With teams allowed 15 practices in the spring, I guess it’s most accurate to say that UW hits the halfway point midway through tomorrow’s workout at Husky Stadium — 5:02 p.m. or so.
The team nearing the midway point of spring, however, means it’s a good time to take a quick review of what we have seen so far in the first seven practices.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the second half is often a little more revealing than the first half. The first half of spring tends to be heavy on installing (or re-installing) the playbook, and simply rounding back into football shape after a few months off.
Some players who have been quiest so far may thrive now that the installation period is largely over and they are able to play a little more confidently and with less hesitation.
QUARTERBACK: Keith Price opened spring with a slight edge over Nick Montana, and nothing has appeared to change — Price generally goes first in drills and seems to run the No. 1 offense more often. Price seemed to play particularly well the first five practices but hasn’t appeared to have two of his better days the last two practices (though worth noting how the No. 1 DL has had its way of late with the No. 1 OL, which obviously doesn’t help a QB look any better). Prior to that, Price had seemed a little more consistent, making fewer mistakes (though admittedly, that’s in just the kind of things reporters can judge easily — such as interceptions. Coaches obviously have their own ways of assessing these things, and they are being predictably, and probably understandably, vague with specifics about the QB spot). What also hasn’t changed is that it’s unlikely this job will be decided until fall camp. And with the three major scrimmages of the spring still to come, there’s still a lot of time for both to make an impression heading into the summer.
RUNNING BACK: No huge revelations were expected here heading into the spring and there haven’t been so far other than that Chris Polk maybe looks even better positioned to stake a real claim as one of the best in the nation in 2011. Polk has lost about 10 pounds, and does indeed appear a step faster so far. Also, it wasn’t clear heading into the spring if Johri Fogerson would be available. He is for, adding needed depth and also another versatile player out of the backfield. Zach Fogerson has also had some nice moments as a fullback-tailback and should have some kind of role in 2011. Jesse Callier has been solid and Deonate Cooper still limited. Overall, nothing to change the perception this spot should be a real strength for UW in 2011.
RECEIVER: If you throw the tight ends into this spot, then this has been a little bit of a surprise with the way Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Michael Hartvigson (and even walk-on Evan Hudson) have played so far. What may be the big positive story of the offense this spring is that the tight end is definitely back as an offensive weapon.
Looking solely at wideouts, UW knows what it has in Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, with the question being who else steps up. Obviously, that won’t be completely known until the fall when Kasen Williams arrives. But UW appears as if it will have more depth here this year with James Johnson showing some signs of revival and Kevin Smith looking ready to take a big step as a sophomore, and DiAndre Campbell ready to get in the mix now as a redshirt freshman. Veteran Cody Bruns also remains, all appearing likely to give UW a few more options at WR this year.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The big news here has been the injury to Senio Kelemete that is likely to now shelve him for the rest of the spring. This may not be entirely a bad thing as younger players will get a lot of work, and there’s no reason not to think Kelemete won’t be back for the fall.
But for the immediate, removing one of the best players and leaders on the unit obviously takes its toll, and the OL has struggled the past couple of days. Kelemete is being replaced right now by Erik Kohler, who is getting good preparation for down the road, when he could be the team’s full-time LT. But again, for right now it’s worth keeping in mind he is finishing up his true freshman year, as is the case for three other players also in what is the usual No. 1 OL now with Kelemete out — guards Colin Porter and Colin Tanigawa and RT Ben Riva. Seeing that alignment makes it clear how one injury could leave the Huskies with a pretty young and inexperienced line — and worth remembering now that the graduated trio of Ryan Tolar, Cody Habben and Greg Christine started a combined 91 games in their career. UW appears to have good, young talent here. But it may take some time for it to come together, and to make up for that lost experience.
DEFENSIVE LINE: This area, conversely, has been one of the highlight areas of the spring — and no doubt, the play of the two lines is obviously linked and a completely accurate gague of each won’t come until each plays someone else. Still, the return of seniors Alameda Ta’amu and Everrette Thompson, starters such as Hau’oli Jamora and Talia Crichton and emerging talent such as Josh Shirley, Sione Potoa’e and Andrew Hudson led to high hopes entering the spring.
And so far, little has happened to mute the enthusiasm. Ta’amu appears in the best shape of his career, Thompson (who if you remember, was battling an Achilles tear this time a year ago) is healthy, and Jamora, Shriely and Hudson turn in big plays daily. Depth remains a concern, especially up the middle (the return of Semisi Tokolahi is vital). But all indications so far are this should be an improved unit in 2011.
LINEBACKERS: UW entered the spring with one sure thing here — Cort Dennison in the middle — and he’s been his usual, steady self. The other two spots seemed pretty open. But Garret Gilliland has taken a big step toward securing the weakside linebacker spot, where he was moved before the spring, and he appears the established front-runner there now with JC transfer Thomas Tutogi generally running with the twos. The SLB spot remains more in flux, in part because potential starter Princeton Fuimaono is limited after off-season shoulder surgery. John Timu and Jamaal Kearse seem to be splitting the most reps there in recent practices.
SECONDARY: The cornerback spots are pretty much set with Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson, and Nate Fellner returns at free safety. Depth is an issue at CB for the moment though the hope is that should be mitigated in the fall when newcomers arrive and others (namely, Greg Ducre) return to full health. The other safety spot is a little harder to assess with Taz Stevenson and Sean Parker still limited. One revelation has been the return of Justin Glenn, a starter in 2009 before suffering a broken leg at Notre Dame. Glenn appears running in the lead for the nickelback spot and adding needed depth at both spots, as well. And Will Shamburger has also had some good moments (and worth remembering that he is also finishing up his freshman year and has three seasons remaining).
SPECIAL TEAMS: There has been lots of work in this area, but the nature of the early part of spring doesn’t yield itself to being able to determine a lot of position battles yet.