Thursday Practice Spotlight

SEATTLE - The media that covered Washington Football during Steve Sarkisian's time at Montlake remember the air horn as the sound that divided periods of play and individual instruction. Sark used it as a marker. Chris Petersen carries an air horn too, but he uses it in a much different way. And the way the Husky defensive played Thursday night, Pete's air horn got a lot of use.

"You can hear it…when the air horn goes off all the guys are yelling and whooping and hollering," Washington Defensive Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said after the 135-minute practice session at the Dempsey Indoor Facility. "They have to get three turnovers, and they don't run. If they don't get any they have to run three half-gassers. Anytime they hear one, they know they are that much closer to not having to run after practice."

Maybe because it was a night practice; maybe these Dawgs were ready to bark at the moon. But the defense clearly out-performed the offense, and the offense felt it when they had to do gassers at the end.

"I thought the guys were awesome today running to the football and working to get turnovers and stripping the ball out," Kwiatkowski said. "We got four or five of them. Obviously that's a big emphasis. Turnovers is the name of the game, and if we can get that we're going to be pretty happy at the end of the game."

Turnovers were the net result, but there may have been a change in philosophy during the spring break that helped to get the defense going.

"We've simplified some things and I think that's helped our guys play a little bit faster," said Defensive Line Coach Jeff Choate. "Coming back after spring back that was one of the things that we evaluated as a defensive staff that, let's hold things back a little bit, let's simplify what we're trying to do and let them master some things - let them play a little bit faster, get kind of used to the tempo the offense is playing at. Certainly having some veteran guys back like Hauoli (Jamora) coming back and getting John Timu out there help to start to gel things together."

With everyone getting back to the basics, some of the younger players have taken advantage. "You tend to get that when new coaches switch in and transition in to a new system," said senior defensive tackle Danny Shelton. "It's basically fair game. Me being the senior, I could easily get my spot taken by a freshman or a sophomore like Elijah Qualls. He's really working me. Tani Tupou, he's doing a really good job. It's kind of tough for me."

With Timu, the senior linebacking captain, back from suspension, it's helped solidify things with the linebacking corps. There may be a new coaching staff at UW, but that hasn't taken away from Timu's natural skills as a football player. "He's a very smart player, very instinctual," Kwiatkowski said of Timu. "He understands concepts, so he understands it really fast and he's out there getting guys lined up first day. He's really good at that."

But the competition at linebacker has been joined by the four redshirt freshmen. Azeem Victor spent the first two weeks running with the ones in Timu's absence, and both Sean Constantine and Connor O'Brien have gotten a ton of reps, but Linebackers Coach Bob Gregory singled out Keishawn Bierria as the young player he's seen the most from so far in camp.

"I think the guy that has probably showed the most since we got here is Keishawn Bierria," said Gregory. "He's done a really good job, he's making plays, he's getting lined up quick, he's making calls. He's progressed the most."
Pete Kwiatkowski, on the night practice adding some adversity to practice for the players… - "Any time you change a guy's schedule it throws a little kink in whatever their thought process is and how they are going through the week. That's part of our deal; if the bus breaks down, who cares? Let's go. Let's get another bus and go. Whatever the adversity is that happens, it's just part of the training and part of the process of getting these guys ready to go."

Jeff Choate, on the possibility of seeing underclassmen DL play this fall - "We have to play a lot of bodies because of the style of teams that we play against. While I would think it's going to be difficult for a freshman to break into the starting lineup, there's probably some freshmen that are going to play. We signed seven defensive linemen in this class; six, but Jaimie Bryant was in the previous class and he's here now too. So that's a lot of guys. We're going to have to have some of those guys step up. I would think out of a group that large you're going to have one or two that's ready to contribute in some way, shape or form."

Bob Gregory, on Shaq Thompson running the football - "I'm totally good with it. As long as you keep him healthy, I'm totally good with it. If that helps us win games, we're all for it."

Danny Shelton, on who is standing out for him on the OL when he goes up against them - "An addition that really caught my eye was Colin Tanigawa, seeing him at center. He's a beast, man. I feel like that position there, he could get All-American easily, because he's just a beast when it comes to offensive line and attacking people. It's good seeing him out there and Sifa Tufunga too, seeing him starting with the ones at guard and he's really working hard…seeing the games that we play he's really doing what he has to do."
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