8/19 AM Practice Report

A lot of the attention of the Huskies' morning practice today wasn't so much on the field as much as it was who was on the field. With Sports Radio 950 KJR broadcasting live from a nearby makeshift tent, and with Husky basketball coach Lorenzo Romar and former football coach Jim Lambright both on the sidelines, there was a different feel at The Evergreen State College early Thursday. Husky hoops assistant Ken Bone also made the trek down with Romar.

On the field, the football guys were back at it - working out in light bulbs (shells and helmets) - for their ninth practice of fall camp.

The big news of the morning was the sight of big No. 91, Donny Mateaki, in a white jersey. Mateaki has been nursing a sore hamstring since the first couple days of camp, and was originally expected to return on Wednesday, but again was in red yesterday. His return served as an immediate upgrade to the defensive line unit.

Mike Mapu, Manase Hopoi and fellow Polynesian Brandon Ala have each played pretty well in camp thus far. Mapu has brought a fire to the line that has been missing in recent years, while the bulked up Ala is looking more and more like a force with his speed around the end. Hopoi, who enrolled in 2001 as a partial qualifier, told the Seattle Times in Thursday's newpaper that he is on track to gain a fifth-year of eligibility, and will be the main Dawg up front.

Hopoi had one of the big defensive plays of the morning. It happened when tailback Chris Singleton, who was back at full-speed, took a handoff and attempted to run upfield. Hopoi grabbed him back the back of his jersey and stopped the fourth-year player in his tracks. Maybe not the best way to tackle a player, but an impressive display of strength nonetheless.

Mateaki, meanwhile, made a good impression in his first day back by blowing by Tui Alailefaleula and making a stop on a runningback in the backfield. That didn't bode well for Tua A's standing at offensive guard.

Speaking of the offensive line, the best guess right now is that there are three players vying for the starting two guard spots and two players fighting for the one tackle starters spot - sophomores Clay Walker and Stanley Daniels and junior Tusi Sa'au are in the rotation at guard right now, while junior Robin Meadow and senior Ryan Brooks are battling at strong tackle.

The focus this morning offensively was on running the football, and that gave several young linebackers a chance to step up and make instinctual plays. Some stood out more than others, including the nice read sophomore Scott White made to stuff a running play. On one of the rare passing plays, freshman linebacker Dan Howell made his presence felt by darting into the backfield and tagging Isaiah Stanback for a "two-hand touch" sack.

Joseph Lobendahn remained in red and held out of drills, still recovering from having his wisdom teeth removed over the weekend. His return isn't far away.

In the defensive backfield, safeties coach Phil Snow continued to beat home the coverage roles to expected starters Dashon Goldson and Jimmy Newell. After James Sims snuck out of the backfield to haul in a short reception, Snow shouted for his safeties to be there.

Freshman Darrin Harris, out of Decatur High, and sophomore C.J. Wallace ran with the twos.

Chris Hemphill was back on the field today, but in a red jersey. He's still recovering from a bruised chest muscle that he hurt on Sunday at Husky Stadium. With Hemphill in the group, as well as newcomers Chet Sanders and Mesphin Forrester, safety looks set for years to come. Keauntea Bankhead's expected arrival for next season would just make the group that much deeper and more talented.

At cornerback, Derrick Bradley was held out of practice with his left shoulder in a sling. Bradley had the shoulder operated on last season, then reaggravated the injury when he took a big blow to it earlier in the week. That thins what already is a very thin position.

After starter Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham, both seniors, only Matt Fountaine, Dre Simpson and Cody Ellis expect to see any snaps this season.

That'll likely be an area of need in recruiting this season for the Dawgs.

On special teams, five guys went back to practice kickoff returns: Fountaine, Johnson, Louis Rankin, Shelton Sampson and Anthony Russo. Russo, along with Charles Frederick - who was out this morning with a sprained ankle - are the team's top two punt returners.

The receivers caught the ball better this morning than they did yesterday. That's the good news. The bad news is that there was really nowhere to go but up. Sonny Shackelford, who imploded after dropping his second pass of the day on Wednesday, caught the passes thrown his way today. Corey Williams, Bobby Whithorne, and Russo each did the same. Craig Chambers also continues to looks more sleek out there, and can't be ruled out.

Quintin Daniels, who injured one of his toes late last week when the team was working out at Husky Stadium, continued to don a red jersey but ran through receiver drills with relative ease. It looks like the sophomore from Los Angeles, Calif. is getting closer to getting back in the rotation. The only hangup as of now is his ability to move laterally on the injured toe.

Fellow receiver Charles Smith also wore red, and rode a stationary bike to maintain his conditioning.

At tight end, Jon Lyon, Ben Bandel and Joe Toledo all wore red jerseys. The most serious injury of the three is that of Bandel, who has a knee condition that keeps him from practicing on a daily basis. Bandel was full-speed yesterday, but had the knee iced up and walked with a bit of a limp by the end of the practice.

And now to the quarterbacks, buried down here at the bottom of the story. It's about time the threesome of Casey Paus, Carl Bonnell and Isaiah Stanback stayed out of the limelight for a practice. None of the three stood out much this morning, as like I said earlier the focus was on the running game.

But when given the chances, each came through with nice plays. Paus hit Russo after waiting in the pocket for a receiver to break open. Bonnell found Shackelford, who held on for the catch. Stanback only had a few throwing chances, but checked down to hit Rankin out of the backfield.

Both of the top two fullbacks continue to play well. Zach Tuiasosopo did make one mistake when he fumbled near the sidelines while stiff-arming Derrick Johnson. He heard from the coaching staff for that. James Sims junior, meanwhile, may be the best story of camp. His move to fullback looks very natural, and he could be setting himself up for a starters role as a senior next season. He has shown the ability to both run through the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.

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