10/9 Practice Report

The Huskies had a different look today in their first padded practice of the week, with Taylor Barton now their number-one quarterback while Cody Pickett recovers from a separated shoulder.

Pickett suited up but didn't take part in any drills and was unable to throw.

Barton looked sharp in his new role with the team and was very accurate with his passes all day long. His accuracy particularly stood out in a drill when the quarterbacks lined up in the redzone and threw at a hole in a net that was positioned at the back of the endzone. The junior-college transfer wore the poor net out, and looked effortless doing so.

"(Taylor) is a backup quarterback that's being pressed into a starting role, and so he's getting used to that position," said Neuheisel. "I think by game-time he'll be able to play really well. He'll need to."

After practice today, Barton and center Kyle Benn got together to discuss the quarterback-center exchange problems they had a week ago. Even though the problem didn't reoccur in the second half against USC, Barton and Benn want to make sure that any unfamiliarities they have will be in the past come Saturday.

Quarterbacks Casey Paus and Adam Seery each saw plenty of action as well now that they aren't as deep on the depth chart with Pickett out. Paus has been throwing a beautiful ball, and today was no different. Every throw had a lot behind it, and the tall right-hander just delivered the ball with ease. He threw one of the best passes of the day on an a laser to Pat Reddick over the middle of the field, beating safety Wondame Davis. Paus already looks ahead of his time with confidence and maturity beyond his years, and that's why he'll be the backup to Barton this week.

Seery, the third-stringer this week, is more of an option quarterback. He's fast but lacks the accuracy with his passes that the other quarterbacks do.

On the defensive side of the ball, two young Husky defensive linemen came to play. Tui Alailefaleula and Terry Johnson each had their engine's revving high, and were always close to the ball. Alailefaleula has yet to get a tackle in the two game he's played in, but is showing improvement with every game and every practice. He blew up one play today and got to Barton fast, pushing the quarterback backwards. Johnson also had it going today. At one point in the practice, coach Chuck Heater let him have it for stopping on a special teams play. From that point forward, TJ was relentless. He finished the special teams drill by running scout teamers over, and went on to show a lot of effort for the remainder of practice.

Injuries, specifically the large number of them, continue to be an issue with the team. At this point in the college football season, nobody is technically healthy anymore - everyone has bumps and bruises, but right now it's more than just aches and pains on the Husky team. With names like Pickett, Kai Ellis, Jerramy Stevens, and Braxton Cleman being injured, some of the team's best upperclassmen are out.

"Hopefully we'll be able to find enough healthy bodies to go down (to Los Angeles) and play really well," Neuheisel said.

Fortunately for the purple and gold, two areas where health isn't a concern right now are at runningback and the offensive line, two positions that will need to create a steady ground attack on Saturday. If the Huskies want to have a chance to stay in the game and pull it out, they'll need major production out of Willie Hurst and Rich Alexis. Today both backs looked great. Hurst continued to impress with his knack for getting to the hole quickly and picking up yardage. Alexis is still in a learning mode, and coming along quickly behind Hurst, one of the team captains and leaders.
Husky Notes:

Injury update: Both safety Jimmy Newell and wide receiver Justin Robbins were in red jerseys again today and couldn't go at full speed. "They're not healthy," Neuheisel said. "It's premature to try to get them ready to play. They are just not healthy, that's the bottom line." The NCAA allows players to redshirt the season if they get injured in the first three games of the season, and don't play in any games from the fourth game on. Since neither Newell or Robbins played in the USC game (the fourth of the year), they would both have the option to sitout this year and get a year of eligibility back.

Asked whether a redshirt season would be a likely scenario for Newell, Neuheisel said, "I would say that we're going to be forced into it." Whether or not Robbins plays again this year is still up in the air.

Spencer Marona, the defensive lineman - turned fullback - turned defensive lineman, is done for the year after having shoulder surgery. He'll have another surgery on the other shoulder in the next month or so, according to Neuheisel.

Ellis progressing fast: Kai Ellis is ahead of schedule in his return from minor knee surgery. He had the procedure done on both of his knees in the middle of last week, and is already able to walk around and rehab with the strength and conditioning coaches on the sidelines. "We're hopeful that he can be ready by next week," Neuheisel said of his star REB linebacker.

"There's a very slim chance he'll be ready this week."

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