Huskies sharp tonight – ET breaks silence

With only four days left before the long awaited home opener against Michigan, the Husky players worked through a spirited practice that had coach Rick Neuheisel pleased with the effort afterwards.

"I thought today's practice was crisp," Neuheisel said. "I talked before the practice about really starting to tune up. I think the scouts understand what kind of tempo we need. It's what I was looking for on a Tuesday before a big game like this (against Michigan)."

The coaching staff came out of the tunnel with immediate energy.

Before the team could even get to their positions after stretching, coach Bobby Hauck was calling demonstratively for footballs to be delivered from the trainers, anxious to get things underway. His guys responded.

Greg Carothers stepped in front of a Casey Paus pass to snag it out of the air for the interception. As usual, one coach was mad, quarterbacks coach Steve Axman, while the other was elated, Hauck, who coaches Carothers.

Meanwhile, coach Brent Myers had his young offensive linemen working on final techniques before the Wolverines come to town. Redshirt freshman guard Aaron Butler and redshirt sophomore Todd Bachert earned praise from Myers.

When it was Larry Tripplett's turn to take on the youngsters on the offensive side of the ball, it wasn't a matter of if, but when he would beat them to the tackling dummy.

Perhaps the most fired up of all the coaches was cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater. He has seniors Omare Lowe and Lenny Haynes and redshirt sophomore Chris Massey as the only players at the position with at least two years of experience. Roc Alexander and Massey are in a heated battle for the started spot opposite Lowe, while Derrick Johnson still is waiting to here word on a possible return from an ankle injury.

Neuheisel said after practice that newcomer Sam Cunningham will definitely play this fall. Since Cunningham has arrived on campus, Heater has made sure that the freshman is familiar with all of his assignments for his debut as a Dawg, whenever it may be.

Inside linebackers coach Tom Williams is definitely pleased with the progress that Marquis Cooper has made since moving inside from outside linebacker in the spring. Today, he continued to impress when he darted in front of a Cody Pickett pass and made the interception. It was one of the few times all fall thus far that Pickett's been intercepted.

After practice, Neuheisel commented on the chances that fellow inside linebacker, freshman Joseph Lobendahn, would play this year instead of utilizing a redshirt season. "It remains to be seen whether or not Joseph Lobendahn will play," he said. "He certainly has impressed as a linebacker and he could merit some time."

The decision appears to still be up in the air. The hold up may be the depth at the position, where starters Jamaun Willis and Ben Mahdavi are being pushed hard by reserves Tim Galloway and Marquis Cooper. Tyler Krambrink, though currently injured, also figures to return within the first couple weeks of the season.

The punting competition is close. Lately, both Jim Skurski and Derek McLaughlin have alternated with good practices. Today, it was Skurski's time to shine. It's going to be a game-time decision for Neuheisel as to which punter he'll give the nod.

With red jerseys still scattered across the field, it's hard for Neuheisel to predict who'll he'll have back for sure in time for the season opener. "It's difficult to know that," he said. "I'm hopeful that everybody will play. It's possible. With guys like Derrick Johnson and Joe Toledo, we know it's more of a long-term situation."

Husky Notebook:

E.T. Speaks: After returning to practice last week, Charles Frederick spoke to the media for the first time today following practice and sounded like he'd put the entire incident behind him. "I'm very glad to be back," he said. "I was a little homesick but there were a lot of people back home who I talked to that cared about me and told me to stay up here with the guys and just pull through."

Frederick said that neither the move to cornerback for a day nor the scuffle with a teammate led to him feeling homesick and leaving practice last Monday. "No, that had nothing to do with it. I would have played cornerback if they needed me there," he said. As for the scuffle, he added, "that happens between players all the time."

Mr. Versatility: Come Saturday, the starting free safety will be Wondame Davis, the all-everything senior from Colorado who spent last season as a receiver. Coach Neuheisel has faith that he can play a solid role in the defense this season. "I asked him with the departure of Hakim Akbar a year ago if he could go back to defense, and he said, ‘all I want to do is play,'" Neuheisel said. "He's continually impressed us. He's certainly fast enough to play. The question you ask then is if he's durable. We've had a pretty physical fall camp, and he's been one of the few still standing. So I've been very impressed and hopefully he'll have a great season."

Freshman standing: It appears there will be less true freshman who will play this season. In 2000, nine saw playing time. That likely won't be the case in 2001. "Reggie (Williams) will play, Charles Frederick will play," Neuheisel said. "The likelihood is that Derek McLaughlin will play. I don't know if he'll start, but he'll play, I think."

Asked about defensive lineman Tui Alailefaleula, Neuheisel said, "He's another guy that probably is going to play."

"Right now the hope is that everyone else will redshirt."

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