Practice news and notes - 8/12

The weather in Olympia Tuesday afternoon was the exact opposite of the day before - sunny, warm and plenty of blue sky to go around. And when it came to practice this afternoon for the Washington Huskies - their only full workout of the day, the emotion and chippiness of yesterday turned into determination and grit today.

There wasn't a hint of a scuffle Tuesday, although Terry Johnson and Greg Carothers could be seen sorting through defensive schemes in an animated way. It's clear that 'Tank' and the 'Helena Hitman' are going to be the vocal leaders for the defense this fall.

Husky head coach Keith Gilbertson singled out Jerome Stevens after practice as one of the players that has earned the right to play with the starters. Stevens, a senior from Oxnard, California, has trimmed himself down and is working like a true dawg, bumping himself past Tui Alailefaleula as one of the interior DL expected to start against Ohio State.

Gilby also mentioned Matt Fountaine, a redshirt freshman cornerback from Oakland, California, and younger brother of former UW defensive star Jamal Fountaine. "He just makes plays," Gilbertson said, and Matt did have an interception on Tuesday, a diving effort after being tipped by Brandon Ala. Speaking of defensive backs, Chris Massey sat out this afternoon with tightness in his hamstring, a precautionary measure. Joe Toledo sat out as well with a sore groin but Gilbertson expects the tight end from Encinitas, California back on Wednesday.

In Toledo's absence, Gilbertson singled out Ben Bandel and Jon Lyon as two of the other tight ends to have been solid contributors at camp. Bandel, a 6-7, 260-pounder from Murrieta, and Lyon, a 6-5, 245-pound transfer from Saddleback JC, earned praise for their pass-catching skill.

Bandel, in particular, was showing great concentration in traffic, taking big shots as the ball was delivered. Carothers and WIL Marquis Cooper levelled big Ben on a couple of occasions, but he held on to the rock. He also had a gorgeous diving catch to stay in-bounds in the back of the endzone, showing a lot of focus and athleticism.

Kenny James took over the starting RB duties midway through the practice, as Shelton Sampson came down with migraines. He was held out but expected back tomorrow. James, Chris Singleton, Scott Ballew and Rich Alexis all had glimpses, but didn't have the collective great day they did yesterday. Pass protection will have to be a point of emphasis as they continue to lock horns in hopes of getting the starting spot. That spot will go to the best overall back, not just the best pure runner.

The group that really delivered was the receivers, led by the vets - Reggie Williams and Charles 'ET' Frederick. They ate up the secondary. In the final two periods of 'Thud' 11-11 drills, they started on their own four and QB Cody Pickett immediately to his bread and butter.

Enter 'Sauce' Stevens. Rob Meadow, who has had as productive a fall camp as any of the offensive linemen, was just blown to bits by Stevens, as he wrapped Kenny James up right by the goal line.

From there on out, it was a battle royale, with the coaches working hard on 3rd down conversions and stops. Isaiah Stanback had an unbelievable throw on the run, where he found Corey Williams flashing across the middle in front of Clarence 'Dre' Simpson and delivered a strike. The true frosh from Las Vegas took the ball in stride and sprinted home for 6.

Gilbertson mentioned how he continues to be impressed by the play-making skills of the young receiving corps. Anthony Russo and Bobby Whithorne are making plays on the inside, while Williams, Quintin Daniels, Sonny Shackelford, Charles Smith and Craig Chambers are stretching the field vertically.

And this isn't even factoring in another playmaker in Jordan Slye. The 6-5 redshirt frosh from Franklin High had perhaps his best practice of the fall today, highlighted by a fantastic jump and grab over Derrick Johnson, who was covering him like a blanket. Slye's catch, near the sidelines, got some well deserved 'ooohs' and 'aaahhhs' from those Husky fans in attendance.

Gilby wasn't about to give the linebackers short shrift. He singled out Scott White, the redshirt frosh from San Diego. "I don't know what it is about him, but every time I look up he's making a play." White finished off Tuesday's practice with a sweet pick off of Pickett, which made the rest of the defense go nuts. Scott is going to give Marquis Cooper all he can handle in the battle for the starting spot at WIL (weakside inside linebacker).


Notes:
Injury report: Massey, Toledo, Clayton Ramsey and Josiah Wilfong were all in red this afternoon. Erik Berglund returned Tuesday after complaining of shortness of breath Monday.

Special teams: Jerome Stevens and Jason Benn worked on short snaps with Tim Galloway, and Galloway worked with Andy Heater and Owen Biddle on deep snapping. Frederick, Shackelford and Russo were the main punt return guys Tuesday. The placekickers, both Evan Knudson and Michael Braunstein, were very accurate today, but did suffer through another block, courtesy of Sam Cunningham.

Big 'Tus: Gilbertson singled out offensive guard Tusi Sa'au for his play as being one of the players coming into camp that has broken out and is competing hard for a starting spot.

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