Defense rules scrimmage #1

On a rainy Master's Friday, the Washington Huskies convened in their Dempsey Indoor practice facility and conducted their first scrimmage of the spring, a 65-play controlled drill. The defense consistently stopped the offense, and were led by the 10 tackles of inside linebacker Joseph Lobendahn, a 5-10 225-pound freshman from Hawaii that was all over the field.

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The scrimmage began with the first team offense against the first team defense. Cody Pickett ran the offense with Zach Tuiasosopo and Braxton Cleman behind him in the backfield. The offensive line consisted of Dan Dicks at center (Todd Bachert sat out), Nick Newton and Elliott Zajac at the guards and Robin Meadow and Khalif Barnes at the tackles.

The defense lined up with Terry Johnson, Jerome Stevens, Josh Miller, and Houdini Jackson as the front four, Joseph Lobendahn, Tim Galloway, and Jafar Williams at the linebacking positions, Evan Benjamin and James Sims at the safeties, and Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham on the corners.

On the first drive, Stevens had three tackles. He finished the day with seven, an outstanding showing for the 6-2 295-pounder from Oxnard, California. Pickett showed good accuracy on the first drive, completing a 15-yard out pattern to Reggie Williams, a 10 yard dump off to 290-pound Joe Toledo, and then scrambling for a first down on third and six.

"Our defensive front has to continue to come along. There are also young players on the defensive side of the ball that are doing a great job. Evan Benjamin and James Sims I am really excited about," said Neuheisel of his defense.

"I think Ty Eriks and Sam Cunningham are doing well. It is good to have Derrick Johnson back."

Pickett finished the day seven of eight for 105 yards, keeping all of his passes in the short to intermediate range. He had one touchdown, a 20-yarder to Reggie Williams. Still, he looks a bit rusty. "He has still got work to do. He is thankful that he has two more weeks because he needs every last day," said Neuheisel during the scrimmage.

"Cody is still rusty because of the shoulder injury and his inability to be a real major factor in the off-season. But he is coming along. I feel good about our offense."

No one on Washington's offense has been able to stop Williams all spring, and he finished today with 63 yards receiving on just three catches.

"Zach Tuiasosopo, he is young from the standpoint of a position change. Joe Toledo, Robin Meadow and Charles Frederick are all going to be integral parts (of our offense). Another guy that has been showing up is Jelani Harrison," said Neuheisel of his offense.

The defensive front seven did a fantastic job of limiting the running game today. When the ones were against the ones, Braxton Cleman was held to just 21 yards on nine carries and Rich Alexis could only pick up 33 yards on six carries. 20 of Alexis' yards came when Jafar Williams was taken down on a hold by TE Joe Toledo that the referees missed.

"I am anxious to see if Terry Johnson is making the kind of impact that he ought to make given his ability. Jerome Stevens is making plays. It's good to have Anthony Kelley out here, he is making some plays. We are not overly big there, so we need to be efficient," said Neuheisel.

He also mentioned that defensive end Manase Hopoi was showing up on film.

Lobendahn was all over the field as he has been all spring. He is the shortest of the linebackers but his form is outstanding. "He runs and he strikes," said LB coach Cornell Jackson. "That's what you want to see out of your linebackers."

Lobendahn had 10 stops while fellow first-team linebacker Tim Galloway added seven stops.

Safety Evan Benjamin had the biggest hits of the day, planting three huge pad-poppers on various offensive players. The first came when Pickett threw over the middle for Toledo. Big Joe looked like he would make the catch but the 6-0 200 pound safety put a huge hit on the tight end, causing him to cough up the ball and sprawl to the turf.

On the very next play, Pickett threw to walk-on receiver Matt Griffith. Griffith made the catch but paid dearly as once again Benjamin was there to put a bone-jarring hit on him. The defense was revved to feverish pitch by those two hits.

Later in the scrimmage Benjamin separated Matt DeBord from the ball on what looked to be a long gain across the middle. The redshirt freshman from Redmond made a good name for himself today.

"I think he looks outstanding. He's got natural instincts for that position, he is physical and he is tough. He came back from an ankle injury and was back at practice the very next day. I like everything about him," said Neuheisel of Benjamin.

The other safety that stood out today was Ty Eriks. He is looking more and more comfortable at the strong safety position. Today he ran with the twos and had a fantastic interception. Barton threw a ball to Charles Frederick, who looked to be open for a moment. Cornerback Chris Massey arrived just as the ball did and was able to knock the football away from ET. Eriks was in good coverage position and was able to move over and make a diving interception of the ball, showing off his ball skills and his 4.5 speed.

James Sims had nine tackles to lead all safeties, but Benjamin had seven as well.

Taylor Barton led the second team offense and continued his solid spring. He completed seven of 12 passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns while throwing one interception. Casey Paus was two of four for 21 yards. His best pass was the last one of the scrimmage where he avoided Junior Coffin, bought time, and slung a perfect pass to Matt Griffith but the receiver was unable to make the catch.

Jelani Harrison, mostly running against the third team defense, led all rushers with 61 yards on six carries.

Second team defensive end Graham Lasee showed some great quickness today and made an impact during his time in the scrimmage. He had three solid tackles. He is backing up Terry Johnson, who is having an amazing spring. Johnson was disruptive all day, as was Stevens. All in all, it was the defense's day.

"I think we are on track. We are working hard and the kids are eager to play," said Neuheisel. Top Stories