at teaching technique, and Tim (Hundley) has got a renewed enthusiasm because he has all the linebackers again. It's kind of exciting and I think Cornell (Jackson) has done a nice job with the safeties."

On the offensive line: "The defense looks like they're coming along pretty good but I think the most obvious thing that has been most positive is the offensive line and what they're doing. They are now up with their weight forward so they are coming off the ball instead of sitting back with their butts down low to pass block. They are really going after it. It's good to see that kind of stuff. The whole thing was really impressive."

On who stood out today: I like big Tui (Alailefaleula). I think big Tui looked like he was really stout in the hole, but I tried to watch some of the young kids like Mike Mapu and get a feel. It's still hard to evaluate and see overall because two of your best linebackers aren't out there. I saw that Terry Johnson wasn't out there today as well. Who else was impressive and a big, strong kid is that kid from Moses Lake. (Jordan Reffett) I was really impressed with him. There are really a lot of positive things. It's still early so we'll see on Saturday at scrimmage. Tusi Sa'au looked really good too and (Nick) Newton looked fantastic on a couple of drills as well. Tusi just has great pad level and Newton is just coming off the ball really well."

On his overall impressions of the day: "I think we're a better football team in the way we are doing things now because of the intensity. The kids are really fired up and the coaches are really serious. It was a great practice I thought. Overall, I was just really impressed in the way they ran things today."

Note: The next practice is on Thursday, at 3:30pm. The first scrimmage will take place on Saturday at 10:00am.

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