8/19 PM Practice Report

There is a time during fall camp when a team reaches the proverbial wall. Little things start to add up and a toll is exacted. The players are mentally and physically drained, with a choice: they can either break through that wall or succumb to it. The Washington Huskies are facing that wall right now. Will they make it through together, or will there be more attrition as the purple and gold move forward?

One thing is for sure - the green, green grass of Evergreen State College is awash in red right now. It's hard not to get hurt or even banged up when the pace of play is high, but those are the circumstances the Huskies face as they continue to prepare for their season opener against Fresno State September 5th and the pace of play hasn't changed.

While players like Donny Mateaki return to play, others end up on the sidelines, like Jason Benn.

During the Thursday evening practice in Olympia, Benn came out with his shoulder in a sling. "He has a sore shoulder right now," Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson, adding that he expects to see the guard back in action either during the weekend, or right after it.

The news for Charles 'ET' Frederick remains much the same. "He was treated all practice," Gilbertson said of the senior receiver from Florida. "I don't think it'll be that long before he comes back, but we will hold him out until he's one-hundred percent." Frederick was on crutches and his right foot was in a boot, but the coaches expect Frederick back after the weekend.

Kenny James, firmly ensconced as the number-one tailback, has a slight back strain he's dealing with, but that hasn't stopped him from doing everything right this fall. "He sure has been practicing well," Gilbertson said of the sophomore from Dos Palos, California. "And Louis (Rankin) is making a nice bid to be the backup." Shelton Sampson has been taken out of every practice in Olympia for his migraines, but always comes back to participate.

The main event of Thursday's workout was a goal-line 'live' contest where the goal was simple - stop or be stopped. The offense won 4-2, as Kenny James, James Sims and Louis Rankin all scored.

One thing the team has demonstrated all week long at TESC - they are not afraid to lay the lumber. That was no more evident during the frosh 'thud' tempo team drill where Chris Hemphill stood up frosh running back Johnie Kirton with a pop that reverberated through the trees. It was quite a shot. Hemphill has something going with Kirton, as the 6-3, 270-pound Kirton has taken more than a few fierce hits from the 6-6 safety from Gardena, California.

The quarterback race looks as muddy as ever, as each of the three QB's vying for the starting job - Casey Paus, Isaiah Stanback and Carl Bonnell - are playing well, but aren't separating themselves from the others. Don't be surprised if Gilbertson doesn't announce a QB until very late in the week before they play Fresno State, even if they have settled on one guy. Also don't be surprised if he goes ahead and runs the two-headed QB monster that he's been hinting at since spring. In short, when it comes to the Washington QB's - anything is possible.

Paus is the guy that knows the offense like the back of his hand and is the guy the coaches are most comfortable with in a pinch. Stanback's play is making it hard to ignore him for consideration. He continues to improve the areas he needs to most - execution, smart decision-making and accuracy in the passing game. He's made great strides in all three phases.

Bonnell is clearly the best of both worlds when talking game strategy - he has the best passing game of the three and can also be a weapon on the run. But is he ready to run the offense in the heat of battle right now, an offense he's just starting to get comfortable with?

That's the key question. When the Huskies finally do get around to scrimmaging, that will tell the whole story.

On the receiving end, opportunities to step up have been given with the injury to Frederick, but nobody has really taken advantage. Guys like Anthony Russo and Craig Chambers are proving that they are 'getting it', but the fact of the matter is that after ET there's a truckload of players in a traffic jam, and none of them have separated themselves from the others.

Dash Crutchley and Michael Gottlieb are showing sure hands at the tight end position, as well as their versatility in finding dead spots in the defense. Don't be surprised, with Ben Bandel's health a question mark, to see some guys step up behind Joe Toledo and Jon Lyon. I think Crutchley and Gottlieb are those guys.

Defensively, Randy Hart and Phil Snow continue to tinker with the front four. Manase Hopoi started games at both end and tackle in 2003 and he's capable of doing that again this fall. "He's at tackle today, but tomorrow, who knows?" quipped Gilbertson. With Mateaki back in the middle, it helps to solidify a defense that has a lot of bodies they can shuffle in and out, but is anybody going to step up and put a stranglehold around a starting job? Mateaki, Jordan Reffett, Dan Milsten, Wilson Afoa and even frosh big man Jordan White-Frisbee all will see time in 2004, but question marks still surround the middle of the UW front four.

Mike Mapu continues to impress and seems to have the defensive end spot on the strong side covered. The other side, with Ty Eriks and Brandon Ala, feels like the competition that would never end. Both players have been going tooth and nail for the starting REB spot for nearly two years. Both are pushing each other and look for both to get their share of reps this fall.

Joe Lobendahn will be back Friday, adding more strength to a middle that's being tested. The secondary, especially with Jimmy Newell and Dashon Goldson handling the chores in the deep third, looks to be in really good shape. Nobody is challenging Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham for their jobs, although Matt Fountaine and Cody Ellis have had solid camps.

Lambo, times two: Former UW Head Coach Jim Lambright was out for the afternoon session as well as this morning's.

A walk-through the woods: The team will go through a special teams walk-through Friday morning and then have a regular practice session in the afternoon.

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