Second scrimmage brings out the Dawgs

The sun was out today as the Washington Huskies went hard after it for the last time before next Saturday's spring game. The luminaries were all out in full force as the Dawgs went after it for 88 plays this morning, lasting roughly 100 minutes.

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"It was a great scrimmage from the standpoint of coaching," Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel said after the scrimmage was complete. "It looks a little disjointed when you are watching it from the stands because people are moving and guys are playing different positions so it doesn't have the same type of feel as a game. I was pleased with the intensity, but one thing I talked to them about at the conclusion of the scrimmage is that we have to do a better job of coming off the bench and being ready to go full speed. Sometimes when we are sitting or waiting for our turn to go it takes us a while to rev up the engines. You can never predict the tempo of a football game, so that's something we've got to mature into so we're ready to play when we hit the field. But I'm pleased where we are as a football team. Certainly there's a lot of improvement to be made and we can't afford to miss any of the opportunities we have available to us this next week, so I'm anxious to keep going."

The number ones offensively lined up with Cody Pickett under center, and Braxton Cleman and Zach Tuiasosopo in the backfield. Paul Arnold and Reggie Williams were split wide, and the offensive line lined up (from strong to weak side) with Andre Reeves, Elliott Zajac, Dan Dicks, Nick Newton and Khalif Barnes. Defensively, Tim Hundley's started out with Josh Miller, Jerome Stevens and Terry Johnson up front, Jafar Williams at SAM and Houdini Jackson at REB. Tim Galloway and Joe Lobendahn were the inside linebackers. Sam Cunningham and Derrick Johnson started at corner, while Ty Eriks and James Sims got the nod at safety.

"I'm really pleased with our young secondary," Neuheisel said. "Derrick Johnson coming back, even though he's really playing on one foot now but he's gutting it out. His foot is still a little sore and he's also working with a bit of an ankle sprain but he's pushing through it. Sam Cunningham's making progress. James Sims at free safety is really making progress. Evan Benjamin was doing a terrific job until he got hurt. That's pleasing, knowing the experienced players that are going to be back in the fall fresh off their healed injuries. I think our linebacking corps is really doing well. Joe Lobendahn is an exciting player. Jafar Williams, having him healthy and back is fantastic for our football team. And you start to think about adding Ben Mahdavi and Marquis Cooper to those guys and you get excited about that. I really like those two levels of our defense. Our defensive line has to come along. Manase Hopoi is making progress, but our defensive line has to get up to speed, but with those other two I think we're going to have a really good defense."

He acknowledged, however, that the defensive line is still somewhat unsettled. "We're trying all kinds of combinations on the defensive front, trying to find our best three and hopefully we'll arrive at that before too much longer," he said. "They are trying hard. We're not there yet, but all these practices help. It's encouraging to see that they like to play."

The number one offense started out hot, going 80 yards on 9 plays, with Cleman closing out the drive from two yards out. That play was costly, as DT Tui Alailefaleula came up gimpy on the play with a high ankle sprain. He's most likely out for the remainder of the spring.

The number two defense then stiffened up on the next two series, not allowing a point. Offensively, the twos lined up with Taylor Barton under center and Adam Seery and Chris Singleton in the backfield. Matt DeBord and Matt Griffith were the wideouts and the offensive line (from strong to weak side) consisted of Robin Meadow, Aaron Butler, Brad Vanneman, Jason Simonson and Ryan Brooks.

Defensively, the twos came out up front with Tusi Sa'au, Junior Coffin and Graham Lasse, with Manase Hopoi getting his first shot at REB (later as a DE) and Will Conwell at SAM. Tyler Krambrink and Matt Lingley were lined up as the inside 'backers. The secondary had Eric Roy and Eric Shyne at the corners and Rayshon Dukes and B.J. Newberry at the safeties.

The last series with the twos saw second-team kick Evan Knudson miss short from 47 yards.

The ones then came back in and summarily gave up two points when Rich Alexis bobbled a pitch in the endzone and could only cover the ball as he was hawked by Jafar Williams. The next series was a little more indicative of what the first team offense is capable of, and produced the offensive highlight of the day.

Starting from their own 23, Pickett methodically marched his guys downfield to their 35, when Paul Arnold tood a simple hitch on the left side of the field and outran Derrick Johnson and Ty Eriks down the sideline, ultimately getting a shove out of bounds at the white 15 for a gain of 50 yards.

Neuheisel acknowledged Paul's big play. "Every time I see a guy like Paul Arnold make plays it excites you because he's a weapon," he said. "I thought our running game did some good things. But it's difficult to assess things without the benefit of video tape. But I kind of thought our defense rose up after that first drive where they gave up a long drive. I thought we came back out and did some good things."

Pickett finished the scrimmage 8-9 for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. Neuheisel talked about Cody's progress this spring. "I think there's a really high expectation level for him given the experience he garnered from last year," Neuheisel said. "I want him to really become a student of the game. I want him to know everything there is to know about defenses, how to attack them and what to play-call is designed to do, if it's possible and conceivable...and that's all part of the process. He's played here one year and I keep thinking he's played here five years. As long as he puts in the work I think he's going to be a great player. His shoulder is fine, I don't think there's any wear and tear on it. He's doing well."

Casey Paus generaled the third team and came up with 2 scores to tight ends Andy Heater and Todd Jensen as he went 9-14 for 85 yards. Paus was also the beneficiary of some fine running from walk-on running back John Gardenhire, who ran 9 times for 20 yards and had one touchdown. He had a long run of 11 yards. Gardenhire, Griffith and Jensen were all walk-ons that Neuheisel praised after the scrimmage.

"All he does is make plays," Neuheisel said of the Griffith, the former quarterback from Lakes High School in Lakewood. "He came here as a quarterback. He's one of those types of kids that just wants to play. Put me anywhere you want me. We put him in at receiver because of our lack of depth there and he's been fun to watch. He caught a touchdown today and caught everything that was thrown his way, so I wouldn't be shocked to see him get some chances to play in the fall. He's that kind of kid."

Husky fans got a scare a little later on in the scrimmage when the number twos were going after it deep in white territory. As Chris Singleton was getting tossed for a one-yard loss by Jafar Williams, Aaron Butler lay motionless on the field turf, his helmet off. As trainers tended to Butler, the team moved to the East end to finish off the drive. After what seemed about five minutes, Butler was helped up and came off the field on his own power. He waved to fans in attendance as they cheered. It looked a lot worse that it apparently is, according to Neuheisel.

"I think Aaron will be fine," he said. "I know it's nervous for everybody when a guy goes down and complains that he's hurt his neck. We were there and he was able to move everything, which is why I was able to leave that injury scene. I knew he was going to be fine, it's basically a stinger. The one injury we did have today was with Tui Alailefaleula, which was a high ankle sprain. That means he probably won't have much more spring practice."

One position Neuheisel liked today was the tight end spot. Kevin Ware was running with the ones and caught 3 balls for 30 yards and one score. The Husky head coach knows that this is the year for the big man from Spring, Texas to cash in on all the hard work he put in behind Jerramy Stevens.

"Doing really well," Neuheisel said of Ware. "The first few years in his career here, Jerramy Stevens was catching most of the passes. He was primarily a blocker but he's doing really well in the pass-catching department. Cody obviously has a lot of confidence in him and that's going to be a nice looking position. Joe Toledo, Andy Heater and even Todd Jensen are coming along behind him so I like the tight end spot."

The number one running back spot is still very much up for grabs, as Cleman received the majority of the carries with the ones today. "We're alternating with the ones," Neuheisel said. "Braxton and Rich are both running with the ones and Chris Singleton is running with the twos. John Gardenhire did some good things at tailback today. We'll just wait and see but right now it's Braxton and Rich that are sharing that spot."

The senior from Oroville gained 25 yards on 6 carries and a score, while Alexis 10 yards on 7 carries and two scores. Rich looks a lot more assertive on short yard carries and looks like money from 4 yards in. Jelani Harrison earned 25 yards on 5 carries, while Singleton ran 7 times for 19 yards and a long of 17.

Notes:

In attendance - Seen out at Husky Stadium today were Marques Tuiasosopo, Jerramy Stevens, Sonny Sixkiller and Chris O'Connor. Before the scrimmage there was a coaching clinic held by the coaching staff. There were coaches from San Leandro HS, Helix HS (San Diego), Corona HS and Kahuku HS (Hawaii). Taylor Barton's father Greg was also seen on the sidelines. Among the 50-60 high school players in attendance was Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic's Ryan Gunderson, a 6-5, 220-pound quarterback.

The dreaded right hash - John Anderson missed three field goal attempts from the right hash before making his forth attempt. The only time he tried from the left hash was right on target.

What could have been - Reggie Williams split Derrick Johnson and James Sims right now the middle of the field and had six on his mind as Cody Pickett delivered the ball on stride. When Williams couldn't come up with the ball there was a noticeable groad from Husky fans in the stands. Reggie ended the day with no receptions.

Dynamic Duo - The two leading tacklers in the scrimmage aren't exactly household names - yet. Linebacker Matt Lingley had 8 tackles, while Eric Shyne came up big with 7 stops. Lingley and Manase Hopoi led the defense with 3 and 2 tackles for loss, respectively.

Eriks endears himself - The redshirt frosh from Seattle used to hang out with the offense, but he showed that he's acclimating himself quite nicely on the other side of the ball. On a pitch play to Rich Alexis that netted four, Eriks locked horns with Elliott Zajac, earning offsetting personal fouls. It's clear Ty has the mental makeup to be a punishing player in the Pac-10.

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