A two-hour practice ended here about an hour ago, followed by a few helmets thrown happily in the air and lots of whoops and hollers.
For the players, this marked the official end of camp as they now move out of the dorms, and get to take the rest of today and tomorrow off before beginning official gameweek preparation for BYU.
Reality, however, is that the BYU prep has already begun, as today’s practice had the feel of a usual game-week workout, with liberal doses of work by the number one and two offense and defense against the scout teams.
The big news might have been the return of a couple of familiar faces — middle linebacker Cort Dennison and receiver James Johnson.
Dennison took all the reps with the ones and said afterward that while he may not be 100 percent yet, he’s definitely playing against the Cougars.
“It’s good,” he said of his sprained knee, suffered when he took a helmet to it during a recent practice. “I’m getting treatment every day. I expect to be full go against BYU. I’ll be ready to go.”
Johnson wasn’t quite as active, but did get some work with the offense and said later he thinks he’ll be able to play.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “It was nice to go out there and get some reps. I’m just looking forward to getting some treatment and getting healthy, and wherever they place me, I’ll do what I can do from there. … we’ve got practice all week, so I’ll continue to go out and practice and see how it goes. We’ll see how the strength holds up.”
Also participating in all of practice was defensive end Everrette Thompson, and UW coach Steve Sarkisian said later that “he looks good, he looks really good. He’ll be fine to play.”
However, his defensive end counerpart, Kalani Aldrich, again sat out and Sarkisian said that “Kalani is not looking quite as good. Still some things in that knee, the overall strength there.” Later, he said of the frontline guys that Aldrich is the one who is most questionable to play against BYU.
Sarkisian said an official depth chart will be released Monday. Saturday’s practice, however, didn’t yield any real potential surprises. Most noteworthy may have been that Greg Christine again ran with the No. 1 OL at right guard ahead of Mykenna Ikehara. So the No. 1 OL read, left to right, Senio Kelemete, Ryan Tolar, Drew Schaefer, Christine, and Cody Habben. The No. 2 OL, left to right, was Erik Kohler, Nick Wood, Ikehara, Colin Porter and Daniel Kanczugowski.
Asked about Christine, Sarkisian said: “He’s there for right now, doing a nice job We’re going to nail down our depth chart so you’ll have it Monday what we are going to do. But I think Greg looks good at right guard.”
As noted earlier, Thompson worked as the No. 1 DE throughout practice with Talia Crichton on the other side and Cameron Elisara, Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi at tackles. The linebackers were as expected — Mason Foster, Dennison and Victor Aiyewa. The corners were Quinton Richardson and Desmond Trufant and the safeties were Nate Williams and usually Will Shamburger but with Nate Fellner sprinkled in some, as well.
Sarkisian said later that there is not necessarily a clear starter at the free safety spot between Shamburger and Fellner.
“I don’t know exactly who is going to start yet, but they are both going to play,” Sarkisian said. “It’s not toing to be a matter of playing time. They are both in in the nickel together, so they are both doing a nice job.” Indeed, no real secret when playing BYU that the nickel defense could have to be called on, and as Sarkisian noted, it usually includes Shamburger and/or Fellner as the extra DB ahead of another corner.
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Here was Sarkisian’s final assessment of camp: “It was great. I thought we were really efficient this camp and part of that was our staff continuity. We didn’t lose one coach so we were efficient in meetings and on the field — practices were even shorter. And in turn our players knew what to expect, and the energy level that they brought day in and day out was remarkable. I was really really impressed with the energy they have continued to bring. We are on our 24th practice of training camp and they might have had more energy than any other practice. I was impressed with them.”
— BYU has an elevation of 4,560 feet, and while it’s something the Huskies will take some steps to prepare for, Sarkisian said he doesn’t want to make too big a deal of it. “I think altitude becomes an issue when you make it an issue. I think some of the biggest mistakes people make are trying to go up early and get acclimated to the altitude. Those are the teams that in my opinion when we were playing suffered the worst, kind of caught in limbo. We are going to go play. We are a deep football team, we’ve got plenty of depth on offense, defense and special teams and generally in first games, the first few games of the year you play a lot of players so that’s going to bet the plan anyway.”
— Sarkisian said the impact of altitude can be more subtle: “The one big thing with the altitude you need to be prepared for is punts, kickoffs, the ball is going to travel an extra 5-7 yards. And the passing game a little bit, the quarterbacks on Friday we are going to throw some deep balls because the ball is going to carry a little bit more.”
— About the kicking there, Sarkisian said: “You don’t want to outkick your coverage so you’ve got to make sure you get plenty of height on the ball and not just drive it because you can get big punt returns there if you don’t get enough height and hang time. Just got to make sure we are getting our punts on Friday to make sure what we are working with.”
— Sarkisian on how Johnson looked: “He showed some things. We need him to get back out, because the passing game is so much timing and rhythm, and if you’re not out there it’s hard to jump back in and expect to play. It’s good that he got out there today and tested it and he looked pretty good.”
— An obvious storyline to this game is Sarkisian’s return to BYU, and he took the first of what figure to be a lot of questions on that this week. “To me, it’s been another game,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough game, on the road, in a hostile environment. But as we get closer I’m kind of thinking more about the memories of playing there. It was a long time ago, but there were some special memories and some great moments.”
— As for how he’ll feel when he gets there, he said: “I’ll be pretty locked in, but Friday when we get there, I’ll take it all in. I had some great moments in that stadium, some tremendous wins. We had an excellent football team my senior year. I’ll reminisce for a few minutes and then get back into what we need to do.”
— And he had this to say on the Raise the Woof celebration Friday night: “I thought it was great. There was a lot of excitement in the air. I thought our kids represented extremely well and I thought our coaches represented extremely well. I think it’s something that signifies the end of camp and the season is on the horizon. It’s kind of a glorified pep rally.”
— One thing to note is that the Huskies practiced Friday on the grass fields at the VMAC, where the Seahawks train, to more approximate the conditions at BYU, which also has a grass field.
— The second team defense looked this way: De’Shon Matthews and Hau’oli Jamora at ends, and Chris Robinson and Sione Potoa’e at tackles; Jordan Wallace, Tim Tucker and Matt Houston at LB; Shamburger/Fellner and Sean Parker at safety.
— The first-team WRs were Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, D’Andre Goodwin or Johnson. Second-teamers were Cody Bruns, Kevin Smith, Jordan Polk and William Chandler.
— Chris Izbicki was the starting TE followed by Michael Hartvigson.
— Chris Polk was the starting TB, Austin Sylvester the starting FB. Johri Fogerson and Jesse Callier followed Polk. Keith Price again appeared to get the majority of the snaps with the No. 2 offense.
— Shambuger might have had the play of the day, a diving interception of a pass that had been tipped by Nate Williams. Williams appeared to jam a finger or something but was back out later.
— The team practiced in helmets and shoulder pads today.
— Daniel Te’o-Nesheim played a series as a second-team defensive end for the Eagles last night in the first half. He didn’t accumulate any stats, however.