The team originally planned to practice indoors all week to be in a climate similar to what they'll face under the lights in Tempe on Saturday night, but early afternoon sun changed their minds and instead the team went ahead and practiced outdoors. An hour through practice, dark clouds swept in and rain began to fall. Faced into a situation that The Clash so clearly portrayed with their hit song, "Should I stay or should I go," Husky Head Coach Rick Neuheisel decided to "go," sending the team indoors.
Protected from the rain and winds outside, the team went about business and had what Neuheisel called a "good practice."
"We're getting to that point of the season where it's difficult to be as physical as we'd like to be given the health of our team, but I thought the kids came out and gave great effort," the head coach said.
Taylor Barton returned to practice after missing all of last week while recovering from both a foot and head injury. Tests conducted by the team showed nothing serious, allowing Barton to return to full speed. He said he just didn't feel 100 percent last week. All the hits he took from the UCLA defenders had a lasting effect. Barton said he simply couldn't make the quick decisions he could before and didn't feel sharp last week.
Today, he was rusty in his return to the field. His foot still appeared to be bothering him some and it is still questionable whether or not he'll be able to play – if needed – this weekend. If he won't be able to go, freshman Casey Paus will again be second on the depth chart.
"He's a little hampered by that foot injury," Neuheisel said of the junior play-caller from Beaverton, Oregon. "Hopefully he'll be a day better tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Cody Pickett continues to improve and will be the starter this week versus the Sun Devils. Neuheisel said Pickett's feeling less pain now than this time a week ago, and is throwing the ball great. He looks to be getting that arm strength back that was missing in the Arizona game on some of his deep passes.
Keeping Pickett healthy is one area of concern, and it will be up to the struggling offensive line to do so. If there is anything that's encouraging with the offensive line thus far, it's that they've done a decent job in pass-blocking and prevented Pickett from taking very many hard hits. They'll need to continue to improve and keep away Sun
Devil defenders this week to give the Huskies a chance to win.
ASU sophomore defensive end Terrell Suggs already has a conference-high nine sacks, is very versatile, and will be a load for Husky tackles Khalif Barnes and Todd Bachert to handle. That could make it even more difficult for the offensive line to keep Pickett off his back.
"He is probably the fastest pass rusher that we'll face all season," said Neuheisel of Suggs "He's a legitimate threat and he certainly gets our attention given what we experienced at UCLA. It will require a great effort by everybody (to stop him)."
"It's going to take a great protection job given Suggs and the rest of their great defensive front. They come with a lot of pressure and like to come from off the edges. It's no secret that this is an aggressive bunch on defense, so it will take another great day of protection and hopefully a little bit more of a running game so that we don't have to expose him as often as we did against Arizona."
Husky sophomore defensive lineman Terry Johnson is a friend of Suggs. The two grew up together playing on the same basketball teams throughout junior high and high school, and both graduated in the Class of 2000. Johnson is hungry to make some big plays in his return to his home state this weekend, and will look to step it up a notch while going up against one of his old friends.
The defensive side of the ball got a boost today with the return of linebacker Kai Ellis and Tyler Krambrink. Each wore red jerseys and were held out of contact drills, but it was good to just see them back on the field. Ellis hasn't played since the California game in week three and Krambrink has been out all season.
Neuheisel admitted to not seeing much of Ellis in his first day back, but said he looked like he was moving fine during the times he did watch him.
"His knees didn't look like they was hampering him at all," Neuheisel said of his standout REB linebacker.
Of Krambrink, the Husky head coach said, "He didn't get any contact, but he was doing all the drills and it was nice to see him moving around."
Two key starters on the offensive side of the ball were held out today while they recover from injuries – runningback Willie Hurst and guard Elliott Zajac. Hurst bruised his quad against Arizona, and wasn't able to go at full speed. Instead, he did some individual works on the sidelines and said he felt much better than he did over the weekend.
"Our expectations are that he'll be able to go tomorrow," Neuheisel said.
Zajac was held out as a precautionary measure while he heals from stingers, an ailment that often hampers football players at one time or another in their career.
In his place, redshirt freshman Aaron Butler filled in and did a good job getting a push off the line. Neuheisel liked what he saw from his second-year guard out of Lakes High School in Lakewood, Washington.
"Unfortunately given our situation on the offensive line, we're asking a lot of kids that normally are a year away, Neuheisel said, "but given where Aaron has been (in the past) and where he is now, he's done a remarkable job. If called upon he'll be ready."
Injury Bug Bites Again: Redshirt freshman center Dan Dicks had to leave midway through practice in the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility with an unknown knee injury. After practice, Neuheisel admitted he wasn't certain about the injury because he hadn't talked to the team trainer yet. "I don't know the extent of the injury, but it's not thought to be serious. It was a little problem with the knee."
Booting the Boot: Injured tight end Jerramy Stevens was on the sidelines today, and no longer had the boot on his foot that he's worn since it was broken in the second game of the season.
10-23 Practice Report
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