Fall Practice Spotlight: Day Three

SEATTLE - The first day in pads is always a little antsy; guys want to cut loose and get back to what they love - hitting the snot out of the guy in front of them. But with Washington's first full pads practice still two days away, the Husky player had to scale back their penchant for popping pads - but not their enthusiasm.

A Day of Firsts: With another glorious summer day as their backdrop inside the newly renovated Husky Stadium, Wednesday was the first time the team was able to use the tunnel to enter and exit practice. The new tunnel isn't exactly in the same spot as the old tunnel - but it's not far off. The new tunnel is just slightly west of the old location, and it doesn't have the old tunnel feel. The new 'tunnel' has more of the feel of a wedge that's been carved out between the west and northwest stands that opens up the farther you walk into it. UW fans won't have any problems recognizing where the team comes out for games - that part hasn't changed in decades - but it does have a look and feel that's different from the old location.

It was also the first day for the team to get some hitting in. NCAA Acclimatization rules prohibit full pads until the fifth practice of fall camp, so the Huskies won't be able to really go 100 percent scrimmaging until Friday. But that's never stopped Steve Sarkisian and his team from trying to get in as much contact as possible within the rules. And even when it's just inadvertent, these players can't help but get their licks in when they can. Ryan McDaniel seemed to be the target Wednesday, as freshmen JoJo Mathis and Azeem Victor put the redshirt frosh running back down on his backside with some big hits.

Most of the time, however, 'tackling' was done via 'thud' tempo - meaning tacklers will wrap up and secure the tackle, but won't take the player to the ground. This is done to prevent injury, and for the most part the team can go pretty close to full speed without incident. But when it does happen, a quick blast from Sarkisian in the general direction usually reinforces the point; stay on your feet!

One thing wearing some pads does allow the coaches to do - pass protection drills. Watching the running backs and tight ends block linebackers and defensive backs was entertaining. Austin Seferian-Jenkins was beat twice - by Shaq Thompson and John Timu - and looked very frustrated as the UW defenders blew by. At 275 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins is as big a downfield presence as ever but seems to be just a touch slow off the line - and that's all big-time athletes like Thompson and Timu need.

One of the H-backs - Joshua Perkins - did well on his reps and freshman David Ajamu - once an offensive lineman at Shelton - showed decent technique and tenacity.

Not much news is very good news: Again, for the third day in a row there really wasn't any earth shattering news in terms of injuries or the NCAA Clearinghouse. In fact, all the players that were injured in the spring were back and looking strong again on Wednesday - and any players that are sweating out Clearinghouse approval have either been cleared or are still waiting because they all practiced.

There was some minor injury news to discuss. Shane Brostek, who was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Tuesday was not wearing it Wednesday - but he wasn't practicing either. Instead he was with Grey Ruegamer, toting a sledgehammer and doing something that looked the equivalent of the old-school sledgehammer game you'd do at the carnival. But I don't think the sophomore from the Big Island was going to get a big stuffed teddy bear for his efforts. Also, Jaydon Mickens sat out most of practice wearing yellow for no contact. He participated Tuesday but then sat out mid-way through with an apparent arm/shoulder issue and sat Wednesday too. Again, he was at practice all day and did some work with special teams but not much more than that. And for the third-straight day Erik Kohler was not at practice.

Interesting DL Combinations: The first team defensive line has been pretty consistent since the beginning of fall camp; it's been Danny Shelton sandwiched between the Hudson Brothers from different mothers - Evan and Andrew - and either Josh Shirley or Cory Littleton at the rush spot. Today Littleton took the spot with the ones, and the next group to come out consisted of JoJo Mathis, Drew Schultz, Connor Cree, and Shirley. The next group was Marcus Farria, Jarett Finau, Tani Tupou, and Hauoli Jamora. There's no doubt Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi are getting tons and tons of film on all these guys to see who can make up the most dynamic foursome.

Kicking Duel: Cameron Van Winkle was 2-4 with a long of 43 yards, all taken from the left hash, while Travis Coons was 2-2 with a long of 38 - all from the right hash. Could it be kicked by committee, depending on the spot? Still way too early to tell. Sarkisian was visibly upset when the two Van Winkle misses were due to a very poor snap by Ryan Masel and then a very poor hold by Thomas Vincent. When the battery was able to get in sync, the next kick went through perfectly.

Ross Stating His Case Early: We talked about this during our Wednesday night radio show on SportsRadioKJR: if there's one true freshman that is really making a strong case as a sure-fire starter come August 31st, we think it's John Ross. With Mickens out nursing an injury, both Ross and Marvin Hall are taking control of the position, and it's a great battle to see. But the true frosh from Long Beach just comes at the position with athleticism I haven't seen since Mario Bailey. His explosion off the ground to catch jump balls is effortless, and his cutting in and out of routes is extraordinary for a young player. He had one route where he totally turned fellow frosh Trevor Walker and then was able to climb the ladder and come up with a great catch along the sideline, one where he also had the presence of mind to drop one foot in-bounds to complete the play.

Plays of the Day: My Play of the Day was a forced fumble and fumble recovery by Princeton Fuimaono on Joshua Perkins. It was a great strip. Runner-ups? Greg Ducre picked off Keith Price on a pass intended for Kasen Williams that looked like it could have been a pick six in real time, and Sean Parker also picked off Price on a pass meant for Seferian-Jenkins downfield. Parker read Price's eyes and got a great jump on the pass; ASJ never had a chance.

UW Moves to the VMAC Thursday: With the Seattle Seahawks in San Diego prepping for a pre-season game versus the Chargers Thursday, Pete Carroll handed the keys to the VMAC (Virginia Mason Athletic Center) over to Sark and the boys. With Washington playing five away games on grass (Illinois (Soldier Field), Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State, and UCLA), Sarkisian stressed post-practice the importance of being able to get practices in on grass fields. When asked if it's something they might consider for game days the weeks of travel, he said they have thought about it, but travel to and from Renton due to players' school schedules - as well as VMAC availability - will ultimately dictate whether or not they'd be able to pull that off.

Thursday's practice is closed to the public and the media.

All-In-One Links List: Here are the links for the various post-practice interviews we did.

Steve Sarkisian
Johnny Nansen
Marques Tuiasosopo
Eric Kiesau
Will Shamburger
Marvin Hall

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