Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said after practice that the team had to adjust to the finals since school started a week later this year, pushing the finals back into the week of bowl practices.
Terry Johnson had to miss practice, even with the late start, because of a
final. He was the only player in that predicament.
Only one player wore a red jersey on the night, that being safety Wondame
Davis (bruised thigh). He was kept away from contact and that let freshmen
James Sims Jr. and Evan Benjamin get more time working behind the
first-teamers, Owen Biddle and Greg Carothers. Benjamin really has put some
bulk on his frame since the start of the season, and has the ideal body type
to play safety. He's strong, agile, and quick - all in one package - and
looked great today given the added PT.
Another freshman, inside linebacker Joseph Lobendahn, was outstanding in
many drills tonight. On the ladder drill where they work on their footwork
moving laterally, he was far and away the best on the team. Then the
linebackers lined up against scout team runningbacks Ty Eriks and John
Gardenhire, and again the first- year player from Hawaii excelled. While
many of the linebackers gave up ground, Lobendahn punished the ball carrier
each time, using his superior lateral quickness and low center of gravity to
prevent any positive yardage.
On the same drill, Gardenhire made a great move to get by starting
inside-backer Ben Mahdavi. First he stutter-stepped, then he spun, causing
Mahdavi to whiff completely. The freshman tailback run upfield unscathed as
linebacker Jamaun Willis dogged Mahdavi for the missed tackle. Mahdavi made
up for it later with a huge stick on Gardenhire to even things up. Ty Eriks
was tough to stop as well, making a cut-back move on Tyler Krambrink that
made the linebacker miss.
Cody Pickett continued to be right on target, making several perfect passes.
One of his best came on a post pattern to Reggie Williams, who beat tight
coverage from Chris Massey for the catch. The ball was placed so well that
it was basically impossible to defend. Later in practice, on one of the
rare instances where Pickett misfired, Williams made up for it with an
amazing one-handed catch. The ball was thrown behind him and instinctively
reached back to bring the ball in. It was the best catch of practice.
Of Pickett, Neuheisel said, "He's anxious to play, we're anxious to watch
him. He's had a great year, and will benefit from the offseason to get back
to 100 percent."
Backup quarterback Taylor Barton's best throw was thrown to Paul Arnold on a
post route. The junior from Kennedy High School bobbled the ball for a
second, but pulled it in for the catch. Barton and Wilbur Hooks also hooked
up for a reception near the sidelines in which Hooks jumped high into the
air to come down with the catch.
Barton, though, still has some legal hurdles to clear before he can have a
chance to travel with the team to the Holiday Bowl. He and Kevin Ware were
each arrested in the weeks after the season finale at Miami.
Unless there is a resolution in either case this week, Neuheisel says that
the likelihood is that the players will remain home and not go on the bowl
"That's where I stand today," the head coach quickly added, "I'm not
willing to say definitively that that's where we're going to be because I'm
still waiting for more information - not so much on the facts but on the
legal process. In my mind if a young man gets arrested and has a chance to
clear his name, that's where his attention and his focus should be, rather
than on the football field."
When the first team units from both sides of the ball squared off against
one another in rushing situations, the offense came away the big winners.
The offensive line had their way with the defensive front, often causing big
holes for the tailbacks to run through. Willie Hurst benefited from the
solid blocking to wiggle through arm-tackles, heading upfield for a 10-yard
gain on one play. Then Rich Alexis used a huge block from Elliot Zajac a
play later to work his way upfield for another big gain.
The team will continue practice tomorrow at 5 p.m., which, as usual, will be
closed to the public.
Tharps in The House: Former Washington receiver Terry Tharps, who played
four years (utilizing a redshirt season) at the UW before the 2001 season,
returned to his old stomping grounds tonight to watch practice. Tharps was
swarmed by his former teammates, notably Larry Tripplett, Wilbur Hooks, and
Roc Alexander, as everyone was glad to see him back.
Neuheisel said he got a chance to talk the speedster from Tacoma. "It's
great to see him," the head coach said. "He had a great senior season, had
over 20 receptions, and is back at the UW to finish his degree."
DJ Update: We talked to Derrick Johnson after practice, and he updated us on
the status of his foot injury, which occurred nine-months ago. He said it's
feeling better but sometimes gets sore after he works out. Johnson said
that it's been rough, but added that he's ahead of schedule and will most
definitely be back for spring practices.
J-Steve Announcement Soon?: Neuheisel hinted that tight end Jerramy Stevens
may be close to making a decision as to whether he'll return to Washington
for his senior season. "I think he's getting close to a decision," said
Neuheisel before practice, "but I think it's his decision to announce."
12-17 Practice Report
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