4/12 AM Scrimmage

Pads were popping and players were flying around the field Saturday morning as the Washington Huskies had their first scrimmage of the spring. The 90-play scrimmage was more oriented to the running game this season as the team ran 53 rushing plays to 37 passing downs.

Cody Pickett looked sharp throughout the two-hour scrimmage, connecting on 12 of 19 passing attempts for 210 yards and three touchdowns. The Pickett to Reggie Williams connection was on display, the highlight being a 66-yard touchdown strike, 64 of which came after the catch as Williams cut back to avoid a pack of defenders and outraced the rest of the pack to the endzone.

When times got tough Saturday, or whenever the offense was facing third and long, the Pickett to Williams connection was about as automatic as it could get. Not a bad fall-back option.

Williams finished with four receptions for 144 yards through the air.

Charles Frederick was the second-leading receiver on the day with three receptions, going for 37 yards. The finest of his three receptions came on third-and-10 play. Pickett threw a laser to the slanting junior from Florida, and Frederick hauled it in for a 15-yard first-down connection.

Fifth-year senior fullback Adam Seery added two receptions. Ty Eriks, Jon Lyon, Ben Bandel and walk-ons Malcolm Baber, Matt Griffith, Doug Clark and Sterling Brown all had one reception.

Baber, who wears No. 18 along with Matt Griffith making things confusing at times, had one of the finest catches of the day on a ball thrown to the corner of the endzone from Isaiah Stanback. The walk-on receiver from O'Dea dove for the ball, brought it in with both hands, jumped to his feet and held the ball high with one hand to show that he made the catch.

That play was one of the few bright spots for an otherwise dark and dreary day for Stanback. The redshirt freshman signal-caller was just 1 for 8 passing with three interceptions. He never found a comfort zone passing the ball, and had the tendency too throw high. Coaches will tell you that that's a dangerous habit.

Casey Paus faired little better, completing only 2 of his 8 pass attempts for 18 yards. He looked to have more accuracy on his passes though, and for that reason he may have the edge at the backup quarterback spot, though coaches would tell you it's still a toss-up between the Paus and Stanback.

Kenny James, who coaches were eagerly awaiting to see, carried the ball only three times before getting bit by the injury bug. On his third carry, a run through the middle of the line, he came up limping, unable to put much weight on his right foot. He wouldn't return. James spent the remainder of practice on the sideline getting his right knee iced. The early prognosis is a sprained MCL.

The absence of James allowed the duties to fall on the shoulders of fellow redshirt freshman Shelton Sampson and junior Chris Singleton.

Of the two, Sampson was more impressive today. He ended up with 20 of the team's 53 carries, going for 72 yards. The best news is that he did so without fumbling, which, along with blocking, has been a primary concern with him so far this spring. The bad news is that 35 of the 72 yards, nearly half, came on one play, meaning the speedster gained just 37 yards on the other 19 carries.

That being said, the fact is that he looks to be running more instinctually this year, a very good sign for the future.

Singleton never really got it going. He carried the ball 12 times for 24 yards, his longest rush going for eight yards. Granted, the offensive line didn't give him many holes to run through, but at the goal line, where moving the football is more important than ever, Singleton found little success.

On one possession, the Husky offense had the ball first-and-goal at the eight yards line. Three consecutive Singleton carries garnered only six yards, leaving fourth and goal from the two. From there, Ty Eriks was sent in the game as a goal line back, and bulldozed his way into the endzone.

As far as the tight ends and fullbacks went, both positions had up and down days. At tight end, Jon Lyon had a difficult time maintaining his focus. One one play, Lyon dropped a great pass thrown over the middle of the field. On another, he missed an up-field block for Frederick after the receiver made the catch.

Lyon was also the recipient of the hit of the day, coming care of senior SAM linebacker Greg Carothers after the tight end hauled in a five-yard pass at the five yard line. Ben Bandel managed to get wide open in the right corner of the endzone, and after waiting for Pickett to find him, the 6-foot-7 redshirt frosh got the pass thrown his way for a four-yard score.

At fullback, Zach Tuiasosopo had a hard day catching the ball. After showing an improved ability to catch the ball during the first week of spring, he dropped three passes that should have been caught today. He managed to make up for it with solid blocking. Ty Eriks caught the one pass thrown his way. The race for the starting job is definitely heating up.

All that, and we still haven't mentioned the defense.

Several players had performances Saturday that may help themselves.

Both players vying for SAM linebacker, seniors Carothers and Tyler Krambrink, looked to have exceptional days. Carothers isn't the biggest fan of his move to the SAM, a position that focuses on containment rather than tackling, but so far he's made the most of the move. He thrives the closer he gets to the line of scrimmage, and it showed today. He blitzed around the edge for a sack, and added the big hit on Lyon. Those were just two of his team-high six tackles.

Krambrink, the quicker of the two, didn't record a tackle but had two passed defensed and an interception off of Stanback, who was flushed from the pocket and trying to pass on the run.

In the middle, MIKE linebacker Joe Lobendahn chipped in six tackles as well, showing great quickness to the ball and sure-tackling skills. Scott White also had a nice day, drawing some praise from the head coach after practice. White had three tackles to the one of Cory Jones in the battle for the backup WIL linebacker spot.

Some of the younger players, the new faces, stepped up as well.

Up front, Brandon Ala used his speed around the edge to give Khalif Barnes fits. That's something the Husky defense needs more than anything this season, and the showing of Ala shows that his knees are healthy. He had four tackles - two for loss - including one sack.

Jordan Reffett, Mike Mapu, Manase Hopoi, Dan Milsten and Terry Johnson all had tackles for losses as well. The addition of Reffett, a 2002 signee, and Mapu, a junior college transfer, have helped give depth to the line, especially since junior Josh Miller is out for the spring.

Reffett had one of the more impressive defensive plays, breaking through the line to catch the shifty Sampson five-yards in the backfield. He suffered a slight injury late in the scrimmage, but after practice head coach Rick Neuheisel said it was more of a scare than anything.

Milsten is opening some eyes with his play as an interior defensive lineman. The tall redshirt freshman blew through the line for one of the better sacks of the day, and is one to watch for 2003.

In the secondary, the only certainty is uncertainty at this point. As if losing Nate Robinson to basketball and Eric Shyne to academics wasn't bad enough at a position already thin this spring with Sam Cunningham out and Roc Alexander limited to non-contact drills, it almost got worse when Derrick Johnson limped off the field after an interception mid-way through the scrimmage. Luckily, Neuheisel said he didn't expect it to be anything serious.

Those cornerbacks left standing were Chris Massey, Matt Fountaine, and Kim Taylor. Fountaine led the way with five tackles. Taylor had two, and Massey none. With all the talk of receiver being the position with the least depth, cornerback isn't much deeper.

James Sims had a standout day at safety. The third-year sophomore filled the stat sheet with five tackles, one tackle for a loss, and an interception. On his interception, Sims showed something that has to excite Husky fans. As Stanback rolled out to his right at the 15-yard-line, Sims camped in the middle of the secondary reading the quarterback's eyes. Walk-on receiver Scott Ballew broke open on a post-pattern behind Sims, but he was ready to react, almost daring Stanback to throw the ball in Ballew's direction.

He did, and Sims fell back in coverage, leaped high into the air and pulled down the interception.

Fellow strong safety Evan Benjamin had three tackles. Starting free safety Jimmy Newell laid a big hit on Reggie Williams, but didn't get credit for a tackle on the day. Backup Jordan Slye got one tackle, and made the most of it. The second-year former high school quarterback from Franklin High laid a big hit on a runningback who had made his way into the secondary.

Practice Notes:
Can't Get Enough: Jim Lambright was at the scrimmage today, two days after attending practice. Also present was Marques Tuiasosopo, who needs no further description. Tui sat in the stands and spent most of the scrimmage signing autographs for fans. Attendance for the game was impressive, with high school players, parents, coaches and fans lining both sides of the field and a good portion of the student section on the south side.

Justin Robbins update: Coach Neuheisel said after practice that he believes Robbins will go ahead and have his knee scoped to check for any damage. Neuheisel reiterated his hope for a Robbins return in the fall, but said the team will have to go about it - at least for now - as if the junior receiver is unable to go.

Dawgman.com Top Stories