It’s raining now as I type this, but it wasn’t so bad out there during most of UW’s practice, as you can see in the photo to the right (that’s holder Cody Bruns and kicker Erik Folk going through their paces during the opening minutes of practice).
Much of the practice was a regular workout, as UW wanted to let the 300 or so coaches in town for the school’s annual coaches clinic see some of their regular drills.
But the last 20 minutes or so was devoted to scrimmaging, and the defense had the upper hand through most of it.
With the ones going against the ones on three possessions, the defense stopped the offense the first two times three-and-out.
The first possession was derailed by an offensive pass interference penalty (though that came on second-and-13 as Jake Locker had been sacked on the first play).
But the second one was merely good play by the defense as there were sacks by Cameron Elisara on first down and what appeared to me to be Elisara and De’Shon Matthews on third down.
“They had a good session we were pretty sloppy and didn’t take care of what we needed to,” Locker said.
The offense rebounded to drive for a touchdown on its final series against the No. 1 defense though it didn’t come easily as Locker hit Kavario Middleton for a score on fourth down on what was the final play of the practice. Still, the play of the No. 1 defense was encouraging, coaches said.
“They got after us a little bit,” offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said of the defense. “But we can’t take sacks and have penalties. We got an offensive pass interference and I think we lost our composure as a group and it took us a little while to get it back and then we regrouped at the end and scored.”
Said defensive coordinator Nick Holt: “They are getting better at just being football players. Understanding down and distance and the calls and playing to the calls’ strengths and knowing the calls’ weaknesses and understanding the stress points. They are just becoming better football players, all these guys, and they’ve been around us and we’ve been around them and just the normal process of building a program a lot of trust and getting better at their stuff.”
Holt says that while there aren’t major schematic changes, the Huskies are able to make greater use of what is in the playbook for the defense, which can make it seem as if there are more defensive looks now.
“We’re doing more stuff because they know our stuff now, so they’ve escalated their awareness,” Holt said.
The defensive lineup looked pretty much the same today as it has all spring with Elisara and Talia Crichton at the ends, Alameda Ta’amu and Tyrone Duncan at tackle, Mason Foster, Cort Dennison and Alvin Logan at linebacker, Nate Williams and Nate Fellner at safety and Quinton Richardson and Vonzell McDowell at cornerbacks.
While the cornerback spot has been in flux due to an injury to Desmond Trufant, Holt said Saturday that Richardson and McDowell are having good springs and at the moment have moved ahead of Adam Long, who entered spring as the other starter.
“The other two older kids have gotten better,” Holt said. “And Adam, he needs to keep coming along. But he hasn’t made the progress that the other two have, and I think the other two guys are just more mature and taking it more seriously and have had better practices so far compared to some of the other guys. Adam needs to get going.”
What’s helped the defense come along this spring is the successful move of Elisara to defensive end and the progress of younger guys such as Crichton and Ta’amu.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said that Ta’amu is now down to about 330 (from last year’s listed weight of 348) and that “his weight keeps going down so he’s playing quicker.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Here’s what Holt said about the progress of McDowell this spring: “Football is really important to Vonzell. He cares and he’s had a great winter and a great spring ball and he’s really tried to do what we asked him to do and I’m really proud of him. He’s done a nice job. He’s going to help us out.”
— There were some offensive highlights early, notably a 50-yard TD pass from Locker to Jermaine Kearse during a team session at about the midway point. However, there were also a couple of drops, including a possible TD by James Johnson. Said Sarkisian: “Early in the first team period, I thought the offense had one deep ball to Kearse and just missed another one to James Johnson. And then after that, the defense really settled in and did a nice job of eliminating the big play and getting after the quarterback and creating some second and third-and-long situations, which enabled them to get off the field. I thought they did a nice job.”
— Here’s Sarkisian’s take on Richardson and McDowell: “They are getting quite a bit of reps and there are some moments of them both doing some really good things. Quinton, specifically has done some nice things. There were a couple plays today unfortunately where he was unable to make the play, but he’s done some nice things. I like the fact that Q’s competitive nature is a lot higher, as is Vonzell’s. They understand that you really have to compete to win the one-on-one battles to play real man-to-man coverage, which we want to do more of. I think they just both keep getting better.”
— Among the speakers at the clinic was ESPN analyst Mark Schelreth, a longtime NFL player who was also a teammate at Idaho of UW assistant coach Mike Cox, and who was coached at Idaho by current UW OL coach Dan Cozzetto. Said Sarkisian of Schlereth: “He had an opportunity to come to our team meeting and speak to the team about what it means to be a great teammate, and why championship teams are able to accomplish what they’ve accomplished. With Mark having three Super Bowl championship rings, he has a vast array and knowledge of what it means to win championships. And he’s been able to share it with our guys.”
— Anthony Boyles had an interception of a Nick Montana pass during an early drill.
— Everrette Thompson has been out of a boot protecting his injured Achilles for a few days now and Sarkisian said that “his rehab is coming along the way we were hoping.”
— Asked about the Alvin Logan-Matt Houston battle at strongside linebacker, Sarkisian said: “I think it’s somewhat of a stalemate. They each have their moments of doing things and then struggle in other areas. I noticed Alvin doing some nice things today, so we’ll see. We even looked at Alvin today at some of the defensive end spot, did some 3-4 stuff today, so you could see them both out there.”
— Sarkisian also said there’s nothing really settled on the backup MLB battle between Victor Burnett and Tim Tucker, though Burnett appears to usually run ahead of Tucker in the rotation there. “We’ve got two young guys, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman that are still finding their way and going to take them a little time.”
— As Sarkisian spoke to the media, backup OL Mark Armelin was crawling on his stomach from one end of the field to the other with the other OLs supervising. “When you miss an offensive line meeting, the other offensive linemen don’t take very kindly to it,” Sarkisian said.
— The team is now off until Tuesday at 4 p.m.