12-14 Practice Report

With some of the biggest names in the nation in town on their recruiting visits to the University of Washington, the Huskies conducted their third bowl practice this afternoon under the roof of the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility. Returning to the field for their first action in six days, the team practiced in half pads today.

"It's an asset to be going to a bowl and to have your recruits be able to see practice," said Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. "You tell them until you're blue in the face that you think that you can compete, but until they see it they always wonder. Our (players) do a good job of being ambassadors to our program because I think they are genuinely happy here."

One player who stepped up - and made a good impression on the high school seniors in attendance - was sophomore safety Greg Carothers, who had the play of the day on defense. It came on a slant route from Casey Paus to a scout team receiver. Carothers read the play beautifully and broke to the ball before the receiver could get there, using his instincts for the slick interception.

Two plays later, the Montana-native grabbed another one out of the air on another pass from Paus. This one was further down field on a ball that was overthrown on a post pattern. The defense loved the big plays by Carothers - who in a minute's time went from "The Hitman" to "The Pickman" - and congratulated him afterwards.

Paus, the third-stringer, had an up and down day, but in the process turned in one of the most amazing throws of practice. He put his arm on display when he, a right-hander, rolled out to the left and threw the ball downfield 25-yards across his body to a streaking Justin Robbins. Robbins pulled it in near the sidelines for the reception. Fans shouldn't forget about J-Rob, who after battling a variety of injuries all year will only be a redshirt sophomore in 2002. He'll be right in the mix for playing time along with Reggie Williams, Paul Arnold, Charles Frederick, and Wilbur Hooks.

Meanwhile, Randy Hart was all over the defensive linemen, who had difficulty stopping the run. Part of the reason was because of the play of scout team running back Jelani Harrison, who had his way with the first team defense on a number of occasions. On one play he broke a tackle to get to the outside then turned on the jets, beating a safety all the way to the end zone. He also found success running through the tackles for tough yards.

Cody Pickett looked to have full velocity on his passes. Today at Neuheisel's press conference, the head coach said he thought the off-time in recent weeks probably helped Pickett and anyone else who's been nursing injuries of late. If today was indication, Neuheisel was absolutely correct about his starting quarterback. Pickett not only had the strength in his arm, he also had the touch that made him a potent weapon in the Husky arsenal this entire year. His best pass came on a throw perfectly lobbed down the middle of the field to Jerramy Stevens, who beat inside linebacker Tyler Krambrink for the beautiful catch.

Stevens had a particularly impressive day catching the ball after surprisingly struggling for much of the last three weeks of the regular season. The star tight end showed his amazing ability on a catch he made out on the flat when he ran over a scout team defender and later had to be dragged down by a second player down the field. That's something the Husky offense has been missing all season at the tight end position. If Stevens plays like he did today in the Holiday Bowl, the Longhorns could be in for a long day.

Kevin Ware returned to practice today after missing last week while recovering from being pepper-sprayed two weekends ago in an off-the-field incident.
Husky Notes:

Players to Keep on Eye On: TE Joe Toledo and OLB Manase Hopoi. Toledo is absolutely HUGE with the work he's done with Strength and Conditioning Coach Bill Gillespie this season. The tight end from San Diego said he came in bench pressing close to 370-pounds, and now he's pushing up around 400. He's a star in the making with a rare athleticism for someone his size. He says it took a while to mentally get over his foot injury when he returned to practice, but now he claims the foot that he broke in August is now completely healed and no longer a problem. With Jerramy Stevens a likely candidate to enter the NFL Draft and Kevin Ware's status still up in the air after being arrested two weeks ago, Toledo could likely see the field plenty next season along with fellow redshirt freshman Andy Heater.

Hopoi has been just as impressive on the scout team this year. He's one of the youngest players on the team, but is just huge physically. The main concern with the partial qualify is his speed, but he says that's one area that he's improved on since arriving in late summer. At outside linebacker, Hopoi is relentless and was named Scout of the Week twice this season for his performance leading up to game weeks. Like Toledo, Hopoi could be a difference-maker by next season.

Barton Arrested: Neuheisel announced after practice today that backup quarterback Taylor Barton was recently arrested for criminal trespass. Last week it was Kevin Ware who was arrested, so Barton makes the second Washington player in as many weeks to get into trouble with the law.

On Ware's situation, Neuheisel said, "If the case is not rectified, the suspension will stand." He continued, "And that's the case also with Taylor Barton."

"I need to react in a consistent matter," said Neuheisel of the arrests.

Asked if Paus would back up Pickett if Barton isn't allowed to play against Texas, the head coach said, "You'd hate to waste his redshirt on that, but that may be it."

The team's only other quarterback on scholarship is redshirt sophomore Adam Seery, who's previously played at both linebacker and safety.

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