Saturday Practice Spotlight

With practice number nine now in the books, the Washington Huskies have officially put on the pads and got down to some actual hitting and taking-the-player-down-to-the-ground tackling. It wasn't all that long - eight plays, to be exact - but the red zone scrimmage gave a taste of what's to come as UW starts to wind their way toward April 19th.

The team is now past the half-way part of spring, and the hitting was inevitable. But with the linebacking corps thin and the running backs suffering from not having Dwayne Washington and Jesse Callier available, there's only so much exposure to hits Chris Petersen will allow. That being said, the offense showed Saturday that they took Thursday's five-turnover beating to heart.

The air horn slung off the side of Petersen's hip remained there for the entire 150-minute practice in the Dempsey Indoor Arena.

"I'm in a no-win situation every day in practice," he said after practice. "Because when something really good happens part of me is thinking that's really bad for the other side - like the air horn. Awesome job by the offense - ball security in pads, but part of me thinks that's not very good by our defense. We've got to get some turnovers.

"And that's kind of how it is - the yin and the yang. But that's why I think practice can be kind of miserable sometimes for the head coach because when you're going against each other the whole time you have a tendency to say we've got to get this fixed, more so than saying this is really good right now. That's why we always say we've got to go look at the tape. Because maybe it was just great by the offense today, but I always think the turnover thing…the defense has to create turnovers. The offense will give you some now and again but good defenses create turnovers."

Senior center Mike Criste would love it if he never hears the horn again all year.

"Every time you hear that horn it's like a shot in the gut," he said. "When you're not hearing that horn when you're going through practice and it's farther and farther into practice and you're like, we're doing pretty good. It gives you that extra boost to do better because you don't want to mess that up. You want to keep that streak going."

"Turnovers is the name of the game; whoever's got the ball has a chance to score," added Criste's position coach, Chris Strausser. "The nice thing is, the o-line takes total pride in the fact that we're completely involved in the whole turnover thing. They don't think of it as - hey, it's the quarterbacks and those guys and the receivers. It's all of us. So to not hear that horn blow - which doesn't happen much - guys are excited by that."

As a result of the offense not turning the ball over, the defense had to run three gassers at the end of practice. One of the main architects of the offense's clean sheet was sophomore quarterback Jeff Lindquist. "I love not running, but especially I don't like making my linemen run - because a lot of times they've got nothing to do with it," he said. "It's for me and Troy (Williams) to know that we don't have to make our linemen run. Also, it's kind of fun to watch the defense run."

The media isn't allowed to talk to Williams yet, but if we did there's no doubt he be beaming after his Saturday practice effort. The redshirt freshman from Los Angeles unofficially threw for six touchdowns and ran for a couple more in the scrimmage and team periods.

The gem of the bunch was a pretty ball to DiAndre Campbell laid right over the outstretched arms of safety Brandon Beaver and fitted in-between Marcus Peters and Trevor Walker. Walker was also the victim of a pretty throw and catch from Williams to senior TE Michael Hartvigson in the corner for six.

Petersen hasn't been long on effusive praise for any player singled out so far in camp, and he was again reserved on heaping Williams with accolades for his play. "I think both guys are making progress, I really do," he said. "To comment on a quarterback right after practice, it's very hard for me to do that because I'm looking at so many other things. That one I really do need to go back and confirm the tape. I do know Troy snuck a couple balls in there and we need to look at the tape to say, 'Was that really a good decision? When we play for real are you going to get that in there or not?' And so sometimes they jump the gun, but I think both guys are truly improving."

Coach Pete may also reserve his comments for Campbell, the senior from Oakland who walked with the seniors last fall but has come back into the program in a big way. With Kasen Williams out and Damore'ea Stringfellow currently suspended, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound receiver had three touchdowns from Williams during team periods, looking strong and assured catching passes downfield.

Since Saturday was the first time they really allowed some tackling to the ground, you would have thought the defense would have been the ones to build on Thursday's effort and lay the lumber, but it was the offense that seemed to relish the challenge.

"There's a lot of team periods, it helps to get the competitiveness going and brings out the fighting nature in everyone, gets us in that fighting mode," said Criste. "We're not trying to think too much, we can just react to what's going on in front of us, but still do the plays."

For Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith, the first 'live' practice is an invaluable tool to help gauge individual development.

"You definitely want to be able to evaluate guys - who can make a tackle, who can break a tackle," he said. "We're limited by how much you can do that. We didn't want to do that too early because guys were learning and feeling things out. But you want to create some energy going live and we've gone eight practices now - we've got to have some situations where it's live and guys can tackle."

Petersen Talks About Miles - Saturday was the first chance the media had to ask Petersen about the status of Cyler Miles, the 6-foot, 217-pound sophomore quarterback that has been suspended this spring, along with Stringfellow, after an alleged assault near campus on Super Bowl Sunday.

The King County prosecutor's office announced Thursday that Miles would not be charged because of a lack of evidence, while Stringfellow would be charged with two counts of fourth degree assault and one count of third degree malicious mischief.

"We just haven't really decided on that whole situation," Petersen told the media when asked about Miles' status, giving rise to the chance that the quarterback may practice before the end of spring. "It's kind of one day, one week at a time. There's no reason to rush anything. We're always going to do the right thing. Everyone has their opinion on what the right thing is, but we've got to do the right thing by the school, by this program, and by the kids as well. I've said this before; this is such a political job. I'm never going to make decisions because of political reasons to make me look better. That's not why we're in this thing. We're in this thing to do the right thing on all accounts. Sometimes things just need to play out."

Petersen added that right now it's not a matter of finishing his own fact-finding mission; it's more about making the right decision. "When we come to conclusions on this we'll let everybody know. I just don't want to talk the talk."
Quotable:
Chris Petersen, on the longer post-practice huddle Thursday and building team chemistry - "It's all about trying to get to know your teammates better. I think when you do that it's…it's more fun. Just because you're on a team doesn't make you a teammate, and certainly doesn't make you a good teammate. We're working on those things. We've all, including you all, have been on teams that maybe had some talent, and at the end of the day thought you were going to be really good but for whatever reason couldn't put it together. I always come back to the chemistry and unity of things and we've all be on teams where it's like, we might be okay, but you have those special seasons and you think - at the end of the day it's because I respected and liked that guy and those are magical situations. Those are memories we all have, and that's why we're always trying to re-create that great team and be a really good teammate."

Jonathan Smith, on what are you working on with the footwork drills for the QB's where they throw the ball into a net? - "We're really trying to program their techniques, and at times really slow it down so they can physically feel what I'm asking them to do. When they try to go out there and go full-speed, hopefully - eventually - the thing will get programmed. Whether we're talking about trying to get our elbow up or feet apart and being comfortable, being subtle with our moves…all kinds of techniques like that. That's what we're trying to do, program things to they physically feel it and then go try and operate."

Chris Strausser, on developing depth with some potential starters out - "I think that's great and that's what spring is all about for the most part - young guys getting a chance to compete and see what they can do. I hate having Micah (Hatchie) and Dexter (Charles) out; I've never had a chance to coach those kids. I'd like to do that. But for everybody else that helps. It's a good thing."

Keith Bhonapha, on using Shaq Thompson at RB - "When you think about college football and where it's at today and when you think about college football in general, it's about having these young guys that have talent and doing your best to maximize the talent that you have, not just in your room, but on your team, and if there comes a point where Shaq can help us on the offensive side of the ball, we'll use him, but what wouldn't be fair to him at this point is getting into fall camp or getting into the season and throwing him at running back so that's why we're kinda laying the foundation here in spring ball to get him ready if that does occur. He's definitely a natural, a natural athlete, and if you put him on any side of the ball, as you guys have seen the past few years, he's going to be successful."

Jeff Lindquist, on getting to know his teammates - "Just getting a lot of their background stuff, like Dwayne (Washington) used to ride dirt bikes growing up and Marcus (Peters) is in a family of five…so little facts like that. It's fun. You learn some funny facts about guys. It's always good to hear things like that."

Deontae Cooper, on being different from last year - "I'm feeling stronger. I'd have to compare the film, but I definitely feel stronger. I feel quicker out of my cuts. My straight-line speed, I never was really afraid of that, it was always in and out of my cuts."

John Ross, on which DB's give him the toughest time - "Outside, it's Marcus (Peters), Travell Dixon and Jermaine Kelly and Brian Clay too and on the inside, it's Trevor Walker, Brandon Beaver and Patrick Enewally."

Mike Criste, on Danny Shelton's comment about Tanigawa possibly having All-American potential at Center - "Colin's has always been a great linemen wherever you put him…right, left, wherever. So is Danny. Danny is a hard guy to go against, but he's making us better."

Cameron Van Winkle, on the new coaching staff - "I really enjoy this staff. I'm actually getting meetings every day, watching film which is something new to me. I've always wanted a coach to watch film with."
Links:
Quick Saturday Practice Report
Saturday Practice Videos
Chris Petersen Video And Quotes
Jonathan Smith Video And Quotes
Chris Strausser Video And Quotes
Keith Bhonapha Video And Quotes
Jeff Lindquist Video And Quotes
Mike Criste Video And Quotes
Deontae Cooper Video And Quotes
John Ross Video And Quotes
Cameron Van Winkle Video And Quotes


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