4/16 Practice Report

Washington began the afternoon in Husky Stadium and ran through all of their fundamental non-contact drills outside. Once the rain picked up and it was time to hit with full pads, the boys ran inside the Dempsey Indoor practice facility and strapped up the chin straps for probably the most spirited practice of the spring.

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There were plenty of extra curricular activities going on after whistles this afternoon. During one drill, Rich Alexis was tackled and hit pretty late by linebacker Matt Lingley. Offensive lineman Brad Vanneman took offense to the hit and let Lingley know about it. Those two squared off and then Terry Johnson got involved, but was restrained by Zach Tuiasosopo.

That pretty much set the tone of today's practice.

As tempers neared a boil, Neuheisel ran them through what he called "The Washington Husky" drill, where pads are lined up and a football field is created that is seven yards wide and 10 yards long. It is a three on three with a ball carrier behind the three linemen. The ball carrier has three downs in which to score. It was during that drill where tempers went out the window.

That drill is designed to get the team going, and it had it's desired effect, for the most part. "Absolutely. Everybody is supposed to be fired up and lathered up and ready to go," said Neuheisel about the drill.

"If we can practice like that every time, we'll continue to get better."

The offensive line came to life during the Husky drill and sprung Zach Tuiasosopo and Adam Seery on back to back series. The defense came to life once Joseph Lobendahn entered the field as he made two of the three tackles on Chris Singleton.

"He's a great tackler. He's very, very exciting," said Neuheisel of Lobendahn. "He's got textbook form and great pad level. He's just a natural football player."

Then he saw that Joseph was within earshot and quipped, "Even though he's only 5 foot six, I think he's a really good player. He actually was an extra in the Wizard of Oz."

Lobendahn busted out laughing.

Matt Lingley and offensive tackle Robin Meadow tangled a bit during the Husky drill. On one play, Lingley burst through Meadow to bring down Braxton Cleman. On the next play Meadow got the upper hand and made sure that Lingley knew it as the two battled well after the whistle.

Later, Meadow and defensive end Graham Lasee were locked in an after-whistle scrum. Lasee's helmet flew off in the process. Meadow, at 6-5 318 pounds and a 34-inch waist, is a very imposing sparring partner, to say the least. Still, Lasee didn't take one backwards step despite being outweighed by about 60 pounds.

Those skirmishes weren't part of the design of the drill, however. "I mentioned at the end of practice that while it's an emotional and passionate game, we have to be able to draw the line. We can't hurt ourselves by losing our composure," said Neuheisel.

The biggest hit of the afternoon came courtesy of Lasee, who was very active all afternoon. The redshirt freshman from Sehome burst through the second team offensive line and crushed Chris Singleton for a four-yard loss. The hit and tackle were perfect and defensive coordinator Tim Hundley gave him a bear hug for his effort.

The offensive turned it up on a few drills as well, and when they needed the big yards they went to you- know-who. Reggie Williams made two nice TD grabs from Cody Pickett, who continues to knock the rust off and look better every day. Williams' second score was a thing of beauty as he caught it in front of Eric Roy and James Sims. Sims hit Williams hard but the tall receiver was able to drag him into the endzone.

The second team offense had a nice moment when OG Aaron Butler and OT Robin Meadow were able to punch a crease in the defensive line of Tusi Sa'au, Junior Coffin, and Manase Hopoi. Chris Singleton rammed it through for a 21-yard gain, getting tackled on the one by Derrick Johnson.

Jelani Harrison had the run of the day when he took a pitch around right end but found Lasee waiting. He reversed fields, picked up some blocks and ran around left end for a 25-yard TD. His 4.39 40 speed was on full display.

Derrick Johnson toughed it out on a sore wheel and made it through practice as the starting corner next to Sam Cunningham. The safeties were Jim Newell, who wore red, and Sims. Newell, despite avoiding contact, did get in a good shot on TE Kevin Ware, who caught a ball across the middle for a big gain before being introduced to Newell's shoulder pads.

Sims had the defensive play of the day when he stepped in front of a Taylor Barton pass intended for walkon receiver Matt Griffith and intercepted the ball.

The young defensive line is showing improvement, but the depth is very young. Particularly at the inside tackle spots. "Jerome Stevens and Josh Miller are both doing a good job inside, and they have to. We don't have enough bodies in there for anyone to take a play off. They need to keep going, we need fighters in there," said Neuheisel.

Behind those two there has been a pretty significant drop off thus far this spring. Randy Hart has said that he could put Terry Johnson back inside if needed, but would prefer to have him remain at defensive end.

Husky Notes:

Get your red: Washington had no less than FOURTEEN players wearing red jerseys this afternoon. "We're so thin on defense due to injury it's almost not fair," commented Neuheisel after practice today. "Poor James Sims has to take every rep and he has a sore hamstring. If we had everybody healthy we'd probably rest him too." Evan Benjamin and Chris Massey both wore boots on their left foots today and sat out. Charles Frederick sat out with a bruised shoulder.

Eriks to move again? Ty Eriks, the 6-2 218 pound redshirt freshman continued to take reps at safety but that could be mainly due to all of the injuries the Huskies have at that position. Evan Benjamin was in a boot today and wearing red. Word has it that Eriks may be moved to SAM linebacker to add depth behind Jafar Williams. "There's a possibility. We think he's a good football player and we're trying to get him on the field," said Neuheisel. One additional note on Eriks – he has pulled straight As on his first two quarters of school.

Alexis impresses: Rich Alexis looks faster than he did a year ago and this spring he's done some great things. "He's in shape for maybe the first time since he's been here, and he's got the right mental state. I'm excited about watching him," said Neuheisel. "We've got a very healthy competition going on at tailback. I'm not even evaluating who the starter is, I just want them to both (Alexis and Cleman) continue to improve."

Top junior in attendance: Inglemoor High School junior Jordan White-Frisbee, a punishing defensive tackle, was in attendance today. He is considered the top junior in the state this year. He has size 18 feet already.

Washington has tomorrow off and will resume practice on Thursday.

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