Day Three Spring Ball Practice Wrap

For the first time this spring, the sun was out for more than a few minutes and it felt like an actual spring day on Montlake. The Washington Huskies went through their first shells-and-shorts practice to date, and as you can imagine there was some hitting going on.

Now obviously it’s all done at what they call ‘thud’ tempo, meaning you don’t take guys down to the ground and do whatever you can to make sure guys stay upright, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some ‘love tap’ moments. 

The biggest ‘oops’ hit of the day came courtesy of Ezekiel Turner on Myles Gaskin. To their credit, Gaskin got right back up, they slapped each other’s helmets and went on their way. No harm, no foul. But generally-speaking, they tried to avoid the big hits. 

The defense was definitely working a lot on blitzing, the timing and getting to the quarterback, so it was never going to be an easy day for the signal-callers, who were under pressure for much of the team periods. But when they did connect with the receivers, it was often for nice chunks. 

Some quick notes - Freshman-to-be Hunter Bryant was at his third-straight practice. Budda Baker was at the first half of practice. Benning Potoa’e had his right foot looked at but stayed at practice. John Clark was carted off, unsure of his injury status. K.J. Young seemed to come up slow on a play where Byron Murphy picked off a pass (one of two on the day), and was limited the rest of the day. 

Here’s a quick position-by-position look at what took place.  

QB: KJ Carta-Samuels continued to get the majority of first-team reps, with Tony Rodriguez and Daniel Bridge-Gadd splitting the twos. I thought Rodriguez and DBG had the better days, with Rodriguez coming up with the throw of the day, a great double-move to Quinten Pounds along the sideline that had Kentrell Love beaten five yards off the snap. It was a dime, perfectly thrown in stride. But Rodriguez also had the bad throw of the day, a pick-six given up to Myles Bryant that Bryant also caught in full flow. 

RB: With Lavon Coleman out, Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant got the bulk of the number two carries behind Myles Gaskin, who continues to just do his thing. Like last spring, Gaskin gets in his work with little fuss. McGrew hit the scene running, literally. We knew about his straightaway speed, but his ability to hide behind a big offensive line and then explode into a hole or cut-back is nonetheless impressive. Pleasant also had his moments, but probably made more ‘splash’ plays catching the ball. 

WR: Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher got their work in, but it was guys like Aaron Fuller and Pounds that stood out today. Fuller made a couple very nice catches in traffic, and Pounds definitely flashed. The bigger guys like Brayden Lenius and Ty Jones certainly look the part, but didn’t quite stand out as much as they did earlier in the week. 

TE: This group is an easy one to figure out. It’s Drew Sample, Will Dissly and David Ajamu, while Jacob Kizer continue to learn the ropes. That’s it. The first three are definitely getting their work in and from time to time can be seen going downfield and catching passes in the seams. But where they are doing the bulk of their damage, as was the case last year, is at the line of scrimmage. I think it might be hard to find a better trio of blocking tight ends in the Pac-12, perhaps nationally. 

OL: With just shells and shorts it’s still hard to really see a lot of ‘improvement’ from the OL, and there really hasn’t been any movement in the seating chart. Trey Adams and Jared Hilbers at left tackle, Andrew Kirkland and Henry Roberts at left guard, Coleman Shelton and Matt James at center, Nick Harris and Jesse Sosebee at right guard, and Kaleb McGary and Devin Burleson at right tackle. We’ll see a lot more from these guys next week when the full pads go on. 

DL: Same thing with the defensive line, although they are still missing a big piece of the puzzle in Greg Gaines. Expect him to line up with Vita Vea when the ones are called, but don’t forget Jaylen Johnson. He’s going to be a key component along the DL. Shane Bowman, Jason Scrempos, Levi Onwuzurike, Ricky McCoy and Jared Pulu are getting extended reps, and Clark was too before he got hurt. 

LB: Lots of mixing and matching going on right now. Inside, Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria are holding it down, backed up by Sean Constantine and Ben Burr-Kirven. Expect DJ Beavers to be in that two-deep mix when he gets back. Wellington and Camilo Eifler are firmly ensconced at the threes. They are really deep inside. Outside, again a lot of mixing and matching. It’s hard to put players at specifically BUCK and SAM anymore because they are being asked to know both roles. Benning Potoa’e and Tevis Bartlett have the ones locked down right now, and Bartlett is really playing well - especially when it comes to getting after the quarterback. They are backed up by Jusstis Warren and Bryce Sterk, with Amandre Williams and Myles Rice backing them up. 

DB: Another loaded group. A bit green out on the edges, but so talented. Jordan Miller always brings an edge out to the practice field, and he was letting guys know about it. Would be stunned if he doesn’t already have one of the corner spots locked up. Byron Murphy has the early lead in the race for the other starting spot, and there are three guys right behind him: Bryant, Love, and Jomon Dotson. Dotson is getting a lot of love and on-field teaching from Jimmy Lake and the other players right now, from footwork to positioning to eyes and everything else. Dotson is drinking water from a firehose, and sometimes you can tell he’s a bit behind the rest. At safety, Turner, Jojo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp form a fearsome, physical group of safeties, backed up by Trevor Walker and Isaiah Gilchrist.  

Special Teams: This was the first day we really got to see the punters do their thing, and it was fun to watch. It’s interesting that there’s no Tristan Vizcaino, who is UW’s main placekicker now, but the position might be in better hands this fall. Between juco newcomer Joel Whitford and walk-on redshirt frosh Race Porter, Special Teams Coordinator Bob Gregory has a lot of versatility and options to work with. Whitford showed he can rugby punt to all parts of the field with length, and Porter showed off a big leg too. At placekicker, there shouldn’t be any concerns from 40 yards in or so, as Vizcaino and walk-on Sebastian Valerio seemed to be pretty consistent. But it’s still yet to be seen if they have the legs and accuracy needed to be counted on from much further out than that. 

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