8/24 AM Practice Report

Early morning showers faded away into a light drizzle, but the grey clouds stuck around Tuesday as the Huskies ran through the first of two practices scheduled for the day. As is normally the case during the morning practices, the team wasn't in full pads as they returned to the field to put more work in at Husky Stadium.

Now entering the dog days of fall camp, and just two days removed from Sunday's hard-played scrimmage, the effects didn't show out on the field this morning. The Huskies look to be a more cohesive group out there, and are taking to the new coaches and schemes in place for 2004.

Casey Paus got the lion's share of the work with the first-team offense, while Isaiah Stanback ran the offense second and Carl Bonnell third. The running game was largely the focus, as only 12 days remain before Fresno State comes to town for the season-opener on Sept. 5.

With the running game as the focus, it's hard not to be excited despite what prognosticators are saying about the Huskies chances this season. With four very capable tailbacks and two promising upperclassmen at fullback the running game will in all likelihood be the strength of the team this year.

It was evident today. All of the running backs showed sure hands out of the backfield as the quarterback trio got a lot of work in throwing them balls. Zach Tuiasosopo, who has had problems catching the ball in years past, looks as sure handed as ever right now. James Sims is showing he's a weapon out of the backfield with his tremendous athleticism and ability to get up field. And all of the tailbacks can catch.

The only drop this morning came from Shelton Sampson, who has improved his hands steadily in each of the years he's been in the program. Drops are no longer common like they once were with the redshirt sophomore.

Bobby Whithorne is a guy that kind of falls under the radar, but he has that Todd Elstrom look to him. Right now, the Huskies would gladly take another Elstrom in the fold. Withorne looked good this morning in all facets of the game, running sharp routes and catching the ball seemingly effortlessly. In watching receivers, that's one thing to look for – if it looks like they need to think too much about catching the ball, it seems to translate into inconsistencies in the "hands" department over the course of the season.

Charles Smith (hamstring) and Quintin Daniels (toe) were again at full speed as they were yesterday, both recovering from small injuries, but Charles Frederick remained in a red jersey while recovering from an ankle sprain that occurred last Wednesday. Smith and Daniels didn't show any affects of their injuries, running and cutting without any problems. And Frederick, for that matter, moved well and could be nearing a return.

Once of the highlights of the morning was watching the relationship of Frederick and Steve Emtman, the team's strength and conditioning coach who needs no further introduction. While running Frederick through a laundry list of exercises for his ankle, Emtman threw passes to the receiver to keep his hands up to speed. Pretty cool seeing a Husky legend of the past next to the star of the current team. Also pretty cool seeing Emtman throw.

Up front, Stanley Daniels worked with the first team while Tusi Sa'au, who he's battling with for one of the starting guard spots, wore red. The offensive line is looking more set by the day, with Khalif Barnes, Clay Walker, Brad Vanneman, Daniels or Sa'au, and Ryan Brooks as the starters. Rob Meadow isn't exactly leaving the picture either at tackle, and could still push Brooks, a fifth-year senior, for that spot.

Tight ends Ben Bandel, Joe Toledo and Jon Lyon each wore red and didn't take part in drills. Dash Crutchley, who suddenly has worked his way into the rotation due to both improved play and injuries at the position, got the bulk of the action with the ones.

Freshman TE Michael Gottlieb and redshirt freshman Robert Lewis are next in line. Lewis is valuable to the team though, even if he never touches the field at tight end this season, because he's one of the main options as the long snapper for punts.

Defensively, Ty Eriks is getting time now at the Husky position behind Mike Mapu, a change from earlier in camp when the former O'Dea star was at rush-end backer. Now backing up Brandon Ala at REB is Greyson Gunheim, who Husky head coach Keith Gilbertson has stated has a chance to play as a freshman. Gunheim made a terrific play during 11 on 11 drills when he got burst around the end and chased Carl Bonnell to the sidelines before swatting the would-be pass away.

In the middle of the defensive line, Donny Mateaki and Manase Hopoi figure to round out the starters. If that were the case, it would make for an all-polynesian front line. Mateaki was back in red this morning, presumably still bothered by one of his hamstrings that kept him out much of last week in Olympia, giving Dan Milsten repetitions with the ones. Backing up Hopoi is redshirt freshman Wilson Afoa and true freshman Jordan White-Frisbee. Jordan Reffett is also in the depth.

In the secondary, Cody Ellis is in a dogfight with Dre Simpson for the fourth cornerback spot behind Derrick Johnson, Sam Cunningham and Matt Fountaine. Simpson played last season as a true freshman, while Ellis redshirted, but the Puyallup High speedster is showing improved cover skills this fall. That could help make up for the two or three inches he gives up to the 6-foot-2 Simpson.

Derrick Bradley, meanwhile, continued to wear red this morning and Kim Taylor still has a ways to go as far as covering skills go.

There wasn't much in the way of contact or scrimmaging this morning, so if you like long passes or big hits this wasn't your cup of tea. What it was instead was a practice for this young Husky team to continue to learn and improve on both their strengths and weaknesses.

And what better place to do that than under the grey skies of Seattle? Football season really is here.

In the Crowd: A Raiders scout was on hand to take in the practice.

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