FRIDAY: 8/24 PM

The Washington Huskies wrapped up their final practice at The Evergreen State College this afternoon with plenty of scrimmaging in full pads. A large gathering of fans ringed the soccer field and watched as the Huskies prepared for their first scrimmage tomorrow.

The pads were popping early as tailback Rich Alexis and safety Greg Carothers locked horns during a tackling drill. They went heads-up on one another and really muscled it out until both were on the ground. Once up, they went after it again in celebration, each happy with their effort and that of their teammate. Dual head slaps and husky howls were exchanged by the two big hitters.

Once that exchange happened it went downhill from there for the running backs, culminating with a Chris Singleton fumble. Running Backs Coach Tony Alford vented his anger as carefully as he could with so many fans in attendance. His troops got a little extra conditioning after everyone was leaving the field.

Safety Owen Biddle returned to practice and made an immediate impact by planting Chris Singleton to the turf hard. Fellow safety Wondame Davis looked especially sharp as he got a couple of the running backs to completely whiff as he shot right towards the dummy quarterback. Davis is competing well for the safety spot opposite Greg Carothers. He impressed his coach when he found a gap on run support and took big Rich Alexis down one on one.

It's hard to believe but with four starts on his resume, Carothers is the leader of the secondary because of his experience. "It's a role that he has assumed, no question," said Coach Rick Neuheisel after practice today.

Receiver Reggie Williams got off to a fast start this afternoon, burning RayShon Dukes and Lenny Haynes on the first two balls he caught. If Washington played tomorrow, it would hard to keep the true freshman from Tacoma from cracking the starting lineup. Todd Elstrom and Paul Arnold also looked particularly sharp. "There's some exciting competition at that spot," said Neuheisel.

Willie Hurst got off to a fast start during the 9-on-9 drills, busting through the line on the first two plays from scrimmages for good gains. Offensive line coach Brent Myers was especially pleased with the work of sophomore Nick Newton, giving him props after Willie went wild downfield.

After a careless fumble by quarterback Cody Pickett (which was recovered by Larry Tripplett), the defensive play of the day came courtesy of true freshman Manase Hopoi. The REB from Sacramento just crushed quarterback Adam Seery before he could pitch the ball on an option. Hopoi crashed through fellow freshman Willie Kava's block.

The punt return teams then took to the field, and returning punts were receiver Charles Frederick, receiver Reggie Williams, tailback Willie Hurst and cornerback RayShon Dukes. Although it's hard to say who may be returning the first punt against Michigan, Hurst and Williams look very sharp so far.

True freshman Will Conwell was the deep snapper this afternoon. He got a couple balls high, but for the most part was solid. Both Jim Skurski and Derek McLaughlin are kicking the ball very well. There are always concerns when a new punter comes out to kick for the first time in a packed house, but Jim had a great spring and Derek is coming along nicely. The defense line of Larry Tripplett, Marcus Roberson, and Terry Johnson made it a tough go for the offense for the most part.

Both quarterbacks had their moments this afternoon. Pickett hooked up with Jerramy Stevens for a long gain and Barton followed that by threading a perfect strike to Williams on a post. Williams took one pretty good hit today from Sam Blanche, but shook it off in stride.

True Freshman safety Evan Benjamin made the play of the day on this drill as he went down to corral a bouncing ball that just eluded the grasp of receiver Will Hooks. Benjamin's pick brought the whole defensive unit to the middle for a healthy celebration. While this is just his first stab at camp, Evan has looked very solid and has given himself a chance to play this year. "Evan's got good size," DB's coach Chuck Heater said this evening. "He's kind of the prototype safety that we're looking for."

Husky Notebook:

Fair Catch: As was the case last fall, camp was officially brought to an end when the OL and DL went out to catch punts. The first group to make 5 catches wins while the losing side had to run the width of the field and back for finishing second. First up was Larry Tripplett, who sold out and caught the ball on the way down, causing the whole defensive sideline to erupt in cheers. Next for the offense was center Kyle Benn, who had a ball richochet off his pads, earning some jeers from the guys wearing white. Marcus Roberson took his turn for the defensive, and made a spectacular play, first catching the ball and then catching it again after it popped out of his hands. The guys in white rushed out onto the field for some well-earned celebration, as they mobbed Roberson. Elliott Zajac was next for the offense, and he tried to make a daring over-the-shoulder catch, but couldn't come up with the ball. So far it was DL-2, OL-0. Jerome Stevens went out next for the defense, and made a great diving stab, to make it 3-0. The whole defense kept getting more and more hyped after each catch, while the guys in purple were still waiting to make a dent in the scoreboard. They finally got that first tally when Khalif Barnes made a tough catch look routine. On the very next ball, DL Terry Johnson made a catch after waving off the first punt as being too short. OL Nick Newton caught his ball, making it 4-2 in favor of the defense. To this point, the defense had not dropped a ball, but that changed when Josh Miller couldn't get the handle on his. In Miller's defense, he still has a very heavily taped-up wrist, which made catching a towering punt pretty much near impossible. Todd Bachert did his best for the offenses' cause, catching a ball while falling down ala Tripplett, but Kai Ellis put the nail in the 'O's coffin as he caught his ball with ease, prompting a mass celebration on the D's sideline. The defense is now 2-0 in this drill.

Sims Out: True Redshirt safety James Sims broke his hand yesterday during a blocking drill and came out today wearing a cast. No surgery is required and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said that they expect Sims to be ready to go as early as two weeks from now.

Number 90 in the house: It was great to see Steve Emtman again, as the big man finally made it out to Olympia to catch the end of the action. He looked to be enjoying the sun and getting back to action with the other coaches. He worked a lot with Randy Hart's group.

Sweatin' to the oldies: The warmup music this afternoon took a trip in the wayback machine to the 80's, as Vanilla Ice, Right Said Fred and Tone Loc could all be heard blasting through the speakers. Right Said Fred's "I'm too sexy" earned some quizical looks from the players.

Giving the Seniors their props: Coach Neuheisel had the seniors stand up at the very end to get their due as the leaders on the team. They were greeted with a very strong reception.

Injury Report: Rick Neuheisel gave the following status for the scrimmage tomorrow - Roc Alexander (out, shoulder), Justin Robbins (out, hamstring), Jim Newell (out, shoulder), Patrick Reddick (out, hamstring), Ken Walker (doubtful, hamstring), Owen Biddle (wait and see, sore achilles), Charles Frederick (questionable, oblique).

1st Scrimmage: 1:45 the specialists work out, 2:30 is the beginning of the scrimmage. It's the only one that will be open to the public.

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