Day three in the books. …
UW held its third practice of fall camp in front of a couple hundred fans at Husky Stadium. It was the first in shoulder pads and helmet, which brought with it the first hitting of any kind this fall.
Coaches dubbed it “Turnover Wednesday” — a practice with an emphasis on creating turnovers on defense and holding onto the ball on offense — and the defense won the day by forcing a handful of turnovers.
THE BIG STORY
It was the first day with any real hitting — and there was a lot of real hitting. I really have no idea if it’s a lot more than on this same day a year ago as we didn’t get to see it then. But there was a lot of smashing going on today. Most notable was the hit by LB Matt Houston that leveled Jordan Polk on a crossing route. It looked painful, but the 5-8, 162-pound Polk quickly bounded back up, tossing the ball in the air, to show he was okay.
Coach Steve Sarkisian actually had some mixed feelings on that, saying the team has to learn to practice hard while also keeping everyone healthy.
“It’s not that we are not trying to hit guys, but that we need to protect our football team,” he said.
Polk, though, said it was all good.
“He made a good hit on me, but I’m going to show him I’m tough and I can get back up,” he said. “You can hit me as hard as you can and I’ll get back up. It’s football. I don’t really care as long as I catch the ball and just make plays.”
The hit, however, was indicative of a day won by the defense. Free safety Greg Walker had two interceptions and a couple of hard hits of his own and the offense just never seemed to find any rhythm.
Sarkisian, though, said that was typical of a first day with any real hitting.
Also worth noting that it was also a “Red Zone” day and the offense almost always started plays from about the 25 on in, which made it harder to spread the field passing.
“The first day in shoulder pads, for whatever reason for the quarterbacks it’s not their best day,” he said. “It gets a little intense, the mentality of just not making as quick a decision as you’d like is there. So we just have to continue to work through it and coach really well and we will get better.”
STAR OF THE DAY
Or in this case, stars, as the two best players seemed to be Walker and freshman WR James Johnson, who continues to shine and emerge as the one member of the Class of 2009 who seems sure to make a big impact.
Johnson caught three TD passes during team drills, one a highlight-reel worthy one-handed grab in traffic of a pass from Jake Locker.
“When the bullets were flying today, he stepped his game up,” said receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. “He’s not afraid. He’s not afraid of the challenge or the spotlight.”
I focused on Johnson for my main story for tomorrow’s paper, which you can find here.
As for Walker, he said: “I was just doing what I was told to do, getting my deep-third and had some luck today. I was able to get a few nice hits and pick the ball off, doing what I was supposed to do.”
NOTES, QUOTES AND RANDOM THOUGHTS
— TE Kavario Middleton missed practice to attend to some personal matters.
— The only injuries were suffered by DT Cameron Elisara (quad bruise) and S Nate Williams (knee bruise). Each looked minor. Williams appeared to just bang knees at one point.
— More pressing is the status of JC transfer CB Dominque Gaisie, who had participated in Monday’s practice but has been out the last two days while the NCAA Clearinghouse takes a closer look at his transcripts. Sarkisian said there could be resolution to Gaisie’s status as early as today and it’s possible he could be ruled ineligible for the season. “They’ll make a decision and we’ll be able to move on one way or the other,” Sarkisian said.
— There was lots of work with the punters and kickers today. Erik Folk had another nice day going 4-4, with a long of 42, and Will Mahan also appeared to do a good job punting.
— They continue to roll through all the TBs so it’s hard to know who is really where in that battle. But Johri Fogerson seemed to have a nice day, breaking a long run off a sweep at one point.
— One of Walker’s big hits came on a catch by Cody Bruns, who held onto the ball.
— TE Dorson Boyce also had a TD on a short pass where he then broke through two defenders and into the end zone.
— Here’s what Sarkisian had to say about Locker’s day: “As you get down in the red zone, things get tight, bad things can happen and you’ve got to be able to work through it and anticipate more of the throws. But overall, he’s playikng really, really well for us. We called some things where he was able to use his legs and that showed up as he was able to get out and make some big plays that way. So I’m really encouraged by him.”
— Sarkisian had mentioned how many steps he took in a day on his Twitter page the other day, leading to the inevitable question from a reporter. Sarkisian said he keeps a Pedomter in his pocket to track his steps each day. Today’s count, at the time he did his post-practice interview, was 25,826 steps, or roughly eight miles.
— At least one remnant of the Tyrone Willingam era remains — chocolate milk after practice. I talked to Bruns for a few minutes after practice and as I did, he had two small cartons of chocolate milk that the team provides to the players after practice, something started a couple of years ago under Willingham. “I love it,” Bruns said. “It really helps repair (the muscles after a workout).”
— If you’re wondering, it was apparently a sign language class that Desmond Trufant took that the Clearinghouse denied. He is retaking a different class through independent study to try to make up for it, though UW has also apparently appealed the ruling, and if that is upheld he could be back on the field sooner.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Bruns on having his redshirt taken off last season: “I get asked that a lot (if he regrets it). Not really. It played out how it did and I learned a lot from last year, the time I did get, so I’m just going to take it in stride. I just look at the bright side of it. I got in the game and when I step on the field against LSU it won’t be my first time stepping out there. So it’s kind of nice to know what to expect.”
The Huskies will again put on shoulder pads and do some more intense hitting for the first time this season in a 3 p.m. practice today that is again open to the public. Full pads are not allowed until the fifth practice on Friday.
All for now.
Day three in the books. …
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