The Dawgs worked nearly three 'periods' today on 11-on-11 action, with the last period a full-go scrimmage, complete with yardage and down markers. It was very similar to what Husky fans will see on Saturday. "It's just about letting guys play football and getting the coaches off the field," Neuheisel said. "This one will be a little bit different as there will be signaling and some communication going on between the sidelines and the benches and so forth. We'll get a little more of a 'game-day' feel. I'll be the only coach on the field, well behind the action. It's just another chance to play, and the guys will feel it because people will be here and it will resemble what a game day will feel like."
The final period scrimmage lasted 22 plays, split up evenly between the first, second and third teams. DT Jerome Stevens came crashing in to record a sack on the scrimmage's first play, but then it was the Rich Alexis show.
The 6-2, 220-pound tailback from Florida took a draw play to the house, covering 67 yards. He hasn't looked that fast since his freshman year. "I like it," Neuheisel said when asked about the running game. "I think it's incomplete. We're still gonna have some option, but we can't do that right now because of Cody's shoulder. But I think we're going to be a great running team. I'm not so concerned about statistics. I'm concerned about being able to control the ball and being able to control the game. And obviously when you can run the ball you can do that more effectively."
Alexis had another nice run right up the gut, busting loose from tackles and rolling defenders over for 11 hard-earned yards. Braxton Cleman looked great, especially on a couple of screen plays. On one delay in particular, strong guard Elliot Zajac was leading the blockers in front of Cleman and did his job effectively, rolling SAM Jafar Williams as Cleman cut up behind him for a 17-yard gain.
The defense definitely had their moments, especially the linebackers. The period before the full-go session, Zach Tuiasosopo and Joseph Lobendahn went head to head on two flat routes that looked like a clash of the titans. Jo-Lo had number 5 wrapped up, but Zach wasn't going down. It was a great battle where each player stood the other up. Joseph gave Zach a love tap as he was going out of bounds, sending the sophomore from Woodinville crashing to the sidelines. What did Lobendahn earn for his play? A ball upside the head, courtesy of Tuiasosopo. Joe went along his way and back to the huddle, never looking back.
Matt Lingley also continued his fine play this week. During the final 'full-go' session, Lingley absolutely blew Chris Singleton up for a 5-yard loss on a pitch toss. The next play, James Sims came up from his safety position to keep Chris to no gain on the very same play. The sophomore from Etiwanda got his revenge later in the session, going for 21 on a draw play. Right now Singleton looks very fast.
Neuheisel gave backup fullback Adam Seery praise for helping to shore up a position lacking in depth. The junior from Albuquerque, New Mexico has played quarterback and also safety. There's no question he's looking for a home and fullback just might fit the bill. "We'll find out," Neuheisel said with a laugh. "You gotta love the kid for giving everything the ole college try. He definitely wants to play. That's what it's all about. And he does some good things. It isn't as if he's not capable. We'll just have to see how he does. He's a trier, that's a fact."
The receivers looked sharp as always, with Paul Arnold, Reggie Williams and Matt Griffith stepping up. On one sight-adjust pattern by Pickett, Arnold made a sweet sideline grab and headed down the sidelines for a nice gain. On the one-on-ones earlier in the practice, both Williams and Griffith were not stopped. The walk-on sophomore from Tacoma is finding a home as the third receiver and should get a lot of looks on Saturday.
Arnold and Williams were also getting looks at kickoff return men, along with Alexis and Cleman, while normal return men Roc Alexander and Derrick Johnson were held out. "We are going to try and do a lot of kicking on Saturday, but in terms of depth charts and stuff like that, I'm not concerned about that," Neuhseiel said when asked about the various kick return possibilities. "I'm just worried about fundamentals right now and then we'll pick our best guys and budget their time accordingly amongst the teams. That will be an off-season project so we're ready to go in the fall. One of the advantages to having camp here in the fall is the ability to have the lights and maybe be able to put in a little bit of special teams time in the evening with the indoor facility. We'll get a lot of work done."
As usual, the defensive line was solid, if not unspectacular. The offensive line is giving them all they can handle, and Neuheisel is looking for some of his DL to step it up. "I think Terry Johnson is doing a great job," he said. "Jerome Stevens is coming along. Manase Hopoi and Graham Lasee are both works in progress. Junior Coffin has to keep coming. Tusi Sa'au has to keep coming."
In specific with regards to Johnson, Neuheisel isn't set on where the junior from Arizona will play. Right now he's getting looks at both DT and DE. "I think he can do both," Neuheisel said. "What we have to do is settle on one and let him get good at one."
Blow up: The stick of the day came courtesy of DB Domynic Shaw, who laid a lick on TE Todd Jensen on a deep ball after Casey Paus threw a beautiful ball to Jensen, splitting the defenders. Shaw jarred the ball loose from Jensen, where it was recovered by linebacker Mike McEvoy.
Chambers in the house: Jackson's Craig Chambers was at practice today, taking it all in on the sidelines. He had a boot on his left foot and was using crutches to get around. Expect an update on Craig soon to find out how his afternoon at Montlake went.
Getting the grade: Rick Neuheisel, when asked how many incoming freshman are still needing to qualify academically. "Not many. I think almost everybody has qualified. Kenny James just qualified, which was great news. I think most of the guys we are expecting to be here will be here."
Ossim Hatem update: Hatem, the senior-to-be from Spokane, Washington is still in the process of being cleared to play football again, after being on blood-thinning medication for the past year. Hatem is expected to get the results of a test that will determine whether or not he can be cleared to play. He wants to but Nueheisel termed Hatem's chances at a return as 'slight'. "It's just not something we can count on," he said.
Hurst looking around: Former Husky tailback Willie Hurst is taking with a few teams, especially Washington, but has not signed a free agent contract yet.
To be determined: Neuheisel doesn't yet know the format for Saturday's spring scrimmage? Will it be the ones versus the ones? Mixed teams? "I haven't made that determination yet, but hopefully it will be competitive," he said.