9/25 Practice Report

With the first hint of fall in the air, and it feeling more and more like October, the Huskies hit the practice field Tuesday looking to gear up for their first conference game of the season this Saturday versus California.

Head coach Rick Neuheisel was pleased with the team's effort today, but had to endure another setback as Rich Alexis had to sit out practice with a new injury.

"He's got a hip-flexor injury that we decided to be patient with today rather than push him through it," Neuheisel explained of the young man slated to be the starting tailback this weekend. "Hopefully we'll get him ready to go and he'll be back tomorrow."

Even with Alexis missing practice, the mood of the team still impressed Neuheisel.

"I thought our guys looked into it, as they should be given the nature of the contest and Pac-10 playing finally being here," he said. "Hopefully we'll get another good day of practice tomorrow in preparation of a tough conference game."

Freshman tailback Chris Singleton, who entered the Idaho game in the final minutes, got the bulk of the carries in Alexis' absence. He looked natural with the ball, quick to the holes, and very shifty. The main concern is his ability to hold on to the ball in real-game situations. Fellow freshman, Ty Eriks, also got a lot of time in the backfield as the coaches continue to scramble for bodies to run the ball. It is very possible that Eriks will play this year and bypass a redshirt season. Paul Arnold and Mathias Wilson also got carries, but to a lesser extent. Arnold spent most of the day at receiver, a position that he's still learning.

Arnold trained with NFL receiver Eric Metcalf this summer, a player that started his professional career at running back then shifted to receiver. Arnold's versatility is extraordinary and being able to play both positions is something that Neuheisel seems to like in the junior from Seattle.

"We want him to be flexible," the head coach said. As for why the speedster practiced mostly at receiver today, Neuheisel said, "We don't want it to be a wholesale thing," referring to the thought of exclusively moving him back to running back.

Another injury in practice today occurred when Roc Alexander, the Pac-10 Special Team's Player of the Week tweaked his shoulder on a pass play over the middle of the field to Charles Frederick. The injury doesn't appear to be serious.

"He had a shoulder situation that doesn't look to be anything that will prevent him from playing," Neuheisel said. "I think he'll be back to practice tomorrow."

Two other key players suffered minor injuries. According to Neuheisel, Larry Tripplett tweaked his back in the weight room and was held out. And Omare Lowe had to miss the tail end of practice when he felt his hamstring getting tight.

None of the injuries from today look to be serious.

"I'll wait until tomorrow to see how the training report looks," Neuheisel said. "I'm hopefully that everybody will be fine by tomorrow and everybody will be full speed for tomorrow's practice."

The two highlights of the day each involved young talented quarterbacks. The first came when freshman Casey Paus hit Reggie Williams with a pass along the sidelines, and Williams had to jump over Omare Lowe and fight for the reception. The freshman came down with it over the senior cornerback.

The second came minutes later when Cody Pickett placed a perfect pass over Sam Cunningham to Pat Reddick, who had gotten separation from the young corner to make the long over-the-shoulder catch. Reddick got two receptions last week against the Vandals, and has worked his way into the rotation. With Justin Robbins returning this week from a hamstring injury, though, Reddick's playing time could diminish some against Cal.

Neuheisel is careful not to let his team get jaded by the huge streak of wins the Huskies have enjoyed over the Bears since 1976. "(California) has taken us into the fourth quarter (the last two seasons), and we've had to pull rabbits out of our hats to elicit victory," Neuheisel said.

"I remind the team of the last two years and what's happened on the field, so I think our guys are well aware of the task at hand."
Husky Notes:

Ware returns: After sitting out last week and missing the Idaho game with a quad injury, junior tight end Kevin Ware returned to the field today. He looked to be at full speed, and could see an increased role this week with the loss of starter Jerramy Stevens to a broken foot.

Oddly enough: With four days until kickoff, the odds-makers have the Huskies as an early two-touchdown favorite against the Golden Bears.

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