With Cody Pickett back in Idaho attending a funeral, backups Taylor Barton and Casey Paus got a lot of work in today and both were right on the money. When they were throwing slant patterns, Paus would thread the needle over and over again to Frederick and Arnold. He has a very strong arm and his ball has more velocity than it appears. Every time the linebackers and safeties would converge, the ball would slip through and be caught by the receiver.
The prettiest one of the day came when Frederick went against starting cornerback Derrick Johnson. He ran a slant and caught a bullet from Paus in front of Johnson. He then stopped in his tracks on a dime and sent Johnson sprawling in his wake. Frederick reversed his field and headed back toward the sideline and sprinted to the endzone. Unfortunately, Johnson tweaked his foot during the coverage and had to sit out for a while. He later returned.
A hush came over the team when Casey Paus took a four-step drop and crumpled to the turf. He grabbed his left knee in pain but he was able to shake it off and return quickly. Coach Rick Neuheisel looked worried until Paus was able to jog back to the sideline.
Taylor Barton had his best work of the spring today. He was throwing touch passes into and against the wind for large gains. On back to back sequences, Barton pump faked and hit Reggie Williams on a deep fade behind cornerback Sam Cunningham, and then hit Paul Arnold on a deep "fish" route behind freshman Eric Shyne for a touchdown. The senior quarterback from Beaverton was accurate as can be, and showed it during a drill where Steve Axman had he and Casey taking a deep drop into the endzone and firing a 25-yard out pattern into a net. Barton swished ball after ball into the target net.
On the first team offensive line, Dan Dicks worked at center with Elliott Zajac and Nick Newton at the guards while Andre Reeves and Khalif Barnes held down the tackle positions. Reeves is doing some good things. "I am impressed with Andre," said Coach Rick Neuheisel after practice today. "He has done a nice job in the off-season in terms of reshaping his body. He is down to about 310 pounds and I think he came in somewhere near 350. He is running well, he ran a sub 5.0 forty on timing day and he has been working hard in the weight room. He is not there yet as far as being as reliable as we'd like him to be, but he is working in that direction. If he can continue to, I think he will be an outstanding player. He is in competition with Robin Meadow. It is a spirited competition and I am happy with the way Robin has been playing and hopefully both will be front-line players for us."
Meadow and sophomore offensive guard Aaron Butler aren't very far behind the ones. Todd Bachert, projected to start at center in the fall, continues to rest his shoulder. He is doing well and is hopeful to get some contact before the end of spring.
Depth at tailback looks great as Rich Alexis, Chris Singleton, and Braxton Cleman are all interchangeable. "We're going to need them all, and they all bring good things to the table," said new Running backs coach Chuck Heater.
Alexis is in better shape this spring, Cleman is as healthy as he's been in a long time, and Singleton is the fastest of the three while weighing 200 pounds. All three showed good hands today on screen passes.
All three tailbacks look very fast, and even though they weren't in pads, they were putting licks on the linebackers, particularly Alexis.
Another offensive player that had his best practice was new fullback Zach Tuaisosopo. He showed good hands today and looks very natural at the position. He is having a ball playing it, and looks to be the starter this fall. "I think Zach is in a position where I think he can definitely be our fullback," said Neuheisel. "Now the question is developing some depth behind him. He is just a natural at the position which isn't surprising because he played that at Woodinville High School. He's just got great proclivity for the spot."
He's backed up by Adam Seery, a converted quarterback. Fellow fullback Dan McCourtie missed practice today for personal reasons and is expected back tomorrow.
John Anderson was tested from 20, 30, and 33 yards out today and converted all but one kick.
One other receiver that had a fine practice was Olympia walk-on Matt DeBord. Twice DeBord was able to get behind Cunningham's tight coverage and make a tough grab. Cunningham got his revenge, however, when on the next play he was able to step in front of Frederick and make a beautiful break up of a potential long gain. Cunningham got work with the ones when Johnson rested his foot. Chris Massey missed practice today with an injury.
The defensive line is still looking to find it's new look. So far it looks like Terry Johnson could play either tackle or end. If he moves inside, Manase Hopoi is most likely the end. He and Graham Lasee are waging a nice battle there. Josh Miller looks to be slightly ahead of Jerome Stevens at the other interior spot, while Tui Alailefaleula backs up Johnson inside. Miller looks the most active of all the interior players so far. He's slimmed down to 275 pounds now and runs a 4.8.
The linebacking corps of Galloway and Mahdavi inside and Krambrink and Jafar Williams outside were running with the ones. The safety tandem of Evan Benjamin and James Sims got most of the snaps with the ones as well.
Walking Wounded: Quite a few Huskies missed today's practice with an assortment of ailments. "Kevin Ware and Matt Lingley are both close to a young man who was in an auto accident who is in serious condition at Harborview Hospital. So they were both there to lend support to the family. Cody (Pickett) was in Idaho for a funeral today. Chris Massey (ankle), Kai Ellis (knee), Ray Dukes (shoulder separation) and Domynic Shaw all missed practice today for injury reasons."
Of particular concern is Ellis, who has never been close to 100% since tearing ACLs in both knees. They were scoped successfully the week of the USC game but he played the rest of the season at about 60%. "Ellis is seeing some doctors and hopefully we will get him back for the second half of spring ball. We keep addressing his knees. He keeps having swelling."
Stanback watches: Husky signee QB Isaiah Stanback was on the sidelines this afternoon taking in the action. He's been a frequent visitor to practice.