Tuesday Practice Spotlight

SEATTLE - It feels like forever, but game week is finally here. And just like that big exciting trip that seems so far out in the distance that you don't think about it much, the event seems to come out of nowhere and you're scrambling to make sure all the little things are taken care of before you leave.

And that's what Steve Sarkisian and his staff are doing this week - working out the kinks, getting the mechanics straight and putting the finishing touches on their game plan for San Diego State.

It was clearly evident during Tuesday's practice, complete with an officiating crew on hand (as they usually are). Every time Sark saw a yellow flag hit the field turf, he looked unhappy. When he followed up with the side judges or lead official about the call - typically a false start or motion penalty was to blame - he would visibly show his displeasure.

The good news was that when the team finally came together for their typical end-of-practice group period, there was no yellow to be found. The period took place penalty-free, which had to have pleased Sarkisian, as it looked like the mechanics and the details of the play-calling and execution had been cleaned up.

Injury Update - Basically it looked just like how Sark laid it out Monday - Deontae Cooper, James Johnson, Hauoli Jamora, Jamaal Kearse and Nate Fellner were at practice but not dressed. Johnson had a big cast on his right arm and Fellner was wearing a boot on his left leg. Kearse was wearing a white sleeve on his left leg and limping noticeably.

DiAndre Campbell was in yellow Tuesday - still not sure exactly what caused his injury or what exactly it is, but he seemed to be moving around just fine.

Players returning to action - Even though he didn't do too much, it was good to see Ryan McDaniel with full pads on. He still has a pretty big knee brace on his right knee but he was running around a bit. He's certainly a redshirt candidate, but it was good to see that he's already running around and testing the knee to see how much stress it can take. By next spring he should be flying around without any issues.

Kevin Smith was also back and it was good to see him running around with the No. 1 offense. He's clearly not carrying the same kind of speed he had pre-injury and it's going to take some time before he trusts his injured knee 100 percent, but just seeing him out there running routes and catching passes was a very positive sign.

Though he's practicing with the twos, freshman Shane Brostek is literally playing with a club from his right guard spot. The cast completely envelops Brostek's right hand.

It should also be noted that while Steve Sarkisian has all the quarterbacks wearing full knee braces for their left knees (in case of getting hit on the blind side), Keith Price is not wearing any brace or big rubber sleeve for his right knee. All it looked like Tuesday is that he was wearing a white sleeve similar to what Kearse was wearing on his injured leg - but that was it. He hasn't had any mobility problems at all for fall camp, so it's all systems go for Price as he gets ready to take on SDSU in 100 percent health.

Offensive Play of the Day - We've talked about this guy so much during fall camp it shouldn't be a surprise that Jaydon Mickens came up with the grab of the day, a 50-yard bomb between two defenders. The catch reminded me of the Jermaine Kearse catch a couple years ago on the final game-winning drive at Cal - a diving, sliding effort.

The second Offensive Play of the Day came courtesy of another true frosh - Cyler Miles - and redshirt frosh Jamaal Jones. Miles hit Jones perfectly in stride on a route to the sidelines on the last play of practice that was picture perfect. Miles couldn't have thrown the ball any better.

Defensive Play of the Day - Can't say I've seen this very often, but some of the UW first team defense hit a ball carrier so hard his helmet literally popped off his head like a champagne cork. Dezden Petty's helmet jumped about five feet in the air after the collision. It all happened in a group that was moving pretty quickly so it was hard to tell exactly who caused it - although John Timu and Travis Feeney were right there at the scene.

Linebacker Roulette - With all the changes that have taken place at linebacker since the start of spring camp, it's been nice to see a little stability and 'normalcy' at the position on Tuesday. I put 'normalcy' in quotes because it's all relative - but right now Travis Feeney and John Timu hold the No. 1 LB spots with Shaq Thompson roaming the slot and close to the line of scrimmage as another LB/nickel back. Taz Stevenson, Thomas Tutogi and Princeton Fuimaono were also involved with the group - and let's not forget about Josh Shirley too. While Shirley's expertise is getting after the quarterback he'll be asked to cover receivers too. During one play on Tuesday Shirley tracked a receiver 30 yards downfield to break up a pass.

O-line doing their jobs - During the team period it was easy to get a great look at the battle between Shirley and sophomore right tackle Ben Riva, who is scheduled to make his first start on Saturday. If Tuesday is any indication, Riva will be ready for whatever the Aztecs throw at him because Shirley was trying to come at him from all angles using a variety of techniques and Riva stood strong and looked sure in taking care of Shirley. On the other side it was hard to tell just how well Micah Hatchie was doing against the other ends - Talia Cricton, Andrew Hudson, etc… - but I didn't see any major breakdowns with the offensive line today, so it looked like Hatchie did his job well too. Erik Kohler started at right guard today but I would expect James Atoe to see action Saturday as well.

Coons not sharp on Tuesday - Travis Coons was 4-8 today, two missed from relatively short and two more missed from between 40-45 yards. The usually kick on the far end of the field, so it's difficult to know exact yardages. That said, probably the worst day I've seen for Coons statistically since the first day of fall camp, and that's saying something. The junior college transfer has been money so far in fall camp, so it's hard to know if it was just an off day or if this is the start of a game week where nerves start to creep in.

Turnover Tuesday? - Even though the team didn't go through any fumble drills or work on trying to strip the ball that doesn't mean it wasn't happening. On one particular play Justin Glenn was able to reach in and rip the ball away from Evan Hudson after it appeared Hudson had secured the ball on a pass. Desmond Trufant also came up with a pick that he would have most likely returned to the house in a live game.

The interesting thing about Tuesday's practice is that during the defensive scout it appeared that the offense would purposefully 'salt' in some blown snaps between the center and quarterback specifically to see how quickly the defense could read the botched play and react to get the ball. I have to say in the few instances where it looked like the scout was deliberately trying to see how quickly the defense could pounce on the ball they didn't do a great job of recognizing what was happening. Perhaps in a game scenario when the adrenaline is really running and focus is razor-sharp that will change.

Quote of the Day - Again on the Mickens bandwagon, as the true frosh was able to maneuver past safety Will Shamburger to haul in a perfectly thrown ball by Keith Price. As Mickens cut upfield to finish the play, he raced right by the reporters on hand.

"That's a touchdown!" he screamed at the top of his lungs in-between whoops.


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