8/16 PM Practice Report

Back in Olympia for the first time since fall camp last year, the Husky football team ran through a full-contact practice Monday afternoon at The Evergreen State College. The sun was shining, the fans were out with hats and sunglasses, and the purple and white jerseys were flying on the field as the team got a bit of a break with only one practice on the day.

The Dawgs will begin two-a-days on Tuesday, with the first practice starting at 9:30 in the morning and the second beginning at 3:15 p.m.

For the first day in full pads, Washington's second-year head coach Keith Gilbertson came away reasonably pleased with the effort his team displayed. He was careful not to give them too much credit, however, knowing the team will have to continue to work hard all the way through fall camp in order to like their chances against Fresno State in the season-opener on Sept. 5.

"I thought we practiced hard for about two hours and 10 minutes. I think that last 20 minutes or so it kind of fell off," said Gilbertson. "I think that's to be expected. We've been going five days now and we've gone pretty hard. But at the end of practice I'd like us to keep going hard."

On the quarterback front, Isaiah Stanback and Carl Bonnell emerged from the pack on Monday with nice days throwing the ball and running the offense. Each of the two got more meaningful reps than Casey Paus on the day, which Gilbertson addressed following practice.

"I think they were both pretty sharp today," said the Husky coach of Stanback and Bonnell. "I think this was Isaiah's best day from start to finish. Carl does a lot of good things."

And Paus?

"I was a little disappointed in Casey," Gilbertson continued. "I thought Casey, for as smart as he is, I was a little disappointed in his practice. Normally he's come back with great practices, so I'm looking forward to seeing him tomorrow."

Stanback was sharper throwing the ball in this practice than he had been at any time during the first four days at Husky Stadium, and in the 11-on-11s he gave the defense fits with his ability to scramble out of the pocket and bust a big run. That happened on several occasions.

One of the most memorable instances ended with some bodies flying, as a frustrated Tim Galloway laid Stanback out after a 10 yard gain. That wasn't the end of it, as redshirt freshman tailback Louis Rankin retaliated by throwing Galloway off of the third-year quarterback. It was good to see some passion out there, especially given that nobody was hurt. In fact, Stanback emerged from the heap with his helmet in his hand and a smile on his face.

Bonnell continues to look most impressive in the pocket, having that "thing" as Gilbertson mentioned that the great ones have. More and more, that "thing" is becoming evident, as the soon-to-be 21-year-old has the rare ability to feel the pocket collapsing around him, and the where-with-all to hang in there long enough to find the open receivers. His ability to scramble and operate the running game are two elements that help his chances for the starting spot.

His play of the day came on a long pass to Charles Frederick in the 11 on 11s, as he drew junior-college transfer Dashon Goldson in and tossed a perfect strike beyond the centerfielder's reach into the hands of the senior receiver from Florida.

The receiving corps had an up and down day catching the football, as the youngsters are still adapting to new position coach Steve Axman. Bobby Kennedy, who was in charge of the receivers over the past two seasons, left for Texas after the season.

One of the bright spots today was the play of Craig Chambers, a highly-touted recruit heading into last year who never seemed to make much of a positive impression during his first fall camp. Chambers did drop one pass that hit his hands, but he also ran more fluidly than he did at any point last season, and made a number of fine catches in traffic. One came on a tipped pass the he still managed to catch in the endzone.

Charles Smith (hamstring) and Quintin Daniels (toe) both wore red jerseys that kept them out of drills for the day.

At running back, Chris Singleton remained out with a troublesome foot. According to Gilbertson, he had a number of tests on it after yesterday's practice and it is believed that some scar tissue moved around and is the root of the pain.

"I know it's bothering him," said the Husky coach.

Kenny James and Shelton Sampson both split time getting the bulk of the carries on the day, with Rankin following them up and Johnie Kirton running with the third team.

The best run of the day didn't come at tailback, though, it came from senior fullback Zach Tuiasosopo on a run up the middle that caught the first-team defense off guard. While it had the offensive players hootin' and hollerin,' the defensive coaches were fit to be tied.

On the offensive line, Tui Alailefaleula continued to work with the first unit at guard while Clay Walker continues to nurse a sore hamstring. The senior has gotten the bulk of playing time with the first-team since the start of fall camp, which will only help him get accustomed to the new position. The Alaskan native spent his first three years in the program on the defensive line.

Walker, along with defensive lineman Donny Mateaki, should only miss one more day of practices, according to Gilbertson.

On the defensive side of the football, Joe Lobendahn missed another day of practice due to Sunday's wisdom tooth surgery. While the redshirt senior linebacker stood on the sidelines with a big ice pack bandaged around his face, a pair of youngsters received extra reps. Those two were Tahj Bomar and Kyle Trew, who each saw time with the first-team defense in the 11 on 11 drills.

Up front, Ty Eriks appears to have added some muscle as he's done each of his previous three seasons with the team, and looks more like a defensive end than he did last season. For a guy who came in originally as a tailback, he's really put the work in to change his body any way he could to get on the field. That meant becoming a defensive end, and Eriks has been up to the task.

The youth and veteran mix at both cornerback and safety will make each position very important this season, as the youngsters will be in the two-deeps whether they are ready or not. The question is how ready they'll be by the time the season starts.

New cornerbacks coach Jimmy Lake and safety coach Phil Snow are two very different teachers. Lake, to this point, has been overwhelmingly positive with his group of corners, using positive reinforcement to get the most out of both the starters – Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham – and the up-and-comers – Matt Fountaine, Dre Simpson, Derrick Bradley and Cody Ellis.

Snow is more the micro-manager with his safeties, treating everyone the same no matter their experience. Whether you're a fifth-year senior like Jimmy Newell or a green freshman like Mesphin Forrester, if you screw up you'll hear about it.

Both coaching styles work in their own way.

Goldson and Newell continue to work with the first unit at safety, while a promising group of athletes enter the fray behind them. Forrester is a physical specimen at 6-foot-3, but like fellow freshman Darin Harris and Chet Sanders he is still a bit above his head as far as the learning curve goes. Sophomore C.J. Wallace opened eyes with a strong freshman campaign on special teams and is a big hitter, and Chris Hemphill is a 6-foot-6 pure athlete with loads of potential.

Hemphill wasn't in Olympia on Monday, as he felt chest pains on Sunday and left practice. Various tests on his heart afterwards failed to show anything, and the redshirt freshman will likely return on Tuesday according to Gilbertson.

The kicking game has a new player in the mix, and his name is Michael Book. A soccer player at Bellevue Community College over the last two years, Book walked on over the weekend and has already shown vast improvement since his first day of practice. With quite possibly the most leg strength of any of the three kickers vying for the starting spot – along with Evan Knudson and Michael Braunstein – Book has went from kicking low line drives to booting high-arcing kicks with plenty of distance.

Gilbertson said after practice that he was happy with the way Knudson and Braunstein kicked today, noting that the team is spending about five more minutes per practice on the kicking game.

Redshirt freshman Robert Lewis, who now wears No. 81 and plays tight end, doubles as one of the team's main long snappers. He had a difficult time putting the ball in the punters hands over the course of the practice, and that came with Gilbertson watching his every move.

On the bright side, sophomore punter Sean Douglas continued to show terrific leg strength, and appears light-years beyond where he was at this point last season. Even when bad snaps came his way, he was able to adjust quick enough to get long punts off in time.

Attrition Continues: Second-year defensive tackle Casey Tyler, a product of Edmonds-Woodway High, has decided to leave the Husky football team. Tyler figured to see playing time this year after making some positive impressions while redshirting as a freshman in 2003, but labored through drills back at Husky Stadium late last week and elected to call it quits after Saturday's practice. Third-year player Dan Milsten will likely take his place in the rotation.

Props to Olympia: Gilbertson said he enjoyed the environment that The Evergreen State College provides for the Huskies, and wouldn't mind coming back in future years.

"I think probably as long as your time bonds and gets together and is focused on football while you're here, you'll get something out of it," he said. "I think it's a positive.

"My hope is that we get to know each other and we get totally focused on football. There aren't too many distractions here. I mean, if you leave camp, it's a heck of a walk to the nearest green light. There's nothing else for us to do here other than play football."

What's Ahead: The Huskies will begin two-a-days on Tuesday, conducting a practice with shoulder pads and helmets in the morning then one with full pads in the afternoon.

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