Practice Report 11/20

Under the roof of the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, the Huskies conducted their final Tuesday practice of the regular season tonight in preparation for the big match up against the #1 Miami Hurricanes on Saturday.

Rick Neuheisel liked what he saw out of the Huskies effort today.

"This is a challenge this week in that the normal course of things here is that the season is complete after the Apple Cup," said the head coach, "but obviously we have extended the season by a week for reasons that have been stated numerous times. It also puts us in a position to play the #1 team in the country at this late date, which is an exciting deal. Trying to get the guys back up and everybody fired up about going on this type of a road trip is a little bit of a challenge, but our kids like the big stage and so hopefully we'll go out there and play well."

Two guys who Washington will absolutely NEED to be successful against the #1 ‘Canes were unable to practice today, those being Willie Hurst (swollen knee) and Cody Pickett (shoulder). Hurst also is nursing a broken finger, but that wasn't what kept him from practicing today according to Neuheisel. Both were held out as precautionary measures, but Neuheisel sounded a bit more concerned about Hurst's injury than Pickett's.

"It's precautionary right now, but missing Tuesday practice is a little concerning," he said of Hurst. As for weather or not the senior tailback will be available for his last regular season game, Neuheisel said, "My bet is that he will be."

In Pickett's absence, Taylor Barton and Casey Paus got plenty of time to throw with while the starter looked on. Paus had a few laser beam passes, connecting with Pat Reddick on a slant and with Reggie Williams on pass toward the sidelines.

Barton looked sharp - as always - and threw a ball on the money to Williams over the middle of the field for one of his nicest throws. Though he's seen very little game action since the UCLA game, just mop-up duty against Oregon State, the backup quarterback hasn't lost precision with the way he's throwing the ball. He knows the offense better than anyone else on the team, and proved again today that he'd be ready if needed against the ‘Canes.

The hit of practice came when the second team offense went up against the second team defense and senior safety Rod Green absolutely pummeled Wilbur Hooks on a pass over the middle of the field. It was one of those "please-get-up" types of hits that Green maybe should have saved for Saturday. Hooks popped back up and was fine.

Late in practice Neuheisel decided to use some canned crowd noise to throw an obstacle at his team. It was pretty loud, noisy enough where you'd have to speak loudly to hear the person next to you. The team didn't appear to be bothered or flustered with the distraction.

"We got some crowd noise in here for practice, and we'll do that again tomorrow," said Neuheisel.

It was a good sign for the Huskies to see starting guard Nick Newton back out on the field today, a week after spraining his ankle and missing the Apple Cup. Aaron Butler filled in for him and got his first career start against Washington State, playing well considering the circumstances. Neuheisel was very pleased by the way Newton practiced in his first day back.

"Newton was terrific today," he said. "I'm very excited about having him back."

The punt team has been an area of concern all season long, not because of punter woes - short kicks - like in previous seasons but because of the Huskies inability to block punt rushers. Washington has had six punts blocked this season, and Neuheisel said yesterday that it would be one of the main keys to the Miami game. Today the team gave some extra attention to the punt team drills in order to avoid further problems.

"We worked on our punt team a lot," said Neuheisel. "Hopefully we can get the ball out there when necessary."

Husky Notes:

The Man for the Job: Think the Huskies have the right person running the strength and conditioning program at the University? Well, head strength and conditioning coach Bill Gillespie won his seventh world title last Thursday with a lift of 633 pounds at the World Bench Press Championship in Reno, Nevada.

John Anderson, eat your heart out: Neuheisel added a little spice to the tail end of practice, as he called out 6-8 380 pound offensive guard Jeremy Adams to attempt a 35-yard field goal. No, that isn't a misprint. Safety Wondame Davis came out to hold, and as the team excitedly huddled around Adams booted the ball high over the uprights. The team erupted and mobbed Adams, who excused the team from running by nailing the field goal.

"You cannot judge a book by it's cover," laughed Neuheisel after practice, referring to Adams' feat. "There were a lot of people that didn't have much confidence. I had a scouting report and had realized what he could do."

"It would have been good from 50."

Benn the Book Worm: Senior captain Kyle Benn was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic first team with a 3.24 GPA, the only Husky on the list. Ben Mahdavi and Jimmy Newell were selected for the second team, and Wilbur Hooks Jr. and Jim Skurski were honorable mentions.

Scout...Scout...Let it All Out: So far this season, Manase Hopoi has been the most often honored member of the scout team. The freshman from Northern California has won the scout of the week award twice in his freshman campaign. So far this season, at least two players have been honored every week. Others to win the award include Ty Eriks, Chris Singleton, Tusi Sa'au, William Kava, Graham Lasee, Matt DeBord, Mike McEvoy, John Gardenhire, Jafar Williams, Mike Savicky, Matt Griffith, Evan Benjamin, and Ryan Koenig. Top Stories