Wednesday marked another step in the evolution of fall camp — the first day in shoulder pads, which meant the first day of any major hitting.
To get the headline out of the way, no significant personnel news — the ineligible players are still out and there were no significant injuries.
For safety Sean Parker, however, this was a big day as it was the first time he’s had any contact since last November, when he suffered a nerve injury in his shoulder/neck area in a practice prior to the UCLA game.
“As soon as we woke up this morning, about six, I was amped up knowing we had pads on and everything (excited) to come out and hit against our guys,” he said.
UW’s projected starting strong safety got it out of the way early, saying he hit heads with running back Jesse Callier in a nine-on-seven drill.
“Me and Jesse Callier met heads in the hole,” he said. “It felt real good. Felt good about myself. … good contact, didn’t hurt a lick, and all I needed was that hit to get back into hitting mode and everything was good.”
He proclaimed himself 100 percent and said he isn’t worried about re-injury.
“Fear free, fearless,” he said of his attitude. “Just play football.”
He also said he learned he has to use proper form, saying that helped him get injured last fall.
“It doesn’t really scare me too much because I feel good and I feel like that trigger of my injury was bad form and now I know to use proper form,” he said.
Later, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Parker is unquestionably ahead in the battle for that job.
“It’s obviously really early, but he’s doing a really, really good job,” Holt said. “He’s in shape. He looks quicker. He’s always had some nice football instincts but he’s getting more mature physically and he’s moving a lot better and I think when it’s all said and done like we thought last year he’s going to be a really good football player. He’s really instinctual and tough and a good tackler and understands the game and we’ve just got to keep him coming and get some depth behind him.”
Otherwise, Holt provided mixed reviews about the first day with any significant contact.
“We weren’t very sharp today, especially early,” he said. “Our pad level was really high and we weren’t striking. We were kind of catching. We weren’t sharp today. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of bunnies out there that need a lot of reps. It looked like basically a third day of practice — we were sloppy and playing really high. We’ve got to get our pads down. … I thought the vets that have been around, they did okay. And the young guys were all very wide-eyed this afternoon and didn’t really get it, and that’s understandable because they haven’t been around here for a full year of practice, or a practice of this nature. But they will get with the program, and the old guys — like Desmond (Trufant) and Everrette Thompson and Cort (Dennison)— they’ve got to get the young guys on board here. And they will. It’s a good group of young guys.”
UW coach Steve Sarkisian was a little more complimentary.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “It seems like as the springs and then the fall camps and then the springs come we’re getting a much better understanding each time around of how to practice in shoulder pads. Less guys on the ground, still too many, but less guys on the
ground. We’re understanding that we can still play with really good pad level but yet not go to the ground. That’s what we’re fighting for and striving for as a staff because once guys go to the ground, that’s when injuries occur, so hopefully we can keep the integrity of pad level right so that we’re not playing too high but yet not going to the ground.”
As for an overall assessment of practice today, Sarkisian said: “I think the intensity level obviously rises. I don’t know if the defense was necessarily that sloppy. I thought they performed pretty well, outside of a couple plays here and there, I thought that they performed well. I think up front, on offense, at times it can get sloppy because guys are getting used to hand placement and pads and different things and getting off on double teams. I don’t know how well we got to the second level on our blocks today. We got caught on some double teams and backers were scraping free and I think you saw Cort and Princeton (Fuimaono) make quite a few plays today in the run game because they weren’t getting blocked.”
One player getting some significant time on defense was tackle Sione Potoa’e, who appears to be getting back in form after being limited with a sprained knee.
“I thought Sione’s really very close,” Sarkisian said. “I thought that yesterday and he showed even more of that today, so he’s close. Semisi (Tokolahi) is getting better; it’s just taking longer than he wants, we want and all that. He’s hungry. But it’s good to have Sione getting closer.”
Potoa’e worked in one alignment at tackle alongside Danny Shelton with the No. 2 defense.
One offensive highlight today saw receiver Kasen Williams take a short pass and turn it into about a 60-yard touchdown down the sideline. It was a well-blocked play and Williams didn’t have to do much but turn on the speed and race to the end zone.
“I like those kinds of touchdowns,” Sarkisian said. “Throw it about two yards and it goes 60. That’s what he brings to the table, he has that type of ability and it was good execution by the entire offense really.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Most of the lineups appeared the same today, though John Timu got some significant work with the starting unit at one linebacker rotating with Garret Gilliland. Said Holt about the linebacking spots: “Hopefully we have 6-7 guys that know the defense and play within the scheme. If that means rotating them, then so be it. But it’s still a long ways away. We have a fantastic leader and a guy that knows the package and we can count on in Cort Dennison, and then it’s still very muddy at the other positions. Hopefully it’ll crystalize in the next few weeks, and I think it will. There’s so many bodies, and somebody has to rise up. Somebody has to take control other than Cort. And hopefully we find out who that is.”
— WR Kevin Smith had a few highlight plays, including a TD on about a 30-yard pass from Nick Montana. Said Sarkisian: “I love what Kevin’s bringing. He’s a strong kid physically. Strong hands. He’s really grown in the position of playing wide-out. He was a guy who hadn’t played a whole lot of football prior to us getting him and he’s gotten better and better and better and he’s confident now, believes in what he’s doing so I’m impressed with him.”
— Sarkisian elaborated on a timetable for a return by Tokolahi: “”Those things are hard. Obviously it’s such that the severity of the injury and all the stuff that you endure with the surgeries and all that. But any time there’s nerve damage, you don’t know because it’s on the body and how the body reacts to the nerve damage and how quickly it heals.”
— Fumbled snaps didn’t appear to be as big an issue today, though there were a couple. And there weren’t a lot of turnovers, though Cort Dennison had an interception of a Keith Price pass in a team setting.
— Holt on his son playing fullback: “We’d love to have him on defense and maybe he can help us out down the line but they need some bodies over there. They are just looking at some guys and hopefully they can find some guys that can help them because we need some fullbacks in our offense.”
— Holt on what it’s like to have his son on the team: “I haven’t really gotten to coach him specifically but it’s fun to just see him out here having a great time and being a Husky. It’s really cool.”
— Holt on if his son reminds him of himself on the field: “He’s a little faster than I was. Not as good looking, though.”
— Holt on early impressions of the freshmen: “I think Marcus Peters is going to be a good player. He kind of shows flashes. Our two safeties, once they figure it out – they are flashy guys. They are big, tall, long, rangy kids that can run. You notice them on film. They don’t know what the heck they are doing yet, but they can cover some ground. I think
Danny Shelton is very impressive. He physically can play right now because he’s so big and strong, and he is athletic. Now we’ll see if he can stand up to the grind of being a d-lineman in the Pac-12 Conference, because that’s very hard for a 17-year old to do. Physically he has all the makings to some day – some day – be something pretty special.”
— Finally, Holt on finding a role for Justin Glenn: “I hope so. He knows our stuff. If he can stay healthy, he does some good things. He cares, and he’s a Husky. We need to find him a role, and he needs to embrace that role that we give him – whether it’s a nickel-back or something. He’s played a lot of football for us, and our first year he did a nice job
early in the season.”
— UW returns to the field tomorrow at 3:15 p.m.