8/17 AM Practice Report

Day two in Olympia on Tuesday meant day one of two-a-day practices for the Huskies, and the highly spirited purple bunch appeared fired up to get things rolling this morning for their first practice of the day. Even to the casual observer, the team-building and emphasis on playing together as a team was on display all morning long.

The purple (offense) and white (defense) jerseys took the field in shells for a constructive two-hour practice this morning, working through drill after drill under sunny Thurston County skies. Without going at full speed, there weren't a lot of notable plays, but that didn't mean the morning was uneventful.

Several things stood out.

In the 11 on 11 drills, Casey Paus was able to rebound from a rough Monday by making some nice plays. His best came when the pocket began to collapse around him, but rather than hurry a throw he hung in the pocket and waited for a streaking Sonny Shackelford to break open over the middle. Paus placed a perfect pass into the sophomore receiver's outstretched hands while a pair of sophomores, cornerback Matt Fountaine and safety C.J. Wallace, trailed five yards behind.

That one had to help Paus in the confidence department.

Neither Isaiah Stanback or Carl Bonnell had any throws that compared to the one by Paus, but each had decent mornings throwing the ball.

Bonnell did get the bulk of the snaps with the ones, which is something we might see more of if he continues to practice well. For a second-year player, it would have been hard to have foreseen him making much bigger of an impact. He doesn't have any major flaws in his game, which will make it hard to keep him off the field once the games begin.

The run of the morning came from No. 8, Kenny James. The sophomore tailback took a handoff around the left side for a long run that would have resulted in a touchdown if it weren't whistled dead. He's got the size and vision that few Husky backs have had in recent years.

On another running play, it wasn't the run that stood out but the block. It came from Charles Frederick, who found fellow senior Derrick Johnson in the open field and absolutely buried him into the ground.

This came after Johnson and Frederick walked off the field together yesterday with Johnson openly admitting that the receiver got the best of him on Monday. Two days in a row for ET.

Durrell Moss, who played both safety and linebacker last year before moving to fullback this fall, learned a lesson this morning he won't soon forget. After catching a pass out of the backfield, the redshirt freshman avoided contact upfield and scooted out of bounds.

Runningbacks coach Cornell Jackson shouted some words his way, making sure the Chris Warren tactics would never occur again.

"Are we stopping the clock?" yelled Jackson.

Moss seemed to get the message, loud and clear.

Much time was also devoted to special teams over the morning practice. During the kickoff return drills, each of the position coaches worked with the different positions on the field. As special team's coordinator Scott Pelluer directed the show, coach Jackson coached the kick returners while Phil Snow, Steve Axman, Chris Tormey and Randy Hart directed the upfield blockers.

Anthony Russo, who has impressed with his ability in the open field, had a pretty nice run-back that drew some props from the coaches. Russo, a redshirt freshman slot receiver, has been mentioned by coach Keith Gilbertson as one of the top receivers vying for playing time behind Frederick.

On field goal block drills, new offensive line coach Charlie Dickey squatted down to get a better look at the pad level of his lineman. When third-year tight end Dash Crutchley, who has transformed his body into a legitimate 250 pounds, didn't block right, Dickey made sure he knew it. When the play was ran again, Crutchley corrected the problem, blocked the rusher, and drew some encouraging words from the offensive line coach.

The defensive side of the ball was tougher to really grasp this morning, as they didn't match up with the offense that much.

In the 11 on 11 drills, Mike Mapu and Brandon Ala lined up as the first-team defensive ends with Dan Milsten and Manase Hopoi inside. Scott White, Evan Benjamin and Tim Galloway were at linebacker, Sam Cunningham and Derrick Johnson at corner, and Dashon Goldson and Jimmy Newell at safety.

The growing sentiment is that Goldson, who has three years to play two, is the real deal at safety. He's got the size, the aggressiveness, and the smarts to make and immediate impact. It's a good thing, because this Husky defense will need him to do so.

Caesar Rayford is one of four incoming freshman on the defensive line with a shot to play this fall. He's got the height at 6-foot-7, and the work ethic. The only questions may be his weight and his strength. He says he's gained 20 pounds since track season ended at Bethel High, putting him around 225 and he's committed to getting stronger and improving his chances of playing as a true freshman.

Rayford got some extra work in with coach Hart after practice, taking time to improve his footwork and his knowledge of the plays. His willingness to listen and learn will only help him down the road.

We'll have more on the defensive side of the ball after the afternoon practice.

Notes:

What's Next: The Dawgs will eat lunch and rest up before returning to the field for a 3:15 afternoon practice. They'll be in full pads and at full speed for that one.

In the Crowd: Puyallup High running back Makai Borden attended the morning practice, sporting a Puyallup Vikings T-shirt.

Baird Likes Newcomers: Former Husky coach Dick Baird appeared on Sports Radio 950 KJR with Dave "Softy" Mahler this afternoon and said he's been very impressed with the incoming class of Huskies.

"This the best looking freshman class that I've seen here in 10-15 years," said Baird on the radio. "If (Gilbertson) adds two more classes like this, they're going to go to the Rose Bowl."

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