Practice Spotlight - Day Twelve

SEATTLE - As Day Twelve finished up for the Washington Huskies they lost another offensive linemen, meaning the chances they'll actually do a Spring Game in the traditional game mode is basically nil. Siosifa Tufunga broke his right hand, meaning the Huskies have only eight healthy offensive linemen to finish out their remaining three practices - six of those players are scholarshipped.

But as the numbers dwindled on offense, the highlights mounted on the other side of the ball.


The List:
Player of the Day - Have to give the nod Monday to linebacker John Timu. The true sophomore from Long Beach, Calif. was causing havoc all day in the backfield on blitzes with his cohort, Princeton Fuimaono, and he also came up with the play of the day. The more Justin Wilcox utilizes the 34 look as his base, the more Timu looks a natural in the middle. If he can shore up his tackling mechanics - something I know he's been focused on all spring - Timu will be a hard man to keep out of the lineup this fall.

Play of the Day - Timu came up with the lone pick of the defense during 7-7's; a pretty full-extension snag of a ball intended for WR DiAndre Campbell thrown by Keith Price. The ball was thrown well, but the play by Timu to break on it and jump the route with a dynamic horizontal stretch was impressive. He also had a great pick-six on a play called back a couple practices ago, so Timu is most definitely finding himself in the right places more often than not in coverage.

Hit of the Day - It was more of an 'oops' hit - meaning he could have leveled the receiver if it was in a game, but because it was practice it was done at 'Thud' tempo - but Adam Long hit Kasen Williams coming over the middle hard enough to send the sophomore from Skyline reeling. Long, the senior from Los Angeles, got some kudos for that knockdown.


Notable:
If the defense is getting better, does that mean the offense is getting worse? - Not necessarily. See, the balance of power doesn't work proportionately when playing against yourself. Last year UW fans were gung-ho about Nick Holt and the improvement made by the defense against a young Keith Price and offensive line, as well as a little-used Chris Polk. It was only after the fact when the Huskies' D was giving up points at a prodigious pace where the cracks from the spring could have been seen.

This spring UW has a tangible weapon in Price, but the OL comes back almost as a complete unknown without Drew Schaefer, Colin Porter and Colin Tanigawa available. And with the Huskies using a multi-headed monster at running back, just how effective will they be come fall when they have to pick up yards for real? And looking at the defense, it's not as if the Pac-12 are going to rack up touch sacks for them; players like Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson and Danny Shelton are going to have to wrap up for real.

So in other words, what you see during spring has to be taken with a grain of salt. It can be very deceiving. It appears as if the defense is stepping up and really firing off now that Wilcox's 34 scheme as taken shape and they are comfortable with it. But against a suspect OL, the DL could come into the 2012 season as a paper Dawg and not an actual Dawg.

And again, that's the pitfalls of trying to project anything when a team is only allowed to play themselves. It's always customary to come out of Spring Football with a cautiously optimistic attitude, and this spring should be no different for UW fans. But if things do start to go sideways on either side of the ball, just look back to what took place during the games all the way back to spring - and I suspect you'll be able to connect the dots accordingly.

That being said, the offense is not resting - There's no question the leadership quotient of the offense is down in a big way; gone is Polk, gone is Kelemete, gone is Kearse and Aguilar. With Keith Price stepping into the void, it sure feels like he has the kind of charisma and want-to to get the offense centered around him - in the huddle and outside of it. But Price is going to need some help, and it's going to be up to players like Drew Schaefer, Kasen Williams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, James Johnson, and Kevin Smith to add their sizable talents into the mix to create the chemistry needed to take the offense to the next level. Unfortunately, Schaefer, Johnson and Smith are all out hurt, so it's up to Price and the two true sophomores - Williams and ASJ - to carry the mantle right now on the field. And if you were at the end of practice Monday, you'd feel good knowing those three are the future of Washington's O. While Seferian-Jenkins was at it solo on the blocking sleds, Price and Williams were honing their communication on pass patterns. They were the last three players to leave the field, as it should be. They've seen how the defense has stepped their act up over the last week or so and it sure looks like they want to respond in kind. We'll see how strong that response it the next couple practices leading up to Spring Game.

Who is Nate Ryals? - He's the walk-on punter this spring brought in much the same way Kiel Rasp entered the program. The redshirt sophomore from Mountlake Terrace can boom them, but as you would expect he's not the most inconsistent kicker. But it's nice to see that they've at least created some competition for frosh Korey Durkee this fall, just like they did with Erik Nothstein for Travis Coons.


Quotable - "Yeah, I'm fine with that. Again we are not trying to beat our defense --- that's not the goal of spring and it never has been for us. I think our defensive coaches have done a nice job of, one, teaching concepts and schemes to our defense and two, providing a nice boost to morale and our guys are playing hard, they are playing excited and energetic football and playing physical. They are making plays on the ball and creating turnovers and that's a real tribute to the defensive side of the ball. Offensively it's about taking young players and developing them and getting them better and learning from mistakes so we don't continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over. I think we have some guys that are understanding that and are growing and other guys that have kind of leveled off in a sense and are continuing to make the same mistakes and that's not okay. But those are the issues I'm more concerned about from an offensive standpoint is who is making the strides and who's not and how do we fix that, how do we get guys collectively all taking the right steps.'' - Steve Sarkisian, on if he's fine with the defense being ahead of the offense so far this spring

Here's quotes from some players we spoke with Monday (big thanks to Scott Eklund, for helping with some of the transcriptions):
Ben Riva
Derrick Brown
Kasen Williams
Erik Kohler
Bishop Sankey
Michael Criste


Recruits in the House - Not very many Monday morning, but we did see Tacoma Bellarmine Prep Safety/WR prospect Calvin Chandler roaming the sidelines with his father Jeff, who played center at UW.


Injuries/Redshirts - Cooper Pelluer unfortunately donned a redshirt Monday, but the silver lining was that he was in full pads, so hopefully his shoulder injury sustained last week is not a serious one. Lawrence Lagafuaina was in red too for the first time this spring, and like Pelluer, he was also in full pads. They joined the two players that have been in red all spring long - safeties James Sample and Travis Feeney. According to Sarkisian, redshirt frosh OG Siosifa Tufunga broke his right hand early during Monday's practice, while James Johnson (concussion), Drew Schaefer (knee) and Alec Kimble (foot/ankle) seem to be the main injuries that have been sustained in the last few practices.

On the plus side, Jesse Callier and Cody Bruns (ankles), as well as Scott Lawyer (groin) seem to be working their way through their nicks, while Schaefer was geared up and had his knee braces on, so it might just be a matter of time before the senior center comes back.


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