Practice News and Notes - 8/15 PM

For the first time during fall camp, the Washington coaching staff took some of the heat off the team. The Huskies ran through the afternoon workout without pads and spent the majority of their time working on special teams.

Friday night, newcomer Chris Hemphill will go to bed and probably wonder what all this talk of intense, exhausing, three-hour practices is all about.

Hemphill's first practice as a member of the Washington football team, which he couldn't fully participate in due to NCAA guidelines for incoming freshmen, was far and away the most calm of the fall thus far.

The reason? It was only two hours, the players were without pads, and the practice was almost entirely centered around special teams.

While Hemphill worked on his backpedal on the sidelines, much of the rest of the team spent the first hour or so of practice watching the special teams units run through different situations.

They practiced the rarities of football, going over parts of the game that weren't covered in the past: kickoffs after safeties, kick returns after safeties, punt from deep in their own territory.

It was just the latest move by Keith Gilbertson's staff that hadn't been done in previous seasons. A few days ago, the team practiced overtime, another facet of the game that went unpracticed prior to Gilbertson's hiring.

A few quick observations of the kicking game and punting game:

At place kicker, Evan Knudson and Michael Braunstein are in one of the best position battles of the fall.

Each consistently nails anything inside of 30 yards. Knudson gets the ball up higher with straighter end-over-end rotation, as was noted this morning. Braunstien's kicks are a bit lower but with more behind them.

Neither has shown the ability to make anything longer than 40 yards, which will be a change from the past when good 'ol Johnny Anderson had the ability to boot them through from 50-plus.

At punter, Gilbertson said today that Garth Erickson has been the most consistent of the trio of punters hoping to win the starting job.

Sean Douglas, while inconsistent, is the scholarship punter. He potentially has the biggest upside, booming it the further when he hits it right, and it'll be difficult to leave him on the bench.

Isaak Woldeit is providing good competition, and can't be counted out of the race either.

Returning punts were primarily Charles Frederick, Anthony Russo and Scott Ballew.

At kickoff returner were Roc Alexander, Derrick Johnson, Ballew and Frederick. Alexander and Johnson ran as the first team unit. Whether that sticks, we'll know more after Saturday's scrimmage.

Once the team concluded it's work on special teams, there was the first semblance of a scout team. It included mostly freshman, with Carl Bonnell at quarterback and Louis Rankin at tailback.

Meanwhile, on the other practice field, the second and third offenses got some work with Cody Pickett running the show.

That's when Sonny Shackelford, who dropped a couple balls in the morning, made one of the only highlights of the otherwise workman-like practice. He ran a deep route and hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch with Kim Taylor in coverage. Pickett put the ball right where it needed to be.

Taylor rebounded two plays later when he picked off a pass that bounced off the hands of Corey Williams.

After 10 days of practicing, the Huskies will put what they've learned over the last week-in-a-half to use on Saturday in the first scrimmage of the fall. That'll be a time when some will rise up the depth chart while others will fall.

What's Ahead: The Huskies will hold the first scrimmage of the fall Saturday at noon at The Evergreen State College. Like all practices have been thus far, it'll be open to the public.

Injury Report: Gilbertson said after practice that he expects Ben Bandel and Clay Walker to participate in Saturday's scrimmage. Joe Toledo (groin), Charles Smith (hand) and Chris Massey (hamstring) likely will miss out. Top Stories