10/30 Football Practice Report

Despite rain and continuous wind today, Rick Neuheisel stayed true to his word and had the Huskies practice outdoors under the lights of Husky Stadium. The head coach previously stated that his team wouldn't practice inside the Dempsey Indoor Practice facility when preparing for home games so they'd be prepared for the weather conditions.

Neuheisel said he liked what he saw, calling it a "good practice."

A welcome sight was the return of Jerramy Stevens, who wore gray sweats and worked out catching passes in the end zone early on. He's probably still at least a week away.

Another injured tight end returned to the field as well, freshman Joe Toledo. The versatile Toledo was in full pads and wore the number 83, this coming more than two months after breaking his foot in the second fall practice of the season.

"It's great to have him back," said Neuheisel of the freshman. He did a nice job (today). He's a great looking athlete and I'm hopeful he'll have a great career here."

Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball Kai Ellis looked to be moving closer to full speed and wore his normal purple jersey. All last week he wore a red jersey that prevented him from contact. Against Arizona State, Ellis didn't look like himself and clearly needed to knock some rust off after missing three games with the injury. Neuheisel hopes he'll play more and feel better conditioned on the field this week.

"We're like everybody else, we like to have our best guys available," Neuheisel said. "Kai Ellis was a starting football player before the injury for him to be back gives us another starter back. We're happy with the way that Zach (Tuiasosopo) played and he'll benefit from the experience he garnered. They make a nice one-two punch now."

The severe weather conditions proved to be tough on the quarterbacks. Each of them had troubles getting the ball to the receivers with any consistency. Cody Pickett continually overthrew his receivers. Casey Paus had difficulty getting the right height on is passes and often threw high. And Taylor Barton had a little problem from the past creep back up on him - hiking the ball.

Towards the tail end of practice, Barton and backup center Dan Dicks fumbled the snap twice in a row. Afterwards, Neuheisel approached Barton and gave him some one-on-one advice, and soon after that coach Steve Axman moved to the east end zone to practice the snap with both Barton and Dicks.

"We tried to adjust that in the end of practice," Neuheisel said of the problem. "Hopefully that won't be an issue more than it was at the end of practice today."

Pickett did have one "special" play that looked a lot like the one in the final drive on Saturday. He scampered out of a collapsing pocket and hit tight end Kevin Ware streaking toward the sidelines for a nice connection in front of linebacker Sam Blanche.

All three running backs had a good practice, but Rich Alexis stood out with some quick moves up field. The Huskies need Alexis to move north-south for the ground game to be successful, and that's something the sophomore from Florida continues to work at. In the last two weeks, against UCLA and ASU, he's had several runs that resulted in losses of two, three, and four yards. Today he worked hard to run through the tackles and move quickly downfield.

Elliott Zajac, one of the guys on the offensive line who had a great game on Saturday, wore a red jersey and went without contact. In his place, just like last week during practice, redshirt freshman Aaron Butler played on the bulk of the snaps. Still, the team is hopeful that Zajac will be able to play this weekend against Stanford.

"We expect Elliott to play but we don't want to give him too many zaps during practice," Neuheisel said. "(Butler playing with the ones) is again precautionary because of Zajac's stinger issue."

The offensive line is coming off a tremendous effort on Saturday, and looks to be starting to come together as a unit. Evidence of that is the 185 yards that Hurst ran for against the Sun Devils.

"They're proud of where they've come from, given the disappointment of UCLA," Neuheisel said of his men in the trenches. "But they're not a finished product yet and they're going to have to play better than they've played at any time this year to be successful this week."

Today the line got some unexpected fire from freshman Robin Meadow, who figures to redshirt the season (knock on wood). During one play, the big man from California got into a swinging match with linebacker Zach Tuiasosopo. The two rolled on the ground, Tuiasosopo got his helmet ripped off, and the players and coaches scrambled to tear the two apart. Fellow offensive linemen Kyle Benn and Zajac couldn't help but gain a little respect for the underclassman, calling him over afterwards for a few high fives.

The end of practice was highlighted with a little contest that the team talked Neuheisel into. With the team huddled around, Hurst stood at the 30-yard line and had to hit the crossbar to prevent the team from running. He up short and wide left (see Seahawks place kicker Rian Lindell).

Neuheisel got a kick out of the whole contest.

"They were trying to talk me into not running, and were looking for a chance to get out of it," he said. "I gave Willie one shot to see if he could hit the crossbar. I felt good with my chances."

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