Thursday Practice Spotlight

SEATTLE - With Washington's annual spring game - or to be more precise, the spring ‘event' - this Saturday, it officially marks the end of Husky Spring Football. So this spotlight is going to help tie up some loose ends, some storylines that have developed over the course of the last 14 practices.

Feeding the Team - The NCAA announced Tuesday that it would not be capping the amount of food a student-athlete could have, a move made in the face of some unwanted publicity spotlighted by Connecticut senior guard Shabazz Napier, who talked during the days leading up to the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship game about going hungry - something seemingly inconceivable at the highest levels of competitive college athletics. You can read more about the NCAA's decision HERE.

"I don't feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I'm starving," Napier now famously said. You can apparently add some UW student-athletes into that same group.

"We've been needing meals," linebacker Travis Feeney said, matter-of-factly. "Sometimes we don't get meals, sometimes it's like what (Shabazz) Napier was saying - you go home hungry. You don't eat. We're young kids, gotta learn how to manage your money. People don't manage their money right and you don't have any money to manage to get any food! Now with the NCAA passing this it helps us out a lot."

"Yeah, we be staving sometimes, but we can't complain. We deal with what we get, and right now what they give us is enough," added cornerback Marcus Peters, who added that he usually has to call his family or ask his teammates for help if he doesn't have enough money to pay for food. "We can't ask for too much. We just have to deal with it. I wouldn't complain if they gave us a little more money. Sometimes that scholarship check can pay for a lot of things, but it goes out the door."

Clay is Showing Up - What if players like Feeney and Peters, scholarship players, had to pay their own way? That's what Brian Clay, a junior defensive back, is doing. Two years ago the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Clay was on scholarship at Hawaii. Now he's a walk-on defensive back for the Huskies. Why? Why would a player forgo what Clay calls ‘free money to go to school' to pay his way?

"I got here because my mom has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and they have the best medical facility in the nation," he told Dawgman.com. "Coach Keith Heyward, I knew him from the previous staff, and I told him that I was interested in coming up here. I wanted to leave Hawaii and I'd sit out an extra year, but he gave me a spot. It was a perfect fit."

Clay spent last year on the service teams, but now he's making his mark. Thursday night he blocked a kick; in other practices he's picked off passes. He's playing special teams and he's handling multiple responsibilities along the defensive backfield.

"Man, Brian is doing an excellent job so far," Peters said of Clay. "He brings the versatility that we need. He can play corner, he can play safety for us, and we're going to need that because we're so young in the back as far as the safeties. We're going to need an older guy. He's been here for two years. He didn't really get to play last year; he got to sit back and watch. He knows how to practice. He brings it to practice every day. He's just an excellent person to have out there in the secondary. It's amazing how much of a positive guy he is every day. He brings a positive attitude every day. He's an excellent guy, he brings that love that you need. If you're down he'll pick you up. We feel the same about him. If he's down we'll pick him up. He's just an amazing dude."

If you would have asked Clay a year ago that he'd be getting as many reps as he has this spring, he wouldn't have believed you. Now it's a matter of showing up on film and taking his opportunities when they come. While he's fighting his battles on the field, Clay's mom is doing her best to win her battle too.

"She's doing good. She comes up twice a month. They are trying to find a cure right now. MS has no cure, but she's working on it."

Psalm Brings Rugby Mindset - Ask Psalm Wooching, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound converted sophomore defensive end, if he considers himself a football player, and he'd say yes. But he's not a football player first.

"I'm a rugby player at heart," Wooching said. "Last year was kind of hard tempo-ing down and offense was kind of sit back, wait for the defender to come and get you. But now I'm on the other side of the ball and I can inflict pain and play…Polynesians love to play and use our head, love to bang - so that's what I like. Rugby, there's no shame - all courage…can be a big guy in front of you, a small guy in front of you, and you're going to hit him the same way, you're going to attack him and use your techniques all the same."

Defensive Line Coach Jeff Choate is convinced of Wooching's spirit and toughness. "That guy plays hard now, he only knows one speed," Choate said. "Not just on the defensive side of the ball but also for me on special teams. I think he has great value there in that area. He's a young man that is very raw, played on the offensive side of the ball a year ago, coming back over to defense. The one thing you're never going to question with him is effort. He's got a long ways to go in terms of some of the technique things, but I've seen progress on him. Really after the first two-and-a-half-weeks he kind of took off and you could start to see him understand. I think he's a guy that's going to have to get some quality downs; we expect great things from him on special teams."

Wooching can't wait to parlay what he's learned in his DL crash course to the summer, where he'll continue to perfect his craft - including techniques and tricks of the trade from players like Hauoli Jamora to push his game to the next level. He may take his lumps along the way, but there's no quit in this rugby warrior. "I'm always trying to be the best and beat the best, so you've gotta learn from it," he said.
Quotable:
Pete Kwiatkowski, on spring practices so far - "I'm happy with the way they've continually upped their effort level and their consistency in their effort during practice. We're always talking about stacking back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and I think they are starting to finally grasp that concept. When they bring the energy and they make it fun - even when they're not feeling it? They feed off each other and you get a lot more done, a lot more quality reps. And if we can keep doing that we're going to be good."

Jeff Choate, on the development of the DL from the first practice to now - "It's really interesting because that room is really diverse. You've got a handful of kids - about five or six kids - that are seniors that have played a lot of football, because of all those downs have a lot of football IQ. And then we've got a lot of young kids. There's not a lot of juniors, not a lot of sophomores. It's kind of a small middle group, big inexperienced group and a group that's played a lot of football. So it's been kind of a balancing act in terms of how we feed them the information, because you want to make sure you're challenging the older guys and continue to see them develop and progress, but you don't want to lose the younger guys in the room. So we've watered down some of our calls when we've gotten some of those younger guys in the game. We started to accelerate those older guys and I think we're seeing some stuff in terms of the energy and the effort that they're playing with and they are understanding the basic schemes that we're putting in. I feel good about where we're at, I really do. We're blessed to have some depth there, which is really, really critical."

Andrew Hudson, on some of the younger DL players that have stood out - "Specifically two players I think have, that play that same defensive end spot - JoJo Mathis and Marcus Farria - I think those two, I'd just like to get with those guys and in that position know that we're solid and we're working in-season and out-of-season. And if we can do that in our position, create some tight-knit relationships in the off-field work together, I feel we can really bring full circle what coach Petersen is talking about."

Marcus Peters, on anyone else in the secondary picking it up? - "Brandon Beaver. He's making excellent plays back there. He's a little nicked up right now but he's making excellent plays back there as a free safety. He's getting his opportunities and taking advantage of it. He's coming out there every day to learn and to get better. Just come out and make plays for us, at the end of the day that's all he needs to do."

Travis Feeney, on Keishawn Bierria - "Keishawn, it's a full-turnaround, 180 degrees from last year. He's getting the game, he's coming along fast. He's getting it all the time; he's just reading his pulls, reading his gaps, he knows the plays, he knows the defense. He's going to surprise you. Now I'm the old guy. I just remember last year I was the freshman coming in, redshirted freshman playing - now I'm the old man. It's good to see another young guy develop and come along. He's going to be real good."

Psalm Wooching, on leaning on the senior DL to show him the way - "Hauoli (Kikaha) has been my mentor since I came here. I came here early after graduation. He took me in and kind of showed me the way, and now I'm back on his side so it's good to learn from him. After practice you'll usually see me stick around with him and he shows me some techniques and breaks it down for me."

Brian Clay, on who is talking the most on defense about Saturday - "I'd say our d-line. They are ready to go huntin' right now. They've been putting in work the whole time, so I'd definitely say our d-line."


Links:
Quick Practice Report
Thursday Practice Videos
Pete Kwiatkowski Video/Quotes
Jeff Choate Video/Quotes
Andrew Hudson Video/Quotes
Marcus Peters Video/Quotes
Travis Feeney Video/Quotes
Psalm Wooching Video/Quotes
Brian Clay Video/Quotes


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