Practice report - 8/15 PM

It seemed somehow appropriate that the warmup music for the Washington Huskies this afternoon would be a double-shot of Metallica (For Whom The Bell Tolls / Sad But True), considering this would be the first time the team would get a chance to really lay a lick on each other. Even as they went through their other drills, you could sense the anticipation. Having ex-Husky legend Don James in attendance hightened the stakes that much more.

Husky Head Coach Rick Neuheisel was again a very active presence this afternoon, showing the QB's and receivers what to look for with different defenses. He was equally ready to hand out praise and admonishment when things didn't go as crisply as they should. "You're getting ready for Ann Arbor!" was the cry when the offense was going through the motions. After Neuheisel made it clear he didn't want players just standing around, the players came out of the huddle with quickness and a sense of purpose, and it rolled over for the duration of practice.

Zach Tuiasosopo sat out practice today, so Adam Seery got all the reps at the ones and looked pretty sharp for a converted quarterback. You can tell the Albuquerque, New Mexico native has been putting in some serious hours in the weight room, and he blocked extremely well in the one-on-one blocking drills. He also has soft hands out of the backfield and runs well. Scott White definitely brings a linebacking mentality to the fullback position, pancaking James Sims Jr. during the one-on-one blocking drills. He still needs work understanding the playbook, but White could be traveling to Ann Arbor as he's working himself into the rotation.

Speaking of the safety from Las Vegas, Nevada, Sims ran with the ones today because Jimmy Newell had to have surgery today on a thumb he injured yesterday. Newell's injury isn't as serious as once thought and according to Neuheisel will be available for work probably by Monday with a small cast. Both Sims and Evan Benjamin are coming along like gangbusters, with Benjamin coming up with a couple of huge sticks during the 'full-go' session.

Another player that is suffering from some hamstring tightness is senior tight end Kevin Ware. In Ware's absence, Joe Toledo stepped up and showed glimpses of why his future is so bright. He caught everything thrown his way and made a big grab on the first play of full-go, causing the whole offense to erupt in celebration. Andy Heater also got a fair number of snaps and is progressing nicely. He's especially adept at blocking.

This afternoon was an opportunity for the running backs to shine, and they did. On the first play of a 9-9 series (without WR's or DB's), Rich Alexis blasted through a hole off-tackle and tip-toed down the sidelines for a 71-yard score. The fact that he was able to outrun the safeties is good news for Husky fans. It looks like the Alexis of two years ago is back.

Chris Singleton had times where he struggled, and other times where he looked magnificent. He needs to work on his hands, and was reminded of that fact when Kai Ellis planted him after a missed grab over the middle. He also will need to improve his blocking during max-protect sequences. Both Kenny James and Shelton Sampson had solid workouts, especially the man from Clover Park High School. He had a long run during the first 11-11 session and scored from one yard out during the 'full-go' session. Shelton also showed his strength during the 9-9's when he rolled Nate Robinson as Nate tried to go head-up on him.

With the two-deeps ripped in half by injuries, the receivers were once again the 'Charles Frederick' show. Patrick Reddick, Justin Robbins and Eddie Jackson were the only other scholarshipped receivers participating today, and Robbins got a scare when Nate Robinson shoved him out of bounds, causing his knee to act up again. It wasn't anything serious, and Justin was able to walk off under his own power but did not play again the rest of the day.

ET, whether it's with the quick hitters or with the home-run balls, appears equally comfortable in either situation. He went high over Roc Alexander to bring down a Cody Pickett pass for a long completion, earning some applause from those Husky fans checking things out.

Defensively, Kai Ellis, Brandon Ala, Marquis Cooper and Evan Benjamin stood out as active players that just made plays. The senior from Kent, from all indications, is not suffering much at all with chronic knees that held up his progress for much of last year. He looks to be running really well and is always a force in the opposition's backfield.

Ala was a continual pain in the butt to the weak tackles he went up against, showing unbelievable quickness and technique. The coaches will be hard-pressed to keep Cooper out of the lineup, showing he can make plays inside and out from his spot at WIL. On one play, he closelined Chris Singleton, sending Chris reeling. On another, Singleton lost the handle on a pitch during the full-go session and Marquis was johnny on the spot, picking it up and racing down the sideline with a convoy of purple helping him along. When the defense saw Cooper scoop up the ball, they completely lost it, jumping up and down and going crazy.

But the safety from Redmond stood out when it counted most, going like a house afire during the full-go session. On one play, Benjamin and Owen Biddle blew up Rich Alexis right at the goal line, again causing the defense to go ballistic. On another play, tight end Andy Heater looked like he had a sure touchdown as he was coming down with the ball in the endzone, but right when he turned to his left and got a face-full of number 27, causing the pigskin to drop to the field turf. It was a big-time play turned in by Benjamin, and the rest of the defense was suitably impressed, whooping, hollering and woofing at the offense.

The offense got their turn to woof back, as Kenny James ran from the 3 to the 1 and then Shelton Sampson finished the job over the right side. Shelton was noticably happy and why not? It was his first touchdown in Husky Stadium, perhaps the first of many, many more to come. Overall the offense scored three times from the 3 and the defense stopped them three times. The offense was given two chances to score from the 3 each time.

Offensive play of the afternoon: Joe Toledo's one-arm stab of a Cody Pickett lob in the end zone gets the big man from Encinitas, California this award. The way he reacted after catching it, I think he even suprised himself just a little bit.

Defensive play of the afternoon: Benjamin gets the big stick of the day, but he'll also share this honor with Owen Biddle. Evan and Owen filled in a hole at the goal line, stuffing Rich Alexis right where he was. The defense got really pumped after that double stick.

Big hit of the afternoon: That would Evan Benjamin's plant of Andy Heater in the end zone. To Andy's credit, if the ball had been accurately delivered, he would have had a better chance of holding on, but the way the ball came to him he had no chance.

Getting his kicks: On John Anderson's first attempt of fall camp, the senior placekicker was able to punt the ball from the track to the upper deck on the north side of Husky Stadium. In all he was able to do it twice on the day.

Under control: There were no real skirmishes today, the biggest being a quick shoving match between Brad Vanneman and Josh Miller that never did escalate into anything serious.

Injury roll-call: By the end of practice there were 8 key players still out with various nicks and dings - Reggie Williams, Paul Arnold, Justin Robbins, Zach Tuiasosopo, Braxton Cleman, Jimmy Newell, Greg Carothers and Kevin Ware. Carothers and Ware are nursing slight hamstring pulls. Wilbur Hooks Jr. is only participating once a day, so he sat out this afternoon. Top Stories