The scrimmage gave a sneak peak into what could be expected on both sides of the ball for Saturdays Spring Game. There were some exceptions, however. Ty Eriks, for one, who has been making a push at the starting fullback job, was unable to go today and wore a red jersey as a precautionary measure for a slight concussion. Cornerback Derrick Johnson also sat out the scrimmage to rest an injury to his leg that he suffered mid-way through practice.
But the rest of the scrimmage went according to plan. Cody Pickett, who wore a yellow jersey as usual to avoid contact, took advantage of the sunny conditions with pretty passes. None were finer than the one that went to Reggie Williams over the middle of the field for a 20-yard touchdown. Pickett threw a bullet into Williams' hands inside the five yards line, and the junior receiver did the rest, avoiding several defenders on his way into the endzone.
Both backup quarterbacks, Casey Paus and Isaiah Stanback, had a bit more pressure than that of Pickett, wearing purple jerseys instead of the yellow ones that they'd been accustomed to wearing all spring. That meant they were 'live', meaning they could be hit.
Neither Paus nor Stanback was asked to throw much, but they did get a chance to get a feel of what it was like to drop back in the pocket with defenders swarming around them. Paus felt the wrath of a sack when Tyler Krambrink broke around the weak side of the line for a hit on the sophomore's blind side.
Paus ran the option with mixed results, as was to be expected. The tall quarterback twice pitched the ball in situations when it would have been better to just keep it himself. But later, he made a wise decision at the goal line by keeping the ball and using his big frame to break through the line for a touchdown.
Stanback also got plenty of snaps getting used to the option. From the looks of it, there's still much learning to go, but the possibility of a long run is always there with the speedy Stanback controlling the ball. He did a better job of making the linebacker bite than that of Paus, but made several bad decisions to pitch rather than keeping the ball. On an option play with Shelton Sampson in the backfield, Stanback ran toward the sidelines and pitched to it Sampson when the tailback had nowhere to go. The play lost 15 yards.
Of the running backs, Chris Singleton appears to have moved slightly ahead of Sampson in the battle for the top spring back. It all may not matter once Rich Alexis and Kenny James return in the fall, but for now Singleton has opened some eyes as of late with his toughness and ability to run north-south rather than side-to-side.
Sampson still has a terrible time blocking, but did run well when given the chance today. Running backs coach Chuck Heater is working with him every day to try to change his habit of always trying to break outside the tackles for the big run. Backed up at his own goal line today, Sampson chose to run toward the sidelines rather than busting it upfield. He gained four yards, but got an earful from Heater shortly afterwards.
Both Singleton (shoulder) and Sampson (wind knocked out of him) had to miss practice for a short time, leaving only one active tailback. When that happened, Husky coach Rick Neuheisel yelled the words, "Scott Ballew!"
Ballew, a walk-on from Austin, Texas who moved over from the defensive secondary to receiver at the start of the spring, was the emergency tailback today. He looked a bit like Sean Sweat back there - tough to bring down. He had to learn on the fly, getting advice from the coaches on where to lineup in the backfield just as the ball was about to be hiked in the 11 on 11 drills.
Ballew also saw time on the special teams running as the gunner along with Derrick Johnson, Owen Biddle, Matt Griffith, and Sampson. It's hard to say which will start come the fall.
The kicking game continues to be a story of great place kicking and bad punting. No punters have stepped up to make a name for themselves, so Sean Douglas will have to come in and take over when he arrives from Nebraska in August. At kicker, though, Evan Knudson just keeps doing what he needs to do to make an impression on the coaching staff. The floppy-haired blonde booted home a 46-yarder again today with relative ease.
At receiver, Williams and Frederick each had their moments today. In a drill where the receiver gets the ball and has to beat a member of the secondary to the goal line, both shined. For whatever reason, Williams seems to really get fired up in this drill, and today was no different. During one instance he broke away from Derrick Johnson's grasp and did a little dance on his way across the goal line.
It was Frederick who shined the most, though. The shifty junior gave the defenders fits, often needing just one move to create enough space where he could literally walk into the endzone. Fun stuff to watch.
In the trenches, both sides had their moments. The one-on-one drills in the middle of practice put the offense up against the defense and made for some very interesting battles.
Of all the players, Robin Meadow looked to have the best day. The bulky redshirt-sophomore tackle was just too strong for Brandon Ala, and later did the same number on Stanley Daniels. The athletic Daniels failed to get around the De La Salle product in both attempts.
There were several other tremendous matchups. Terry Johnson took a while, but eventually overpowered Aaron Butler, two guys who came in together. Dan Milsten used his leverage with his height and his overall strength to pancake Dan Dicks. Nick Newton showed junior college addition Mike Mapu a thing or two, dominating the incoming junior.
But Mapu came back to destroy Andy Heater when the third-year tight end tried to stand in his way. Terry Johnson came back to humble Newton, who up until that point had yet to be beaten. "Tank" was just too strong for Newton, who is just getting over an illness. Khalif Barnes held off Manase Hopoi long enough to earn some respect, as Hopoi batted Barnes on the head afterwards as if to say "good job". Jordan Reffett had his way with Ben Bandel when the two went head-to-head. It's always fun seeing who can come out on top when the big boys knock heads.
Of note, Hopoi has traded places with Graham Lasee. That means that Hopoi is now a REB and Lasee, who had been playing there, is at the defensive end position called 'Husky'.
In the secondary, Chris Massey, Matt Fountaine and Kim Taylor had another day with extended reps and DJ and Roc Alexander were forced to watch from the sidelines while recovering from injuries.
Joe Lobendahn had another impressive practice, doing an excellent job covering the option. He was all over the field and gave the young quarterbacks a hard time making quick decisions. Lobendahn and Krambrink stood out with their play today at the linebacker positions. On an option play with Stanback at quarterback, Krambrink forced the young quarteback to pitch the ball then absolutely buried a startled Chris Singleton in the backfield. The Eatonville High grad also came down with a lucky interception that deflected off two sets of hands.
What's Ahead: The Huskies continue spring ball with their final practice on Thursday. The Spring Game is set for Saturday afternoon at 12:30.
Practice report - 4/22 PM
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