4/9 Practice Report

In a full pads workout that begin in inclement weather in Husky Stadium and ended in the comfortable confines of the $29 Million temperature-controlled Dempsey Indoor facility, the defense definitely turned it up a notch today. The offense had been way ahead but on this fifth day of spring practice, Tim Hundley's crew showed up in a big way.

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Particularly impressive were inside linebacker Joseph Lobendahn (5-10 225), a sophomore to be, and defensive end Terry Johnson (6-4 275), a junior to be. During an eight-play scrimmage that ended practice, Lobendahn flew in and took down speedy Chris Singleton for a four-yard loss. He followed that up by meeting Rich Alexis in the hole and standing him up for no gain. Lobendahn ran at first team "Will" linebacker today, the inside linebacker that lines up on the strong side of the defense.

"Joseph Lobendahn, I thought was terrific today," said Neuheisel of his young inside linebacker. "I watched him from upstairs and he really looks like a natural. Jafar Williams continues to impress. I'm pleased with Andre Reeves, and Robin Meadow. Charles Frederick is really starting to come on. I'm seeing a lot of good things."

On the defensive line, Johnson was dominant. During the scrimmage he disrupted three plays in a row, one time knocking the ball loose from QB Casey Paus. Johnson looks very active and it looks like DL coach Randy Hart will give him every opportunity to play out on the end as long as Josh Miller (6-3 275, soph) and Jerome Stevens (6-2 295, junior) perform inside. Stevens particularly had a strong practice today, twice beating senior guard Elliott Zajac for sacks.

The first unit on defense consisted of Johnson, Miller, and Stevens along with Houdini Jackson (6-1 250) at the small defensive end position (REB). Jackson is taking reps there because Kai Ellis is nursing sore knees and Anthony Kelley has class conflicts and is only able to practice once a week.

The linebackers were Lobendahn and Mahdavi inside with senior Jafar Williams (6-0 220) outside at the "SAM" position. Williams had a thunderous hit today on Singleton when the blocking broke down. He drilled the young running back and put him down onto the pile of linemen.

Also challenging for time will be Tim Galloway, who looks quick, and Tyler Krambrink, who could line up at either Will or SAM. Today he backed up Lobendahn at Will, while freshman Will Conwell got some time at the SAM.

In the secondary, safety Evan Benjamin limped off and had to go to the training table. "We've lost Evan for a little while, he rolled his ankle today. Hopefully we'll get him back soon because he's having a nice spring," said Neuheisel.

In his place, Ty Eriks (6-2 219 freshman-RS) got the lions share of the reps and made the most of them. He had two big hits, one on Singleton and another on Jelani Harrison. Eriks got into a scuffle with OL Aaron Butler but it was quickly broken up.

"He's eager," said Neuheisel of Eriks. "When you have know how and motivation, good things happen. He's such a good athlete you want to find a spot for him. We'll continue to do that but he looks very good this spring."

At the other safety, James Sims and Jimmy Newell are fighting it out for that spot. Sims has 4.42 speed while Newell is still fighting to regain 100% health and become the player that Hundley knows he can be. "He's a fighter, he'll make it back by fall," said Hundley of Newell.

On the corners, Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham took almost every rep with the ones. Cunningham looks very sticky in coverage and is always around the ball. Johnson is still sore but he's fighting through the pain in his foot and hopes to be 100% by fall.

On offense, Pickett returned from a funeral in Idaho but still looks very rusty. He was underthrowing a bit and is still obviously getting his arm back into shape and regaining a full range of motion. Taylor Barton and Casey Paus ran the scrimmage portion of the drills today, giving Pickett a rest.

On the offensive line, Andre Reeves (6-5 310 soph) continues to be listed ahead of Robin Meadow (6-6 300 freshman-RS) in a heated battle. The other tackle spot belongs to Khalif Barnes, who is a fixture at the all important weak tackle spot. With a 6-6 300 pound frame with next to no body fat and a 400-plus bench, Barnes has the potential to be outstanding. He also runs a sub 5.0 in the 40. On the interior, Todd Bachert ran at center when there was no contact. During contact the reps went to Issaquah's Brad Vanneman (6-3 275 freshman-RS). The guards were Nick Newton (6-5 310 junior) and Elliott Zajac, but Aaron Butler isn't far behind them. Add Francisco Tipoti to that mix (who ran with the twos today) and a healthy Dan Dicks and you probably have the fall rotation on what could be an outstanding offensive line.

Today's practice emphasized the running game so the quarterbacks were untested for the most part. The receivers worked on their blocking and Paul Arnold really excelled in that department. He had a pancake of Sam Cunningham during the running drills. Ty Eriks had a great hit in that same drill, knocking the ball flying out of the running back's arms.

The only near-mishap came when Nick Newton and Jafar Williams squared off. Newton was raging mad, but Williams was able to back off far enough before Khalif Barnes and James Sims were able to separate the potential combatants.
"I was happy with the tempo of practice today. We started in a storm and then came inside to get some quality work as a team. Contact was spirited," said Neuheisel of today's workout.

"This may be the best spring that we've had and we're only five days into it. So far, in terms of cooperating and not worrying about winning drills but competing, this has been a good deal."
Cooper's surgery a success: ILB Marquis Cooper had his shoulder repaired successfully and it didn't require as extensive of a process as originally thought. "His surgery went really well. I'm hopeful he can resume lifting in June and be ready to go by August," said Neuheisel.

Off day: Washington will take tomorrow off and resume practice on Thursday.

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