8/26 AM Practice Report

The Huskies went under cover for the first time this fall on Thursday morning, heading into the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility for their first of two practices. They will return outdoors and hold the second practice of the day in Husky Stadium this afternoon.

This practice was unlike any other the Dawgs have conducted all camp, with almost the entire two-hour session being dedicated to special teams work. The team was in light bulbs (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) and didn't scrimmage at all except for at the very beginning, when they ran players on and off the field working on real-game substitution situations.

From that point on, the defensive linemen moved to the south end of the facility with coach Randy Hart and the offensive linemen went to the north end with coach Charlie Dickey. Coach John Pettas worked with the quarterbacks next to the o-line, all the way across the field from the spot where the present media were asked to stay.

While it was hard to see much of the quarterback drills this morning, it's safe to say there wasn't much to report. They worked on their footwork with Pettas and also spent time on short passes, all throwing the ball as well as expected in the ideal indoor setting. Why didn't that work for Rick Mirer in the Kingdome?

The special teams unit was shorthanded with Charles Frederick and Anthony Russo still in red jerseys, giving Bobby Whithorne a chance to get reps as a punt returner along with Sonny Shackelford. Frederick did still go back to catch the punts, and ran through some routes as well on offense. His return to full-speed could come as early as this afternoon.

Russo, meanwhile, spent the entire practice with Corey Williams, also in red, walking around the indoor track throwing a medicine ball with strength and conditioning coach Steve Emtman by their side. This is the first time Williams has been in a non-contact jersey all fall, and we'll know more about his seemingly minor injury after the late practice today.

Other things of interested that stood out on special teams:

Sean Douglas continues to boot the (insert word of choice here) out of the ball. He put several punts above the Dempsey Indoor rafters, including one that sailed through two sets of rafters which went what appeared to be about 65 yards. Another that hit a rafter sounded like a fastball hit off the bat of Bo Jackson and would have went 70-plus had it not hit the beam.

When the ball is snapped perfectly to Douglas there's no questioning what will be the result. It's when the ball is offline, forcing Douglas to have to alter his rhythm, that the second-year punter becomes more inconsistent.

Michael Braunstein worked as the team's main kicker on the kickoffs, putting the ball consistently at or inside the five yard line. Douglas also got some reps there, showing greater leg strength but less ability to keep the ball inbounds. There's still 10 days of competition left for that job, which could come down to the wire.

Returning kickoffs, again don't forget Frederick and Russo were on the sidelines, were first-teamers Louis Rankin and Shelton Sampson and second teamers Derrick Johnson and Matt Fountaine. Freshman Mesphin Forrester also got a look back there, but that may have been more just because they needed a warm body back there for a certain drill. Time will tell.

The funniest play of practice came on a kickoff return by Rankin. The second-year tailback caught the ball and darted through a gap towards open field, appearing to have a clear path to pay-dirt. Braunstein, the only person left in his way, raced towards Rankin to track him down. Rankin's a sprinter, and there's no catching him in the open field, but the fact that Braunstein was willing to try made at least one sports writer chuckle.

Also of note, there's been a bit of hype recently surrounding true freshman linebacker Dan Howell and the likelihood that he'll be getting time on the field this fall. I talked to him after practice, and the well-built freshman said he's currently on the first team on the punt return unit and a second-stringer on every other special teams unit. That, coupled with the fact that he's currently Scott White's backup at SAM linebacker, makes it all but a foregone conclusion that Howell won't be redshirting in 2004.

The defensive line spent the entire practice working on moves, swatting, clubbing and swimming past one another over and over again.


Back in Purple: Senior tight end Jon Lyon was back at full speed this morning after spending the last two days in a red jersey. Lyon was kicked in the thigh early in camp and has been slowed down by the injury ever since. His return is a great sign considering second-year player Robert Lewis, a former linebacker, and walk-on Michael Gottlieb were the only two healthy tight ends on Wednesday.

Stanback still Hopeful: Talking to reporters after practice, Isaiah Stanback said he feels he's still got a shot at the starting job.

"It's still up in the air," said the third-year quarterback out of Garfield High. "But coach needs to make a decision the closer the game gets."

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