Practice Spotlight - Day Five

SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian asked his offense to step up after a somewhat lackluster Monday morning practice session, and they delivered. Fueled by the play of Bishop Sankey and Dezden Petty, the offense bit back, taking it to the defense during third down and short yardage periods on Wednesday, and responded well when the defense did manage to break through with a good play or two.

The List:
Play of the Day - It happened early on; with Jesse Callier out nursing a sore ankle, it was up to Sankey and Petty to handle the bulk of the No. 1 snaps, and during one period Petty came up with a pretty one-handed catch for a touchdown, a pure concentration play where the redshirt frosh came up limping afterward because of an awkward tumble to the turf.

On defense, the play of the day didn't come from a player, but rather a coach. Safety James Sample had a sure pick in his grasp during an early non-contact pass period, but he let the hard-thrown ball slip through his grasp. But johnny on the spot was GA Donte Williams, who went to his knees to come up with the sure snag.

Players of the Day - Sankey and Petty came to play Wednesday, and it showed up not just in the run game. Antavius Sims and Willis Wilson cashed in on a couple of chances to make first downs during a third down period, but it was Petty and Sankey - the sophomore from Spokane - who really came up big for the offense during third down runs, and also during short yardage situations. Petty was actually used a little bit at fullback too, and his strength really came through. He certainly can go through the tackles as well as Callier can, and with the inside taken care of Sankey took care of bouncing plays off-tackle for yardage around end. Both players showed consistent effectiveness, a combination of the offensive line doing their job, and then the natural vision and ball-carrying ability of both took over from there.

The running ability of the backs allowed the play action to roll, and it was in this part of practice where Keith Price and Derrick Brown seemed to have sustained success. Sarkisian mentioned the play of Cody Bruns, who nearly scored on a nifty pass from Price, and also the play of redshirt frosh Joshua Perkins. The work of players like Kasen Williams, James Johnson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Michael Hartvigson has been so rock-solid all spring that plays coming from them could almost be considered afterthoughts. But with Sankey and Petty stepping up in Callier's absence, that should start to quell any fears about potential lack of production from that position this fall.

The O-Line depth may be razor thin, but those that are playing are producing - The No. 1 offense line - Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Drew Schaefer, James Atoe, and Ben Riva - seem to be jelling together nicely this spring. This time, more than at any other, seems to be one where the coaches are going with their two lines they have available and rolling them back and forth. The No. 2 offensive line - Michael Criste, Ben Teichman, Siosifa Tufunga, Erik Kohler, and Ross Dolbec - hasn't really altered that much from when they first came out on the field over a week ago. And knock wood, but all the available OL are staying healthy and are taking care of their responsibilities. Schaefer, in particular, is leading by example. When he has to go up against the likes of Danny Shelton, Lawrence Lagafuaina and Sione Potoae, the senior-to-be center is as steady as they come, never wavering or looking like he could be a liability. And the linemen around him are following Schaefer's lead. Today Criste tangled with Josh Shirley in a brief exchange that was quickly broken up. It showed that while the DL is considered the better, more experienced line of the two, their offensive counterparts aren't backing down one inch - despite the fact that they are one or two injuries away from having a crisis situation on their hands.

The linebacker depth is starting to round into shape - It's become clear that both Justin Wilcox and Peter Sirmon are going to ask a lot of UW's linebacking group - namely knowing how to play all job along the second tier. And that also means the spots to play if the Huskies roll into a 34 look, something they've done a lot this spring. John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono have been the stalwarts inside to start, with ample backing from Thomas Tutogi and Garret Gilliland. Before he went under the weather, Jamaal Kearse appeared to be working initially on the inside. On the outside, players like Taz Stevenson, Evan Zeger, Matthew Lyons and Scott Lawyer are getting their licks in. Wilcox and Sirmon have not hesitated to put Stevenson and Zeger with the ones for most of camp, a move reminiscent of when Mike Cox brought Victor Aiyewa up from safety to play outside. All the senior did in his final year was become the Pac-10 leader in tackles for loss.

The competition between offense and defense is coming to a nice slow boil - With the energy up and both teams looking to out-do one another, it seemed like the offense would come out on top today - but they weren't the ones doing up-downs at the end of practice. While the offense certainly got the better of the defense during the early short-yardage/third down situations, the defense came back strong during the first part of the team period. Talia Crichton, Andrew Hudson and Corey Waller all had sacks during the team period, and whenever the offense made a big play - like Derrick Brown going over the top to receiver William Chandler for six, the defense came right back, courtesy of a Crichton sack. Whenever the receivers make a play downfield, the defensive backs come back to the sidelines anxious to turn the tables - although they didn't come up with a pick again for the second-straight practice. Sample and Will Shamburger had the best chances, but the ball - a little slippery due to some occasional drizzle - wouldn't cooperate.

The defense did get one fumble recovery, as Matthew Lyons was able to pounce on a botched exchange with Derrick Brown at QB.

It's not unlike Sark and the coaches to make the final reps during team period the most competitive, and often has the last play determine the winner altogether. That could very well have been the case Wednesday, as it appeared the defense won the final rep, and therefore could have taken the top spot away from the offense.

How will the team respond on Friday? - With two big days of hitting now under their belt, Sarkisian said that the team would take it a little lighter on Friday - not just to freshen up and keep themselves going for a big Saturday practice, but to also allow them to work on up-tempo things, keep the pace up. So expect this to be a regular part of UW's practice schedule from here on out; two hard days, followed by a lighter contact, up-tempo day Friday, and then a big Saturday practice.
Quotable - We spoke with Danny Shelton, Talia Crichton, and Desmond Trufant after practice, as well as with Thomas Tutogi and John Timu. Thanks to Scott Eklund for help with the transcriptions.

Danny Shelton Practice Quotes
Talia Crichton Practice Quotes
Desmond Trufant Practice Quotes
Thomas Tutogi Interview
John Timu Interview

Recruits/Guests in the House - Top-15 OG for 2013 - Sean Harlow - was at practice this morning, as well as three players expected to be available for Washington this fall; DE Pio Vatuvei, Juanita OT Nathan Dean, and Bellevue walk-on OL Michael Kneip. Kneip's coach, Butch Goncharoff, was there, as well as former Garfield HC Scott Laigo.

Redshirts/Injuries - James Sample, Travis Feeney, Cooper Pelluer still practiced in red Wednesday. Jesse Callier (ankle), Sean Parker (groin) were limited. Ken Egu was in sweats, but don't know the extent of his injury. Scott Lawyer had to stop practicing half-way through, but it was unclear what his problem was. On a positive note, it was the first practice where Colin Tanigawa was in his jersey and shorts, running around. The sophomore OG still appears to have some ways to go before he'll see the filed, but it was encouraging to see him jogging around with a limp and apparently pain-free.
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