Roughly 2,000 attended UW’s scrimmage today, or about 1,000 or so more than I think were there for the end of the UCLA game last season. (And sorry this is a little late for the blog, but I had to finish my story and other items for the paper as we have early deadlines for the Sunday edition).
THE BIG STORY
As noted in the earlier entry, the big story today was the apparent shakeup in the receiving corps, with true freshman James Johnson and sophomore Jordan Polk in the starting unit alongside Devin Aguilar.
“I think James, Devin and Jordan right now are making the most plays,” receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said after the scrimmage. “We are going to get the best playmakers on the field, that’s what we’ve got to do. The guys who can make explosive plays happen, guys who can score touchdowns, that’s what we are looking for. And guys who know what to do. They know their assignments right now the best, they are playing the most comfortably and they are making the plays. But we are evaluating every day and the kids know that, so if one of those guys came out here and didn’t practice well for three, four days, we are going to change things.”
Johnson and Polk each had a couple of nice plays today to further validate their promotion — Johnson had a key third-down catch among two receptions for 38 yards and Polk had a 16-yard catch on a third-and-15 and a 25-yard run. Each of Polk’s plays keyed a 10-play, 80-yard drive by the one offense against the one defense that was the best of the day, and finished in a 1-yard run by Johri Fogerson.
Polk has had a solid camp throughout and seemed assured of having a big role on this team whether as a starter or a reserve.
Johnson had a nice start to camp, then missed a few days with a bruised rotator cuff. But he has rebounded nicely from that injury to re-assert himself.
Johnson was about the most highly-touted of UW’s freshmen members of the Class of 2009. But even UW coaches weren’t sure he’d progress this rapidly.
“It’s been a nice surprise to see how quickly he has picked up the offense, it really has,” Dougherty said. “I think he’s one of the top guys in the group mentally, as far as knowing what to do every play. So he’s doing a great job right now. It’s a pleasant surprise. When you know what to do, that’s when you play fast, and he makes plays.That was the only concern coming in with him and he’s obviously surpassed that right now.”
Kearse, however, showed he’s not going to go quietly into that good night as he actually ended up the leading receiver with three catches for 62 yards. That included a 20-yard TD grab on a pass from Jake Locker for what was the other TD scored by the one offense against the one defense.
“They will all play at certain points,” Dougherty said of the receivers.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian indicated that a recent spate of dropped passes also played a role in n the shakeup.
“Unfortunately when you look at our receiver corps, they played so well early, all of a sudden my expectations skyrocketed for them,” he said. “They’ve had a few days here where just they’ve mentally been a little bit tired, and they dropped a few balls more than I know they are capable of. Hopefully they can get back to where they are playing really consistent, and the rhythm of the passing game is back where we want it to be.”
STARS OF THE DAY
Aside from the WR corps, there was also some nice plays by the running backs.
Curtis Shaw was a particular standout with a 50-yard run as part of an 87-yard day on four carries.
That came against the No. 2 defense and led to a 1-yard TD run by Chris Polk, as the Huskies rotated backs pretty liberally all day long with the ones and the twos.
None of the rest put up huge numbers, but all seemed to run hard and pick up the yards that were there.
“I think our running backs are running as good as I could have hoped for them to be running,” Sarkisian said.
Locker was also a standout, hitting 12-19 for 181 yards and a touchdown, with one dropped and another that went incompletion in a miscommunication with Johnson. Locker led six drives and UW scored two touchdowns and a field goal. Two were three-and-outs. Another was stalled by a holding penalty.
Said Sarkisian of Locker: “I just thought Jake was really good all day. I thought the receivers and tight ends had to get kind of settled in and just playing ball, and I thought they did that in the second half. … There were a couple throws today I’m sure he’d love to have back. Part of accuracy is making catches. Not every ball is going to be perfect. You’ve got to find a way just to understand the comfort zone, and, ‘We’re going to throw the ball around pretty good, and when the ball is in your area, that’s your ball, go catch it.”’
Said Locker: ” I felt pretty good today. I felt good with everything that we did today. I don’t know if that’s something that will carry into a game or not. The next couple of weeks will tell me that. But I felt good with everything we had on the play list today and was able to execute without thinking much.”
There weren’t a lot of huge defensive plays today — no turnovers. But Mason Foster seemed to make the most impact, especially early, on one play blowing through the line to tackle Chris Polk for a two-yard loss.
NOTES, QUOTES AND RANDOM THOUGHTS
— Other than the receiver corps, the rest of the lineup was as expected.
— The starting O-line was the same as it’s been throughout other than Mykenna Ikehara stepping in at center for Ryan Tolar, out with a toe injury. So the rest of the line was, left to right, Cody Habben, Ben Ossai, Ikehara, Senio Kelemete and Drew Schaefer.
— Kavario Middleton was the first TE and Chris Polk the first TB, though as noted, the backs rotated liberally.
— No surprises on defense as the starters featured Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Darrion Jones at end, Cameron Elisara and Alameda Ta’amu at tackles; Foster, E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler at LB; Greg Walker and Nate Williams at safety and Quinton Richardson and Justin Glenn at corners.
— Richardson had a 95-yard KO return but it came against the scout team cover unit.
— There appeared to be no other new injuries.
— Among those sitting out with injuries were Tolar and Paul Homer, but Sarkisian said each could have played if it was a real game.
— Also out is OT Skyler Fancher, who was injured Friday. Said Sarkisian: “He got it rolled upon pretty good. He’s going to probably be a few more days out. I don’t think he’s going to be someone that is going to pop back in the next day or so. I think it’s going to take him a little while.”
— Also remaining is S Victor Aiyewa. Said Sarkisian: “Funny thing sometimes about when a guys get concussions, or mild concussion, you think it’s the big, violent hits that cause them. He’s had a bunch of great hits all camp. That one was almost a nothing hit, it was in 7-on-7 period. Shoot, he’s missed almost five days now. Hopefully sooner rather than later. We want to make sure he’s safe.”
— CB Matt Mosley (knee) also was out today as was S Jason Wells.
— There wasn’t much kicking but Erik Folk made his only FG of 32 yards and three PATs. Only two punts and neither was great. Will Mahan had a 31-yarder on his only attempt.
— Sarkisian said he wasn’t happy with the intensity early on: “I thought in general, it took our guys, as a group, as a team, awhile to get adjusted to the fact they were out on the field on their own, and not out there with the coaches yelling and screaming and having everyone around. Fortunately for us we’ve got two weeks to get accustomed to that type of style, that type of environment where they have to be on their own, communicate with one another, get used to one another.”
— As for things he wants to emphasize the next two weeks, Sarkisian said: “Game management and game mechanics. I think we’ve obviously addressed the effort issue. I think we’ve addressed doing things right. I think we’re executing well. Now our challenge is to be able to function in game-like settings, like today, to where we’re still keeping our tempo, we’re still keeping our intensity. That things are going smoothly. Substitutions are going well. The kicking game, when we’re substituting defense to punt return, to kickoffs and field goals, all the things and the mechanics that go into that so we keep our tempo up.”
— Here’s what Sarkisian said about the 80-yard drive by the ofense: “I liked the drive because the two conversions on third down weren’t easy ones – I think it was a third-and-12 maybe, and I think the next one was a third-and-7 or third-and-8. That’s the challenge, to keep drives alive. You’ve got to convert third downs, and then to get into the red zone, you have to score touchdowns. That was a nice job by those guys.”
— And lastly, he had this to say when asked if it seemed like the offense dominated as the day wore on: “I think you have to look at the film, and to assess the fact that it wasn’t one unit that was really dominating because they were doing things really well, or was it the fact the other unit was making mistakes. That is what you have to look at when you look at the film. We make the best assumptions we can when we see it on the field. Sometimes you look at the film and understand there are 4, or 5, or 6 assignment errors on one side of the ball that caused for a breakdown that allowed the other side to make the play. Fortunately after all those things, hopefully we can get them rectified sooner rather than later so we can get better as a group.”
— DE Everrette Thompson might have stood out the most of the backup defenders with a couple of nice plays, looking like he is beginning to put a troublesome ankle in the past.
—CB Desmond Trufant couldn’t be in full pads, but he was out there anyway quite a bit in helmet and shoulder pads, getting a lot of work with the twos and threes.
— Sarkisian planned to surprise the team afterward by taking them to the movie District 9.
— In case you missed it, Dominique Gaisie is now on the roster at Central Washington.
UW is off today but will return to the field for a 3 p.m. practice Monday at Husky Stadium.
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