Players and coaches alike seemed upbeat, relaxed and, at the same time, focused on their task at hand. "I thought practice was good. It was not as sharp as we need it to be. We will head into the main part of our work starting on Monday evening," said Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. Some of the Huskies' game plan for Texas is already in, and Neuheisel hopes the total game plan will be in by this Wednesday.
Also hanging over the players' heads are their upcoming finals. "It is a little bit difficult in that finals are a little later this year than normal. We are going to be dealing with finals as well as getting ready for a very top-flight caliber opponent in Texas at the same time. Those are two huge challenges for kids," said Neuheisel.
Today's practice included a few pad-popping hits, and Rich Alexis was the common element in the top two. Early on during a drill where the running backs took on the secondary one-on-one, Alexis plowed through B.J. Newberry, and the hit was heard throughout the indoor practice facility. Willie Hurst was the next running back with the ball in his hands and decided on the non-contact approach, giving his defender a juke and leaving him in the dust.
There would be a little payback in store for Alexis. Taking on the first-team defense, Alexis broke free and was running down the middle of the field when Safety Owen Biddle decided to get in his path. With Alexis thundering full speed ahead, Biddle took him on with his right shoulder. Biddle delivered a hit that sent Alexis off his feet and to the turf. Everybody inside Dempsey heard the hit and, if they didn't see the play first-hand, they turned toward the center of the field to see what the chorus of "Oooohhhhs" was all about. The Biddle hit definitely had everybody's attention.
Continuing with the firework's theme, Greg Carothers and John Gardenhire provided some of their own. Tempers must have flared because, after a Carothers' tackle, the two were wrestling on the ground well after the play was over. The rest of their respective squads came running over just like a bench-clearing brawl in baseball. Players were taken off of the pile and nobody seemed worse for the wear after all was said and done.
There were some other good plays of note by the defense. Tui Alailefaleula was practicing up to his size, which is pretty big. He exploded through the line and was there to greet the running back in the backfield. Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley was duly impressed and gave Tui a pat on the back and some encouraging words. Linebacker Ben Mahdavi snared down a tipped ball and took it to the house with Paul Arnold chasing him down. Just for emphasis, Mahdavi had to run through another drill that was taking place near the endzone to score his defensive touchdown.
On the offense, even though Cody Pickett prefers to throw the pigskin over taking off downfield, he showed off his quickness on a several plays. On one play, Tim Galloway rushed up the middle and was in Cody's face primed for a sack. Pickett eluded Galloway's rush as he scrambled to his right and down the sideline. On another play against the first-team defense, Cody saw the middle of the field open up for him and he took off again for a considerable gain.
The receivers had some good catches, including Wilbur Hooks, who hauled in a long pass along the sidelines. But the grab of the day had to be by Mr. Hands, Pat Reddick. He ran a long route and saw the ball was a little under-thrown. He turned and came back to the ball, slid to the ground as he put his hands out, and cradled the ball while preventing it from hitting the turf.
Practice ended with the infamous Jeremy Adams' field-goal kicking saga. With Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away" blaring through the speakers, he missed on his first attempt, so the team had to do some conditioning drills. While Adams awaited his second attempt to relieve his teammates of additional running, Charles Frederick threw out what proved to be the lucky ball. (By the way, the E.T. throw was a very nice spiral.) Adams nailed a 40-yard field goal and his teammates threw up their arms in relief and ran to the middle of the field to await their post-practice talk from their Head Coach. Neuheisel continues to be impressed with Adams' abilities. "It was an impressive kick, absolutely! Kids love to root for him. It is fun, and we get our work done too."
Certain players were in a playful mood as they were leaving the practice facility. Willie Hurst was very proud of the goatee that he has been growing out. He was showing off the fact that it must be almost two inches long by now. Apparently, he looked in the mirror one day and decided that it looked pretty good. Coach Neuheisel took his share of razzing, with predictions being that he would be sporting such a look by next season. We will keep you posted.
Coach Neuheisel shared some bad news at the conclusion of practice. Justin Robbins tore his ACL yesterday and had an MRI just this morning.
"It is a devastating injury for a kid who has been on hard luck. But he is a touch-minded young man and he will come back from it. How long remains to be seen. We are going to hold out hope, given the way he works, that he can be back as soon as next fall," said Neuheisel.
The wide receiver just can't seem to catch a break as far as escaping injuries. "It is the second year in a row that he is going to be unable to have an off-season. A year ago he was coming off of shoulder surgery and now he has torn his ACL," said Neuheisel.
The Head Coach described the unfortunate injury to Robbins. "It was a non-contact injury. He was running on a reverse, put his foot on the ground, and hurt his knee. It is disappointing. I said to Justin that you don't judge the race until you get to the finish line. It's not how you start it, but how you finish it. He still has a lot of good days ahead of him."
Neuheisel also briefly addressed the off-the-field situations of both Taylor Barton and Kevin Ware. "I will discuss discipline when I have all the facts in and I assume I will have that before I leave for San Diego. That is the same for Kevin Ware's situation as well. There are two importing things. Number one is that you have consistency; number two is that you have all the information. So we will wait and see."
12/15 Practice Report
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