Wednesday Practice Report

SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian said he started to see it Tuesday, and Wednesday's practice confirmed it - for all the hard work and effort Washington had put into their fall camp practices, it was time to throttle it back a bit to, as Sarkisian said after Wednesday's shortened workout - 'get fresh as a football team'. So Sarkisian decided to cut short a planned two-hour practice by one period.

"I had a feeling yesterday," Sarkisian said. "We had a great practice last night. I loved our practice last  night. It was physical, tough, grinding. But I look at our guys and we had a little reception over there at Conibear with our families and the guys coming in, they didn't have quite the same pep in their step as they did a couple of weeks ago, and understandably so.

"It's been a physical camp. And so we had one more segment planned for today, but as practice went on I said let's get fresh now. Let's get fresh as a football team."

Don and Carol James were both at Husky Stadium Wednesday, and coach James addressed the team during practice. Even though 'The Dawgfather' started his UW tenure as head coach back in 1975, Sarkisian said the current players were well aware they were listening to arguably the greatest Husky Head Football Coach of all-time.

"Oh yeah, they knew," Sarkisian said of James' talk. "We brought him out and he addressed the team early in practice. He talked about how proud he was of them last year and what we were able to do at the end of the season and persevere and what the challenges would  be this year for our guys, especially early in the season, and what it would take to overcome those challenges. He was fantastic."

As you would expect with a practice where James was around, things got physical and competitive. The offensive highlight of the day was Kasen Williams with a catch over Ken Egu that rivaled the one that Alabama's Tyrone Prothro had a couple years back against Southern Mississippi, where he caught it over the DB's head and held onto it while they rolled on the ground.  Kasen's wasn't that incredible, but darn close.  He was able to actually pull the ball back after catching it behind Egu's head.  

The defensive play of the day was made by sophomore safety Taz Stevenson, who forced James Johnson to bobble a Nick Montana pass, and was able to catch the bobble in stride while Johnson's momentum carried him to the sideline.  The whole defense got pretty riled up on that play.

Now that the heavy lifting has been done, Sarkisian laid out the events and practices that will take place over the next few days as the Huskies get into serious work mode for their home opener September 3rd versus current FCS champs Eastern Washington.

"We've got a practice tomorrow morning, situational stuff," he said. "And then tomorrow afternoon is actually a walk-through of our walk-through. We're going to walk-through our walk-through for Fridays as we get ready for the game next week. And then Friday we will have a mock game, kind of a dress rehearsal of game day where we will do all of our meetings from game day to pre-game meal to wearing our uniforms and go through the substitutions and situations of what a game will be like.

"We'll have our Raise the Woof celebration Friday night over on the East field and then Saturday we will give them the base gameplan for Eastern Washington. And then we will practice Saturday morning and then camp breaks and they get to check out of the dorms. We give them Sunday off to be normal for a day and then we crank it back up Monday and get ready for a ball game."

The EWU game will be the first game in the history of the Washington program where they have played a non-FBS program. Only three other schools in FBS - USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame - can now make that claim. Sarkisian knows 1-0 is the only goal that matters on UW's chalkboard, and they are doing everything they can to make sure the game is taken very seriously.

"I feel good about where we're at," he said. "I think we've really done a nice job as a staff of identifying the issues that have come up, that have popped up, and that could potentially come up down the road when you have a young football team. That's dealing with the special situations, those little things that come up at the end of ball games, or at the end of halves. I think our staff has coached really well, and to the credit of the kids, they've really responded. They've locked in when we needed them to lock in. I'm excited for 10 days from now, but I know there's plenty of work for us to do before then."

One first-year player that has seemingly been able to make it through fall unscathed - and has even excelled - is defensive tackle Danny Shelton. The 6-foot-1, 334-pound DT from Auburn suffered a massive family tragedy earlier this spring when his older brother Shennon was shot and killed. Sarkisian spent countless hours at the hospital where another one of Shelton's brothers was recovering from being shot during the same incident.

"It was obviously a very difficult time for he and his family and I remember the night it happened - I was with he and his family at the hospital, and it was tough," Sarkisian said. "It was tough on him, but he's used that as a motivator. His brother meant a lot to him, and him coming to the University of Washington meant a lot to his brother. Now that he's here, he's using it as motivation - I don't know how much he thinks about it, but I do periodically check in on him, just to make sure he's doing OK."

Washington Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt believes Shelton will become a special player in time - and that time just might come sooner, rather than later.

"It's amazing, for such a big kid, he's a really good athlete, he has fantastic feet," Holt said of Shelton.  "If he's going to play 70 plays, I think that's not realistic.  I think he'd try to do it, but, how big he is, that's not going to happen.  If we can get 30 to 40 snaps out of him, I think that would be really, really good for a true freshman.  Hopefully we don't need him that much, but he's such a good player I think he's going to play that much every week when it's all said and done."


Notes:
No injury updates - Quinton Richardson, Jordan Wallace, Chris Polk were all out at practice Wednesday in street clothes, as were RB Deontae Cooper, and also CB Adam Long, who made his first appearance back on the field after having ACL surgery earlier in the year. Holt's EWU Headaches - You would think after watching all the available film of Eastern Washington, the biggest headaches for DC Nick Holt would be figuring out how to stop their spread game, how to get to Eagles QB Bo Levi Mitchell - in short, whatever is required to stop the team expected to repeat as FCS champs. But instead, Holt said it was the new red turf at Roos Field - EWU's stadium - that was causing him the biggest headaches. "It gets you pretty good; it gives you a headache, so you just have to fight through that one," Holt said with a smile.

Who will start at punter? - It's not a glamour position, but the punter battle between seniors Will Mahan and Kiel Rasp, has been a terrific one. Mahan boots a long punt, and Rasp is right there with one of his own - and vise-versa. "I'm just happy to be in it at the end, and I just hope the stats tell the truth. That's what camp is all about," he said when asked what it's going to take for Sarkisian to make a final decision before the season opener.

Could Mahan and Rasp be part of a plan that finds them both contributing to the team effort, through different situations, or through different roles? "I think the coaches are trying to find a way to get us both on the field, but I'm not sure how that's going to work out," Mahan said. "I think coach Sark's got a couple of tricks up his sleeve."


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