The start of the third and final week of training camp — next week becomes a game week — began with what UW coach Steve Sarkisian said might have been one of UW’s best practices of the year.
“I thought this was arguably our best practice of camp up to this point,” Sarkisian said. “Spirited, enthusiastic, energetic, competitive. The guys were battling, competing, big plays on both sides of the ball. So all in all I was pleased with that because I felt one of the things coming out of the scrimmage was it lacked a little bit of energy for whatever reason, so it was a point of emphasis for us and our guys responded to the challenge. It was great.”
And it came not only without any new injuries but with a number of previously injured guys back in action.
Among those back in pads were OL Erik Kohler, for the first time since hurting his knee cap on the first day of camp two weeks ago; CB Tre Watson; LB Thomas Tutogi and S Justin Glenn. Watson and Glenn each did some work during the team sessions while Kohler and Tutogi were limited to individual drills.
Also getting some significant work in the team session was WR Kevin Smith, whose catches included about a 25-yard reception down the sidelines from Keith Price.
“Good to have Justin Glenn back out there, good to get Tre Watson out of the yellow jersey, good to watch Kevin Smith continue to progress into more and more playing time,” Sarkisian said. “So I feel like we are on the mend, kind of in the back swing of this thing now. Obviously we hit a funk there of just getting some injuries but I think we are on the mend.”
Among those still out was LB Travis Feeney (concussion) though Sarkisian said he will be back tomorrow. Also still out is PK Travis Coons, whom Sarkisian said early has a tried leg (and also still out are the guys with more significant injuries. Nothing new on any of them, including Hau’oli Jamora, who is apparently still waiting to have surgery).
While UW was in full pads, they did not live tackle during the team session, which mostly featured a lot of passing stuff.
Derrick Brown got a lot of work and turned in another good practice, including hooking up with Cody Bruns for what might have been the play of the day, about a 68-yard TD on a pass that probably went 60 yards in the air.
“I thought Derrick did some good stuff,” Sarkisian said. “Derrick I think is progressively gotten better and better and better. He’s throwing the ball with more conviction and I think the belief in what he is seeing and reading is there, and trusting it and in turn he is playing more confident.”
Brown appears to be making a move on the backup job. But Sarkisian said it might be left to outsiders to guess on that one as he said he may not announce a backup QB — which means expect the ubiquitous “or” on the depth chart at that spot when it’s released next Monday.
“I don’t know if I’m going to make one, at least for you guys,” Sarkisian said. “I kind of don’t have to on that front, not to be a jerk about it. But part of it is for our team and gameplanning and strategy wise. But I thought Derrick as I think the other two guys are, as well, they both did some good stuff.”
Sarkisian also thought Keith Price might have had one of his best practices of the fall.
“I thought he was tremendous today, really, and throwing the ball down the field,” Sarkisian said. “I thought Kasen (Williams) was back looking fresh again, made some plays down the field. 88 (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) had a bounce back in his step there, so we backed off of Jaydon (Mickens) about halfway through practice and he was having a good one. Now is the time we have to get our bodies back to being right so that gameweek next week we are feeling really good about ourselves.”
And as noted earlier, Smith also had some good moments in practice today, though Sarkisian said it may still be too early to really declare him totally back.
“I was very pleased with Kevin,” he said. “He got in some team drills and made a couple of plays. Looks explosive, looks fast. He’s such a great spirit, he’s a good leader about himself and the kids really respond to him, so he’s on the mend and we will where he’s at. With those kind of guys it’s day to day and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow after getting a little more extensive work today, but it’s good to have him back.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Brown, who was a high school punter and whom Sarkisian said when he signed might actually compete for those duties, handled a few punts for the first time we’ve seen during this camp. Sarkisian said it was mostly to get Brown some experience to give the team some options if needed.
“He punted in high school so as we go through everything I try to plan for every scenario possible and as you start working into Pac-12 play and your numbers dwindle in how many you can take on the road,” Sarkisian said. “You just want to have all of your emergency situations in order. So I just wanted to see him hit a couple today just in case it got to that point, so it was fine. He jumped right back (into it).”
— Sarkisian again said DE Talia Crichton is among those having a good camp. “I think this is the best he’s looked playing since he’s been here,” Sarkisian said. “You know he’s battled that knee injury for a couple years, but he’s playing explosive and confidently and off the field I think he’s a little more confident. He’s more mature in who he is and in a perfect world he probably should have redshirted. But in the situation we were in he had to play, so I think that that’s just the natural progression for guys. He continues to grow and get stronger and he understands the system, and I think Tosh (Lupoi) has done a really nice job working with him. They relate really well with one another and he’s pushing the right buttons.”
— Sarkisian said the last week or so, when UW had some injuries that forced some younger players to play more in team sessions, has proven that this team has more depth then his previous ones here. “I really do,” he said. “I said that in practice three or four that I thought that could happen and that I felt good about it. And then as the injuries started to mount on us here, and not the significant ones but the little ones that add up, our depth got tested and I think we got through it. A couple guys had to move around a little bit but we got through it and we didn’t see a significant dropoff from the ones to the twos, and some of the twos stepped in and made us kind of think ‘well maybe our twos are better than our ones.’ And that’s how it’s supposed to be that you have the depth and there is not that disparity between the ones and twos, that they are very comparable to one another. … Our depth is great at a lot of positions. We’re not ideal as a football team yet but at a lot of positions our depth is very good.”
— Sarkisian said Evan Zeger, who has been working as one of the No. 1 linebackers of late, is among those who were able to show their up more during the time when others were injured. “He’s done some good things. And I think we’ve seen it at the wide receiver spot with some guys without Kevin being able to go, with James (Johnson) getting injured, guys have stepped in and done a nice job. At the safety spot we’ve moved some guys out of that safety spot. Justin gets injured (Will) Shamburger is playing really, really well for us right now. Younger guys are in the mix there. At linebacker we’ve been forced with all of the injuries there, Shaq (Thompson) making the move (to a nickelback-type spot), (Travis) Feeney making the move. It’s comforting to know that we have versatile enough players that can move around and play different spots and feel comfortable. It’s comforting to know we have schemes on both sides of the ball that guys can step in and they can learn that scheme in a few days to at least feel comfortable. And it’s comforting to know our kids are willing to do that. They understand the value of the team and making moves for the betterment of the team, and we’re seeing that.”
— Sarkisian, asked on if he’s had to alter how UW has practiced due to the injuries, said: “Well I don’t know if I’d ever script training camp this way to have to deal with the injuries we’ve had to, but we’ve learned a lot about our team, I don’t think we ever got the ‘woah is me mentality, oh we’re beat up what are we going to do?’ We’ve continued to practice hard, our kids have responded, they’ve done it, they did it today, and we’re on the mend, and they understand the fact that some injuries are going to happen, I don’t care if we’re in helmets or full pads going live, sometimes they just happen, and you can’t hope not to get hurt, you have to play the game the way it’s meant to be played, and if you do that, things will turn out okay.”
— Asked how Price can improve this year, Sarkisian said: “Well what I’ve enjoyed with Keith and we saw it a couple times today, he’s really taking to the nuances, the final details of plays and coverages that can create big plays, we saw a couple balls thrown down the sideline today before a safety could get over the top, I don’t think he would have made that throw a year ago, and maybe not late into the season, I think maybe once in the Alamo Bowl to Devin (Aguilar), those types of throws to see through the coverages, to anticipate those throws down the field, in between defenders, are where he has really stepped his game up. There, and his true understanding of our protections, and of he and Drew (Schaefer) being on the same page, of what the offensive line’s doing, what they are responsible for, and what those issues might be, and allow him to play fast when he knows protections or an issue because of the rush that’s coming, or when he feels good or knows he has great protection, maybe holding on that ball another half second and make that throw down the field. He’s definitely continuing to mature, and I know we say so many times, “Well how can you get better from 33 touchdowns and whatever his percentage was and efficiency,” we’re seeing it, and the guys around him are making big plays, and that’s what we want our offense to be, so we’re on the right track.”
Here’s some of Sarkisian’s post-practice presser:
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And here’s a brief scene from practice:
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