Wednesday Practice Report

Sean Parker got his first hit in Wednesday, and it felt good. It was against running back Jesse Callier during Washington's third practice of fall camp, their first in pads. They won't be able to go full pads until Saturday night per NCAA rules, but that didn't stop Parker and Callier from saying hello.

"We met heads," Parker said of his 'greeting' with Callier. It's the first contact he's taken part in since getting hurt the week of the UCLA game last season. Neck stingers can be a tough thing to overcome, but he's doing his part to make sure it doesn't happen again. "It's coming along good, but I have to get back used to the tempo in full pads," he said, chalking up last year's injury to 'poor form'.

"I know to use proper form now," he said.

"It's obviously really early but he's doing a really, really good job," Washington DC Nick Holt said of Parker. "He's in shape. He looks quicker. He's always had some nice football instincts but he's getting more mature physically and he's moving a lot better and I think when it's all said and done like we thought last year he's going to be a really good football player. He's really instinctual and tough and a good tackler and understands the game and we've just got to keep him coming and get some depth behind him."

Parker wasn't the only defensive player looking to get his licks in. Desmond Trufant knocked Dezden Petty's helmet off after the frosh fullback sprinted through the line for an apparent touchdown. On the next play, receiver DiAndre Campbell was met by a horde in white, his hat ripped off. Whenever Trufant or his cornerback partner in crime - Quinton Richardson - made a play, they would acknowledge each other, even if they were a field width apart.

"Full pads, that's when they really crank it up," UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said after practice. "But I'm proud of our guys; we're getting better. It seems like as the springs and then the fall camps and then the springs come we're getting a much better understanding each time around of how to practice in shoulder pads. Less guys on the ground, still too many, but less guys on the ground. We're understanding that we can still play with really good pad level but yet not go to the ground. That's what we're fighting for and striving for as a staff because once guys go to the ground, that's when injuries occur, so hopefully we can keep the integrity of pad level right so that we're not playing too high but yet not going to the ground."

There's no question though - after two days in what the coaches would call 'practicing in their underwear', the intensity certainly gets bumped up a notch or two knowing they can knock some players on their butts without too much recrimination.

"I think the intensity level obviously rises," Sarkisian said. "I don't know if the defense was necessarily that sloppy. I thought they performed pretty well, outside of a couple plays here and there, I thought that they performed well. I think up front, on offense, at times it can get sloppy because guys are getting used to hand placement and pads and different things and getting off on double teams. I don't know how well we got to the second level on our blocks today. We got caught on some double teams and backers were scraping free and I think you saw Cort and Princeton make quite a few plays today in the run game because they weren't getting blocked."

The defense definitely tried to pump up the intensity via their shoulder pads; the offense did it with the big play - led by Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams. Smith caught at least two touchdown passes during the final hour of practice, and Williams, the frosh from Skyline, took a Keith Price pass 65 yards for another score.

"I like those kinds of touchdowns," Sarkisian said of Kasen's romp. "Throw it about two yards and it goes sixty. That's what he brings to the table, he has that type of ability and it was good execution by the entire offense really."

But it was the sophomore Smith who seemed to come up biggest when the offense needed a spark. "I love what Kevin's bringing," said Sarkisian. "He's a strong kid physically. Strong hands. He's really grown in the position of playing wide-out. He was a guy who hadn't played a whole lot of football prior to us getting him and he's gotten better and better and better and he's confident now, believes in what he's doing so I'm impressed with him."

Wednesday marked the return of Sione Potoae to full-go after sitting out the first two days with some knee inflammation. While not getting a ton of full team work, the sophomore from Lakes went through the whole two-hour practice, coming out of it none the worse for wear.

"I thought Sione's really very close," Sarkisian said of Potoae. "I thought that yesterday and he showed even more of that today, so he's close. Semisi's getting better; it's just taking longer than he wants, we want and all that. He's hungry. But it's good to have Sione getting closer."

Holt was very happy to see Potoae back in the lineup, but he was less enthused than Sarkisian about what he saw on defense Wednesday. "We weren't very sharp today, especially early," he said. "Our pad level was really early and we weren't striking. We were kind of catching. We weren't sharp today. We've got a long way to go. We've got a lot of bunnies out there that need a lot of reps. It looked like basically a third day of practice --- we were sloppy and playing really high. We've got to get our pads down.

"I thought the vets that have been around, they did okay," he said. "And the young guys were all very wide-eyed this afternoon and didn't really get it, and that's understandable because they haven't been around here for a full year of practice, or a practice of this nature. But they will get with the program, and the old guys --- like Desmond (Trufant) and Everrette Thompson and Cort (Dennison) --- they've got to get the young guys on board here. And they will. It's a good group of young guys."

One of his veterans - Alameda Ta'amu - has been consistently ripping up the interior of the offensive line, and while Holt acknowledged he's 'ruined' some phases of practice for the offense, he wants to get the complete package - a force that can be consistently called on during every down.

"Sometimes Alameda picks and chooses his spots; he needs to do that all the time," said Holt. "I think with competition and him trying to be a leader for some of the younger guys, hopefully he ruins every practice or we have to tell him to slow it down. That's not going to happen, because the offense is pretty good themselves, but that's what we want out of him, and we just have to get it out of him more consistently."

The competition level has certainly been pushed up, but more importantly for Holt, they aren't having to rely on first-year players to man key positions any more. 2009 is now a distant memory in that regard.

"We have some depth," he said. "You look at the individual lines, they are so much longer. We're not counting on true freshmen to go in right away and be a second-stringer or first-stringer. We get to develop them, hopefully. It's still early. That's where I see the biggest difference. I think maybe our skill level has increased, but I think we have more numbers of better football players. That's what I see more than anything. And now it's our job to get them better."


Notes:
Young pups showing up: While Holt acknowledged the improved depth and experience of this year's UW defense, he was asked about some of the true freshmen that have impressed him so far. "I think Marcus Peters is going to be a good player," he said. "He kind of shows flashes. Our two safeties (James Sample and Travis Feeney), once they figure it out - they are flashy guys. They are big, tall, long, rangy kids that can run. You notice them on film. They don't know what the heck they are doing yet, but they can cover some ground. I think Danny Shelton is very impressive. He physically can play right now because he's so big and strong, and he is athletic. Now we'll see if he can stand up to the grind of being a d-lineman in the Pac-12 Conference, because that's very hard for a 17-year old to do. Physically he has all the makings to some day - some day - be something pretty special."

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