Practice News and Notes - 8/15 AM

The Huskies were in full pads Friday morning as they went through one of the most spirited practices of the fall. With Saturday's scrimmage marking the final day the team will be in Olympia, the Husky coaching staff made sure each member of the team knew exactly what was to be expected of them.

The calmness and quick decision-making of third-year quarterback Casey Paus highlighted the morning, as the sophomore out of Illinois looked poised each time he dropped back to pass. In a hurry-up offense drill, Paus waited in the pocket and rifled a pass to Sonny Shackelford for a first down. That play was a microcosm of the way Paus has grown in the Husky offense over the years. He has really started to come on in recent days.

Paus also spent time working as the backup holder, and despite having to handle a couple errant snaps, looked to have the duty down. Cody Pickett is still the number one guy in that department, however.

The prettiest pass of the practice came care of Pickett, who hit Charles Frederick in stride on a deep ball after the junior receiver had broken free in front of Roc Alexander.

Alexander, however, had a solid practice, using his make-up speed to knock away several passes. He made a great bat-down on a ball intended for Frederick late in practice, swatting away a pass thrown from Pickett.

Derrick Johnson teamed with Alexander as the first team corners, while up-and-comer Matt Fountaine, who head coach Keith Gilbertson singled out as a rising player after practice, and Dre Simpson manned the second-team. Sam Cunningham, who returned to full speed, ran with Kim Taylor on the third team.

Gilbertson said that the team expected Chris Massey (hamstring) back for the morning practice, but Massey was unable to go. That's the bad news. The good news is that he was one of just five guys wearing red jerseys. The others were Joe Toledo (groin), Ben Bandel (knee), Clay Walker (shoulder), and Charles Smith (hand).

One youngster who stepped up in the senior's absence was Cody Ellis, the freshman out of Puyallup High. On one-on-one drills with receivers, Ellis put his tremendous speed on display and batted down a ball intended for Shackelford. Coach Snow took notice, shouting to the rest of the cornerbacks, "Did you guys see how he did that." It was just one of several fine plays by Ellis.

On the offensive side of the football, the two second-year freshmen tailbacks, Shelton Sampson and Kenny James, continued to be 1a and 1b on the depth chart. They were followed, in order, by Chris Singleton, Rich Alexis and Scott Ballew.

Following practice, Gilbertson said he has an idea of the top runningback but he didn't want to expand on the issue until the team conducts its scrimmage on Saturday.

Jon Lyon, Andy Heater and Jason Benn got the bulk of the work at tight end with Toledo and Bandel nursing injuries. Dash Crutchley got a couple snaps as well.

Lyon ran with the first team, but it was Benn who continued to impress. After a up-and-down spring, the big tight end out of O'Dea High is having a better fall. He's holding on to the ball better, and has the body to become a great blocker down the road. Though Toledo, Lyon and Bandel get most of the attention, Benn is a guy that can't be counted out.

At receiver, it was a tough morning for Anthony Russo. The freshman from Lakes High dropped a couple passes, appearing to lose confidence in his hands, at least for a while. It was really the first time in camp that he's struggled holding on to the football. Shackelford and Corey Williams each also had a couple balls go through their hands. It happens to the best of them – Wednesday it was Bobby Withorne who struggled, uncharacteristic of the sure-handed receiver. The day before, Quentin Daniels had one slip through his fingers.

The team spent a lot of time going over special teams, a positive sign for a Husky bunch that struggled in that department under former head coach, Rick Neuheisel. The competition at place kicker is fierce. Evan Knudson appears to be automatic inside of 30 yards, but Michael Braunstein has a bigger leg that is just as accurate. Knudson's ball has an end-over-end rotation, while that of Braunstein tends to have a little rotated action with a little draw on it. If it works it works, and for Braunstein it works.

At punter, Gilbertson says he likes the improvement he sees out of each of the guys vying for the job – Sean Douglas, Isaak Woldeit and Garth Erickson. While Douglas is the scholarship guy and quite obviously has the biggest leg, Woldeit has been more consistent and is making a push for the job. It's a spot to keep an eye on.

The team tried some new faces snapping the ball today. Rob Lewis, for one, got some time as the long-snapper. It's a move the team hopes could pay off not this season – Tim Galloway is the long-snapper for now – but some time down the road. Lewis looked natural, and most of his snaps to the punter were right on target.

Mike Mapu, the junior college defensive end out of Arizona, also got a look at short-snapper. He ran with the second unit there after Jerome Stevens handled the first-team duties.

Practice Notes:

Hemphill arrives in style: Sporting a sideways hat, Chris Hemphill arrived at the end of the morning practice and watched the team run through drills. Hemphill, a 6-foot-6, 210-pounder from Gardena, Calif. will likely be tried at defensive end or outside linebacker. First he'll need to gain weight, making a redshirt season likely.

Hemphill spoke briefly to the media once practice had concluded.

"I'm happy to be here," said Hemphill. "I thought I'd be here earlier. Things didn't go as I expected, but all in all I got everything I needed to accomplished in order to be a Husky. Basically, I'm ready to compete." Top Stories