The second of Washington’s two-a-days also included the first practice of the year to end under the lights, the Huskies finally leaving the field at roughly 9 p.m.
And as they practiced, there was a new body at linebacker — a spot hit hard so far by injuries and attrition — with redshirt freshman Travis Feeney moving to the outside linebacker spot where Nate Fellner was starting until suffering a broken bone in a foot last week.
“I think he fits there really nicely,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian of the 6-4, 215-pound Feeney. “He’s long and he’s rangy and he’s kind of bigger than you think until you go stand next to him. And his ability to tackle for us is critical in space. And then the depth at safety helps, as well, with all the guys back there and we are just trying to get the best 11 players on the field and give us the best chance to be successful and we think Travis is one of those guys, so we are trying to find a home for him and see if it works.”
Feeney spent a lot of the practice working with the ones with Taz Stevenson remaining sidelined with a migraine issue. Sarkisian said he thought Feeney “looked pretty good. Again, all the stuff in here sometimes it’s hard to tell until you look at the film how many times a guy was right or wrong or indifferent but all in all I thought he was effective. He showed up, he was making tackles and stripping the ball, How much he was right we’ll have to find out when we look at the film. …. but I did notice him on the field which on defense that’s a good thing from my perspective. If I’m noticing you that means you are around the ball and you are active, which is important.”
Otherwise, the big news may have been no news as there were no significant new injuries, though there were a couple of big names sitting out the night practice — safeties Shaq Thompson and Justin Glenn. Sarkisian said each had a “mild concussion” and could be back on Tuesday.
“Both of them felt fine, but again we are taking every precaution and it’s okay,” Sarkisian said. “We are early in training camp — they probably needed a break.”
The rest of the injury news was mostly good. Sarkisian said the sprained knee of LB Thomas Tutogi is not serious. And a couple of players coming off ACl injuries — receiver Kevin Smith and guard Colin Tanigawa — saw some of their most extensive action of the fall. We actually didn’t see Smith’s as his came in the morning but Sarkisian said he “went pretty good” in the morning. Tanigawa, meanwhile, went basically all the way with the starting OL during the night practice.
“He’s been good,” Sarkisian said. “He’s getting back in the flow of it. He provides that nasty streak on the offensive line that we relish. He’s got that. He’s a tough-nosed, tough-minded guy who is very technically sound and so again, not only the front line but also from the depth standpoint it’s big to have him back.”
With Tanigawa back, the starting offensive line looked like this, from left to right — Micah Hatchie, Tanigawa, Drew Schaefer, James Atoe and Ben Riva. The second team OL was usually, left to right, Dexter Charles, Jake Eldrenkamp, Siosifa Tufunga, Shane Brostek and Mike Criste.
The Huskies will return to the field again tomorrow at 3 p.m.
— LB Princeton Fuimaono again did not practice and WR James Johnson remains limited. Jamaal Kearse was also limited with a thigh bruise suffered Saturday. So with all the injuries at linebackers, the starting LBs at times were Feeney, John Timu and Scott Lawyer, and the backups were Evan Zeger, Blake Rodgers and Cory Littleton. Alec Kimble is also getting snaps at linebacker.
— In another move, true freshman DL Pio Vatuvei is getting a few snaps at fullback. Said Sarkisian: “Again. I touched on this the other day, we are going to have some guys that are going to have specific roles on maybe the offensive side of the ball that they are designated to and Pio is one of them. He was a fullback in high school, his comfort level is good there and we’ve got a few packages there whether it be short-yardage or other things where we think he can help us and so far, so good coming back. The two times we’ve really worked it he’s been effective doing it so we’ll continue down that road.”
— Told Vatuvei moves well, Sarkisian said: “He does for a big man. He’s got good feet. He’s kind of nimble, light on his feet and he’s got a very high football IQ so he can anticipate things, he almost appears a little quicker than he is because he sees things coming.”
— Here’s what he said about Tutogi: “He’s working his way back maybe better than we anticipated. Anytime you sprain your knee that can just be sore in general. But the training staff reports are really good coming back are really good on Thomas so the sooner we can get him back the better.”
— And here’s what he said about Kevin Smith, who did not practice in the night session: “He went pretty good this morning in the morning practice with a big emphasis on throwing the ball this morning so we had him back tonight. He took the night off.
— Asked about trying safeties at linebacker, Sarkisian said: “We’re just trying to put as many playmakers on the field as we can so we can cover as much ground on the field as we can. We are realistic enough to know that we are going to miss some tackles. But if one guy misses we sure would like another guy to be there to clean up the mess. The more, longer, faster, athletic body-types we can get on the field to clean up the mess that one guy might miss the better off we are. … the more ground we can cover the better off we will be. When we are right it’s going to be great and when we are wrong can we make up for ourselves that it doesn’t turn into a 50- or 60-yard gain it turns into a gain of 16 or 17.”
— Sarkisian also noted that Marcus Peters is struggling with a sore back. So tonight that had Desmond Trufant and Tre Watson working as the starters and Greg Ducre and Brandon Beaver with the No. 2 defense. Sarkisian said he remains impressed with all of the cornerbacks: “They are playing at a high level of confidence right now. Tru is doing what he is doing. What Tre Watson is doing, Greg Ducre I thought had a great practice tonight. Marcus Peters is battling a little bit of a stiff back right now which is holding him back a little bit and then Brandon Beaver, their confidence is rising and rising which is a great thing.”
— Sarkisian agreed that Sione Potoa’e is having his best camp since his time at UW. Potoa’e told reporters afterward that he has been motivated by the thought of younger players passing him by. Sarkisian said: “I think it’s hard on anybody. All these guys have a really competitive nature and fire within them and Sione is a very talented guy. The challenge for us and for him is to bring that talent out every snap and not taking the snaps off and the plays off. I think sometimes motivation can come from outside sources and maybe he is getting that now.”
— Sarkisian also said Andrew Hudson is playing well: “He is like a tornado, he is just spinning and flying and jumping. He gives amazing effort, he’s a tremendous kid, great leader, he’s gotten bigger. He’s almost 250 pounds now, so we are thoroughly impressed with what Andrew has brought this camp.”
— And in an answer on the transition of Vatuvei, Sarkisian also noted how well Talia Crichton is playing: “Pio is going through it, quite honestly. Pio is dealing with it on the defensive line. It’s hard. You get in and every snap counts, every six-inch step matters, where you place your hand exactly matters and that attention to detail is a lot of times what can hold the younger guys back of doing things right all the time. It just takes time to progress into that. We are seeing the benefits of a Talia Crichton now when he is doing everything right and playing with great effort and he’s having a great camp. That’s why he’s starting.”
— Finally, asked his thoughts on Jake Locker Saturday night against the Seahawks, Sarkisian said: “Jake looked great. He looked very poised, he looked in command of the offense, understanding what they are doing. There were opportunities when I think the old Jake would have taken off and run and he sat in the pocket and delivered strikes. threw one jump pass that was kind of reminiscent of the pass to D’Andre Goodwin at (USC), kind of had a flashback there. I thought he looked great. It was fun to watch him.”
— Feeney spoke to reporters afterward and said he’s up to 216 from the 205 he arrived at UW last fall. He also said he played a lot of linebacker in high school and is just fine with the move, saying coaches approached him a few days ago. “I kind of understood, I played linebacker before in high school so it was like a little flashback trying to come back and remember the plays,” he said. “It’s a little different a little faster but I’m going to catch on to it.”
— And Feeney said that for now, it’s where he sees his future at UW. “This is where I am, this is where they see me trying to get on the field, so I’m going to try to get on the field here. This is where I am right now for now.”
— Asked the key to making the transition, he said: “I’ve been putting on a little more weight but I just have to make sure to use my hands more, the long arms that I have, my physicalness that I have more and be more in contact with the plays and more just straightforward with the runs. But that’s about it, just be a little more physical.”
— Former UW safety Tommie Smith, a member of the 1991 national title team, was among those watching practice.
Finally, here’s video of Sarkisian’s session with the media:
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Some video of Feeney:
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And a little snippet of the scene at practice:
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