Dawgbytes - 8/20

Normally, on a Saturday in late August, when the sun is shining and Lake Washington is calm, most Puget Sound residents enjoy the warmth of summer and relax as much as possible. Not so with head coach Tyrone Willingham's Husky football team. Willingham, his coaches and his players were greeted with cool temperatures this morning and the team seemed energized and ready to get to work.

"(Today) was a normal work session for us, but I thought we got a lot of work in," Willingham said noting the players had still not hit the proverbial wall even this far into camp. "Today was good. Good from the standpoint that we got a lot of work in, at this point of camp it can be difficult to get some work done, but I thought (the players) did a nice job this morning."

After the team went through their usual warm-ups and stretching, the defense headed to the far field and the offense stayed on the main Husky Stadium field. Running backs coach Trent Miles was really working the running backs hard. Shelton Sampson appeared to be moving better today after hobbling for the last few days with a bum ankle. He was hitting the "ladder" (a set of ropes the backs are asked to run through) and then make a cut as soon as they are done.

Miles had all of the backs working on the one-man blocking sled. Each back was expected to hit the sled and then drive it back five to ten yards. Senior FB Ty Eriks was out of pads this morning, but it was more to give the senior a break from all the hitting, than from anything else.

Next Miles had one back pretend to be an on-rushing defender and another back would have to block until Miles deemed the drill over. He placed a lot of emphasis on each back continuing to keep his feet moving so as not to get off balance.

Miles said he liked the progress of his crew, but that he won't be satisfied anytime soon.

"I see (the backs) starting to run a little harder," Miles said after practice. "We're trying to get them to be downhill runners and they're doing a little bit better job of that, but we're still a little inconsistent, you know, we're still making a few too many mental mistakes, but we're getting better as we go.

"As a coach you want progress faster. I think a lot of the inconsistency is because they are mentally and physically tired and they've got to learn to push through this time in camp, but I see improvement."

In the opposite corner, receivers coach Eric Yarber was working on drill that made the players concentrate on catching a ball along the sideline while also dragging their foot. One player dropped a very catchable ball and Yarber could be heard saying, "You've got to catch the ball first."

The player then dropped and did pushups for his mental mistake. Something Yarber seems to be instilling in his troops is the fact that concentration is the biggest key in making a reception.

Johnnie Kirton continued to work with the tight ends today and while he may struggle for a while getting used to blocking on the line of scrimmage, he shows soft hands and he's super-quick in and out of his cuts.

As far as units are concerned, Willingham mentioned that while the defense is still ahead of the offense, the offensive players are starting to make strides.

"I would imagine it's kind of like baseball, they always claim that the hitting is usually a little ahead of the pitching," Willingham said. "(In football) the defense is usually a little ahead of the offense and hopefully we keep gaining and I think that's what I'm starting to see. Our offense keeps improving and hopefully we can transfer a lot of the individual things into the team things."

The official word from Willingham on the quarterback situation is that some things are starting to happen between the four quarterbacks. At this point, Willingham mentioned that sophomore Carl Bonnell is further behind the other three quarterbacks, but he sees no reason why Bonnell can't work his way back into the fray with improvement.

As far as a starter at quarterback is concerned, things could begin to take shape sometime in the upcoming week. "I think some things are happening within the group," Willingham said coyly. "They're moving in a direction that will tell us what we need to know."

As far as players distinguishing themselves enough to deserve more snaps, Willingham made a non-committal commitment. "We probably will start to do that, there's not a drop-dead date, but once we get through (Sunday) and we take a good look at where we are and who is where, then I think we'll start to shift things just a little bit."

A smiling Willingham did make it clear that, "When we know (who the starter will be), we will let you know."

Kicking game battle: Willingham said "absolutely", when asked if the kicking game was still a three way battle between senior Evan Knudson, sophomore Michael Braunstein and true freshman Ryan Perkins. He also mentioned there has been some "spirited competition" and that it is the coach's job to put the kickers into situations to test their readiness to take over the duties full-time.

Red Jersey Brigade: RB Kenny James was still wearing his red jersey today, but continued to run through drills with the running backs; OL Juan Garcia was on the sideline watching the linemen go through drills, but the boot on his foot was missing and his arm was not in a sling; OL Willie Kava remains out at this point; TE Rob Lewis has a slight ankle injury that is limiting him and the coaches decided to hold him out of drills; Willingham mentioned that the overall health of the team was good and that a lot of players are just dealing with the typical bumps and bruises that occur after this much of camp has taken place.

Scrimmage anyone? : Willingham said the team would be scrimmaging sometime this week, "probably Thursday".

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