First Practice in the Books

SEATTLE - With Washington fans lining the field at Husky Stadium, it just felt like something new, definitely something different. Over 200 interested spectators braved the cold and rain to see the first practice of the Steve Sarkisian era, and it was as advertised - high-tempo, intense, competitive and fun to watch.

"It felt good," Sarkisian said afterward. "It was a decent turnout. Hopefully the response is good and the turnout continues to grow and we get more and more people out here."

The team appeared to thrive on the competitive aspect of Sarkisian's team period, where the offense and defense went 11-11, and each play was scored on the offense's ability to either get four yards or more on a carry or a pass completion. Sarkisian singled out Donald Butler, Chris Izbicki and Nate Williams as players that stood out during the two-hour practice, played in shorts, jerseys and helmets. The first padded practice won't happen until Saturday, when the team will run in half-pads.

"I'm anxious to watch the film, because when you get to analyze it you start to see guys that are doing things right and you start to see some of the guys that may be guessing a little bit to make their plays," Sarkisian said. "So we need to analyze it really well, get it cleaned up, coached up and come back Thursday and go again."

David Freeman hit a cut-back lane and scampered for a big gain to the delight of the offense, and quarterback Jake Locker connected with Izbicki for a couple of nice gains during the team period, but the defense held fast and eventually won the competition, which ran roughly 25-30 plays.

"They got the offense," Sarkisian said of the defense taking the day. "They played well. I thought our 'backers, especially as the practice moved on, made more and more plays - especially in the run game. (E.J.) Savannah got in the backfield a couple of times, made a couple of plays. It was good."

But it wasn't flawless. At different points during the team period, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, De'Shon Matthews and Kalani Aldrich were all seen doing either pushups or up-downs after plays.

Overall, the practice was characterized by a lot of running, and the pace was set very early. In the past, the offense and defense were very segregated, with the defense practicing almost solely on the east field until the team period. That was definitely not the case Tuesday, as it seemed either the offense or defense were sprinting to the other field at the end of a period. For at least the first half of practice, it was rare to not see at least half the team moving to one station or another.

"It increased as practice went on," Sarkisian said of the tempo. "The team period...there was a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. I liked that our kids were into it and competing. I'm anticipating it'll pick up from there.

"I thought our guys responded very well. We're still getting used to the flow of practice. As we moved through practice the tempo picked up more and more and more. I'm anticipating it's only going to get better as we move forward.
Notes:
Nice turnout: For Day One, it appeared that the only players that didn't participate were Jason Wells, who was wearing a boot on his right foot, and Terrance Dailey, who was wearing red. Vonzell McDowell was wearing red, but still participated quite a bit. Everyone else on the roster appeared to participate in some form or another.

How's Jake?: Sarkisian was asked about the play of junior quarterback Locker, who is coming off of surgery to his throwing hand after sustaining an injury throwing a block in the fifth game of the 2008 season against Stanford. "Obviously some things we're doing are new to him," Sarkisian said of Locker, also noting that Jake is back to 100 percent health. "He's working his way through it. I thought he did some really nice things today, and he was fighting the urge to take off. He'll get more and more comfortable in the pocket and his accuracy will only increase. As we start to turn him loose running, he'll become even more of a dangerous threat. Anytime you have that dual threat, it makes you dangerous."

OL gets a facelift: The offensive line is nothing like what UW fans saw last year. Gone is senior Juan Garcia at center and senior Casey Bulyca at right guard. But LT Ben Ossai started out Tuesday at left guard instead of his normal position of left tackle. Cody Habben started there instead. At center was Ryan Tolar, who has been a mainstay at left guard the past couple of years. At right guard was Senio Kelemete, newly swapped over from the defensive line. At right tackle was redshirt frosh Drew Schaefer. "We're just trying to be as athletic as we can be," Sarkisian said of the new-look offensive line. "Ben (Ossai) is obviously a pretty athletic guy, and he dropped quite a bit of weight. To bring him inside allows us to stay athletic on the edge and stay athletic on the inside. When you look at that group, that's a very athletic group up front. We're athletic, we're quick. And hopefully when we get the pads on and can get downfield to the second level, that will show up even more."

For reference, the number-two offensive line - at least for Tuesday's practice - appeared to be Allen Carroll (LT), Morgan Rosborough (LG), Mykenna Ikehara (C), Matt Sedillo (RG) and Skyler Fancher (RT).

Te'o-Nesheim doing damage - Senior DL Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has been a stalwart on Washington's line, and much of that has been because of his versatility. Sarkisian acknowledged that on Tuesday, but also talked about why they like the native Hawaiian to start out inside. "We have to move him around," Sarkisian said of Te'o-Nesheim. "He creates a lot of havoc when he's internal because he's so quick. Because our defense likes to move and slant so much, when he's moving against big guys in there, he can cause a lot of problems. He was in the backfield a few times today right at the snap of the ball."

For reference, the number-one DL for Tuesday was Darrion Jones and Everrette Thompson at ends and Te'o-Nesheim and Cameron Elisara at tackles. The number-two DL was Kalani Aldrich and De'Shon Matthews at ends and Tyrone Duncan and Alameda Ta'amu at tackles.

Not-so special teams: Erik Folk got his chance to see what he could do as placekicker, and went 1-4. The good news? The one make was from 47-yards out. The bad news? All the other misses were from closer, with one hitting the right upright and the other two missing left.

Recruits in the house: Darius Waters (Lakes), Austin Robinson (Kentridge), Ben Riva (O'Dea), Happy Iona (Bethel), Roc Hill (Lakes), and a bunch of players from Juanita, including Cody Treddenbarger, Sam Shirley, Jeremiah Laufasa and Nathan Dean.

Former players in the house: Hugh Millen, Brock Huard, Leif Johnson, Anthony Kelley, Rod Jones, Jason Chorak, Ink Aleaga and Mark Stewart. Also, the whole Volleyball staff was there, including Head Coach Jim McLaughlin.


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