Although the weather for Washington's eighth spring practice was wet, cold and dreary, the Husky players quickly learned that slacking or feeling sorry for themselves would not be allowed. After a sluggish start to walkthroughs, head coach Steve Sarkisian got into his players and challenged them to step up.
"I wanted to wake them up today," explained Sarkisian. "They had the big scrimmage on Saturday, and I think it's natural to come out on a Monday, back in full pads, it was raining when we first came out, and maybe feel sorry for themselves. We need to be not only a physically tough football team, but we need to be a mentally tough football team. These elements of today's practice is something we don't just need to be comfortable in, we need to use to our advantage."
It worked, as his players responded with one of their most intense practices to date. It started in the 7-on-7 passing drills, where quarterback Ronnie Fouch appeared to have one of his better practices. Fouch connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 40-yard touchdown, and had plenty of other accurate passes. Locker also had a solid showing, connecting with Devin Aguilar on a 20-yard touchdown strike.
"I thought Ronnie [Fouch] played well, I though Jake [Locker] played well, I thought our passing game looked better," said Sarkisian. "I think it will only continue to get better as we get into the rhythm of the passing game."
Later in the practice came one of their most spirited 11-on-11 sessions of the spring. Both the offense and defense huddled up at midfield and began jumping, screaming, taunting, and just getting jacked for the upcoming contest.
"I think they responded really well," Sarkisian continued. "I thought our team period was one of the best we have had this spring. It was very spirited, our kids were into it, they were competing, and I thought it went great. We had over 40 plays and they went really hard."
Plenty of players had good showings, with some really excelling. Kavario Middleton had his best performance of the spring, catching three early passes from Locker. Middleton is looking to sepperate himself as the top tight end, but has found it difficult with Chris Izbicki having a great camp.
"I've just been thinking too much, worrying about everything, everything coming into the season and last year," explained Middleton of his struggles. "A lot of things were running through my head, putting a lot of pressure on myself instead of just coming out and playing.''
But the talented sophomore thinks he's figuring it out.
"I'm finally starting to get everything down. My confidence is coming back," explained Middleton. "They threw me the ball and I caught it."
Fouch continued his hot hand in the live session, connecting with Aguilar for 30 yards, and finding David Freeman for a long gain on a screen. Then he hooked up with tight end Ben Hayes who made the catch of the day. Hayes dove towards the sideline, managed to secure the ball while fully extended, and kept his feet in play.
On the ground, true freshman Demitrius Bronson continues to make a case for the starting job. The 5-10, 215-pound back ripped off a 60-yard run, before coaches finally whistled it dead.
"He does it again today, and I think he's even starting to surprise himself," said Sarkisian. "He got out into the open and made a right hand turn, and had he gone straight might have scored a touchdown. He just keeps playing hard, he's a good young kid, he's learning a lot of the game, but he knows how to run the football, that's for sure."
"Essentially he's still a true freshman, and he's had now eight practices of college football," continued Sarkisian. "I am very impressed with his mental toughness. He really comes to work every day focused, and really trying to learn and trying to get better."
Despite being banged up, Shaw also had a nice run for over 30 yards. With Chris Polk, Brandon Johnson, Brandon Yakaboski, and Terrance Dailey all injured, Shaw, Bronson, Freeman, and Willie Griffin are getting all of the carries.
"We are really only evaluating three and a half guys right now," explained Sarkisian. "They are getting a lot of reps and getting a lot of stuff on film, and their evaluation will be more thorough then guys that aren't getting reps."
During the 11-on-11, the defensive line really shined. Cameron Elisara was all over the place, and both Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, and Tyrone Duncan got into the backfield to drop the running back for a loss. Te'o-Nesheim and Elisara also both recorded sacks while the offense was working with their backs to the goal line. The quarterbacks found themselves under pressure all practice, as the defensive line looked better then they have all spring.
"We need to sure up some things in protection, and obviously our defensive front has done a nice job of applying pressure on the quarterback," said Sarkisian.
The practice ended with an overtime drill and some fireworks. With the second units on the field to start, Fouch made a few nice throws. He connected with Anthony Boyles near the sideline, and looked composed as he led the offense into field range, setting up Erik Folk with a 27-yard attempt. Unfortunately Folk was wide right as the defense held.
Next up was the starters, and the defense again was able to hold the offense to field a goal. This time it was from 25 yards out, and it was Cory Rutkowski's turn to kick. But, the coaches decided to ice him, and the defense took the opportunity to get inside the sophomores head. They got into his face, were yelling and screaming, and doing their best to intimidate him before the kick.
It didn't work, as Rutkowski stepped up and knocked it through with ease, as the offense got the last laugh.
- Redshirt Freshman Justin Glenn worked all day with the starters. I will have a feature on Glenn tomorrow.
- RB [db]Terrance Dailey[/db], OL [db]Allen Carroll[/db] and LB Bradly Roussel were all absent from practice due to academic reasons.
- WR D'Andre Goodwin re-aggravated his hurt hamstring during the 7-on-7 drills.
"That things [hamstring] is just tight and the weather didn't help today," Sarkisian said about Goodwin's hamstring. "I will probably try to shut him down until Friday, and really just get him healthy and see what happens."
- OT [db]Skyler Fancher[/db] left he practice with a lower leg injury.
"It didn't look great... I'm hoping it's nothing serious and we will find out here, he's going to get an x-ray," explained Sarkisian of Fancher.
- Ryan Tolar was back as the starting center, with Cody Habben LT, Ben Ossai LG, Drew Schaefer RT, and [db]Senio Kelemete[/db] RG, rounding out the starting unit.
- Sophomore WR Cody Bruns got a lot of work with the starters today in Goodwin's absence. He was also returning punts to open practice.
- Former QB turned WR was also returning punts, and looked good during rout running drills.
- Sarkisian said this after reviewing film of Saturday's scrimmage.
"They tried hard and the effort was good. But we had some missed assignments, and with missed assignments comes a little lack of attention to detail. It's different, because you get into a setting of a scrimmage where it's not scripted out, and guys have to react to a call in the huddle, instead of knowing what is coming in their sequence of plays. So we got a little bit of an idea of guys who can respond, and we got an idea of guys who when they make a mistake, how they respond the next couple of plays. That is something we will address and we will get better at. I though we had a few too many guys that when they made a mistake, they harbored it and carried it with them for the next couple of downs. We need to be a team that will be able to erase that from our memory and move on to the next snap."
- The WR's have been dropping balls and have not been on the same page with the QB's. Sark had this to say about the early struggles.
"It's about rhythm, timing, snap-off points with motion and understanding the timing of the quarterback when the ball is coming out and the accuracy of the throws. We have a lot of things installed; now we have to fine-tune it and get the details of routes and throwing the ball down so our completion percentage goes up."