As the Huskies enter the home stretch of spring practice, one of the biggest positives is that the team has been relatively injury free.
No one in spring practice has suffered an injury that is a cause for long-term concern.
The only position that has been hit hard in any real fashion is receiver, where Jordan Polk and D’Andre Goodwin have been out most of the past week or so with hamstring injuries, and where Cody Bruns was sidelined with a week or so with a concussion.
UW receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said after Tuesday’s practice that he thinks Goodwin and Polk will be back today. And he noted that Tuesday was the first practice in a while where Bruns was 100 percent.
But with each of those guys missing significant time, it’s made it difficult for the coaches to get a real handle on the backup receiver slots.
The top three is easy — returners Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar (pictured scoring last year against Arizona) and James Johnson.
Dougherty says all three are having good springs, if busier than anticipated.
“It (the injuries to backups) have kind of hurt the top three guys because they’ve been doing a lot of running,” Dougherty said. “So I’m trying to do my best ot take care of those guys where we’re not putting too much tread on their legs. But at the same time, we want guys to know what to do.”
This loomed as a big spring for Goodwin, Bruns and Polk to re-establish their roles with the team, and Dougherty acknowledges that with those guys being out, the backup spots remain a jumble.
“It’s just a matter of getting that fourth, fifth guy,” he said.
And if the season started today, Daugherty said a name few Husky fans probably know — William Chandler — might just fill one of those roles.
Chandler is a walk-on from Skyline High whom Dougherty said has been one of the surprises of the spring at the receiver position. He joined the team last fall. In fact, Dougherty says that “Willie has stepped up and been that fourth guy to this point.”
“Willie Chandler is just coming to mind as a guy that has really stepped up, a walk-on guy who knows where to line up and what to do and he made himself ready,” he continued of the 6-foot, 180-pounder. “He took great notes in meetings, and when he got his chance he was ready to play. … He’s gotten all of our attention this spring.”
Asked if Chandler would be in the rotation if the season started today, Dougherty said “I think there’s no doubt about it. And it really goes along with, and gives validity, to what we’ve said from day one that if a guy knows what to do and can line up and play fast, those are the guys that are going to play. Doesn’t matter if it’s a walk-on or a fifth-year senior. You are thinking the other guys have seen it and it’s like ‘I’ve got to get my stuff together’ kind of.”
Dougherty, however, said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen of Bruns in the time he’s been on the field.
“It (Bruns’ injury) was kind of disappointing because this was a big spring for him coming in,” he said. “It’s slowed him down. But I was really impressed with how he worked today (Tuesday) and we’re not done. He’s still got time to come out and work and hopefully catch our eye. It’s far from over.”
The starting three, meanwhile, have only solidified their spots with solid springs.
Maybe the most impressive has been Johnson, who has put on about 10 pounds, weight that should help him better withstand the punishment of a college football season. He got off to a nice start as a true freshman in 2009 but tailed off a bit at the end after suffering a few injuries.
“I think it’s obvious to everybody that James Johson is back,” Dougherty said. “He’s got his body right, he’s healthy again. He worked his butt off in the off-season and he’s confident. More than anything, he’s confident again and he’s out there making plays.. … You gain confidence through the weight room and getting your body right and feeling good, and he’s just so much more confident now. He knows that he belongs.”
Dougherty said of Johnson’s dropoff in the second half of the season that “it was just being a young kid, that’s all it was. And he got nicked up. He had some legitimate injuries he was battling through. That, on top of being in college for the first time and going through a Pac-10 season, is’t a lot for a freshman. So I’m really proud of how he has worked through it.”
As for Kearse and Aguilar: “Jermaine is doing a great job. His big thing this spring was finishing and making big plays with the ball and being more dynamic with the ball. And D.A. (Aguilar) is D.A. — he’s going to make plays. He’s going to be there for us.”
The receiving corps will also welcome two new scholarship freshmen in the fall in Kevin Smith and DiAndre Campbell.