Practice report - 8/16 PM

You could tell it was going to be a bit of a strange afternoon. <b><a href=http://scout.TheInsiders.com/a.z?s=147&p=8&c=1&nid=305630&yr=2002>Stanley Daniels</a></b> was trying to skip rope. At one point, there were more red-jersey receivers playing catch than healthy ones. The biggest ex-Husky in attendance? Tom Gallagher. And then you had linemen and guys in casts trying to catch punts.

There was a little bit of everything this afternoon, all in preparation for tomorrow's scrimmage, which begins at 12:30 PM.

The music was another curveball. This morning it was DMX. This afternoon? Ozzy. The twists and turns of today didn't deter Rick Neuheisel. He expects everyone to give effort, all the time. At one point before 7-7's, Neuheisel asked Derrick Johnson, 'Hey 21? Are you going to get better today?' He meant it. And the sophomore from Riverside, California promptly went out and almost made a pick on a ball intended for Matt DeBord.

With so many nicks and dings, tomorrow's scrimmage is going to give some players a shot to really make an impact. Case in point - the safeties. Evan Benjamin and James Sims Jr. are playing very well together and have an excellent grasp of their respective roles. Owen Biddle and Domynic Shaw are moving well as a tandem, while Jordan Slye and BJ Newberry are currently running the scouts.

Watch for the linebacker battles tomorrow. The war at WIL between Joseph Lobendahn and Marquis Cooper has been a fantastic one so far and both have proven they are worthy of starter status. And even though Ty Eriks is a relative neophyte at SAM, he has pushed Jafar Williams to the brink. Ty will get a lot of snaps tomorrow.

Another player with a golden opportunity to make a big splash is junior fullback Adam Seery. Seery ran with the ones again today and nearly had the offensive play of the afternoon, getting behind Ty Eriks and Derrick Johnson but was unable to reel in the Taylor Barton pass. The one thing he has been working hard all camp on is his pass-protect blocking and he did it well today. If he can protect the QB, he'll be worth his weight in gold right there. Scott White also is proving to be a force on offense. He's not getting beat when he's in to block.

At this point, Charles Frederick, Eddie Jackson, Patrick Reddick and Wilbur Hooks Jr. are the only healthy scholarship receivers available tomorrow. The rash of injuries has made ET's re-emergence and Jackson's steady play key so far in camp. Charles once again put in a very workman-like session this afternoon, catching the ball well in traffic and deep. Twice Taylor Barton hooked up with the receiver from Lake Worth, Florida for touchdowns, getting the better of Derrick Johnson both times.

Barton, Casey Paus and Isaiah Stanback received all the reps this afternoon, as Cody Pickett took a breather. The coaches wanted to rest Cody for tomorrow's scrimmage. Barton looked very good throwing today, getting the ball off timely and accurately.

I'm running out of superlatives for Rich Alexis, He once again ripped off another 71-yard burst for a score, this time right up the gut. Kenny James also showed today that he's an incredibly elusive runner amongst a sea of bodies.

Tusi Sa'au and Donnie Mateaki got some looks on the DL today and put in nice efforts. Manase Hopoi blew up Nick Newton during 11-11's, stopping Alexis in his tracks. The sophomore from Sacramento has really solidified his place on the DL. While Graham Lasee, Mike Savicky and Donnie Mateaki have had periods of great play, they haven't come close to Hopoi's moments.

Anthony Kelley got a lot of work at REB, since Kai Ellis worked out this morning. Kevin Ware returned this afternoon. Expect him to play tomorrow.
Notes:
Offensive play of the afternoon: ET gets the nod today, as he took a Taylor Barton bomb downfield over the outstretched arms of Derrick Johnson for six. Charles is making these catches look routine nowadays. Will it spill over to the regular season?

Defensive play of the afternoon: Manase Hopoi touch-sacked Taylor Barton twice in a row during 11-11's. Hopoi could be a tough task for strong tackles this year as he matures.

Hit of the afternoon: This one came courtesy of frosh Brandon Ala. The REB from Honolulu took exception to something Brandon Leyritz did during one-on-ones and promptly threw the walk-on offensive linemen to the turf. For his efforts, Ala was thrown out of the rest of the drill.

Mahdavi takes umbrage: There were two minor scuffles, both including senior MIKE Ben Mahdavi. The first was after a running play, where he got into it a little bit with FB Adam Seery. The other time the man from Mercer Island got a little irked was after an 11-11 series with Patrick Reddick. It was quickly cleared up.

Walking wounded: Paul Arnold, Reggie Williams, Justin Robbins, Greg Carothers, Jimmy Newell, Zach Tuiasosopo, Braxton Cleman and Roc Alexander will not play tomorrow. Sam Cunningham will play with a cast on his right hand and Derrick Johnson, Wilbur Hooks Jr., Kai Ellis and John Anderson are all scheduled to suit up and play.

Linemen catching punts?: This was a lot of fun, and something Neuheisel has done every fall camp since he's been here. But this time around there was a little bit of a twist. Rick had the offensive and defensive seniors pick out 5 players from the other side that they felt couldn't field a punt. The offense chose Graham Lasee, Junior Coffin, Jerome Stevens, Sam Cunningham and Tusi Sa'au. It was clear in picking Cunningham the offensive seniors felt he wouldn't be able to cleanly field a punt.

For the defensive seniors, they chose Nick Newton, Mike Thompson, Brad Vanneman, Jason Simonson and Robin Kezirian. So the name of the game was simple; catch the ball. Whichever side caught the most balls out of five got to sit out of the practice-ending gassers.

Both sides were really woofing at each other as the players tried to field punts from the punt machine. Nobody on the defense dropped a ball, while Brad Vannemann and Robin Kezirian dropped their chances. The defense went ballistic when Sa'au caught his ball, assuring the victory for the men in purple.

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