The Huskies are off the field following their Tuesday practice, with just three remaining now until the season opener Saturday against San Diego State.
No significant news. WR DiAndre Cambell, who suffered an unspecified injury in the scrimmage Friday, was in yellow. But he was moving around and UW coach Steve Sarkisian did not include him on Monday in the list of players out for the game.
WR Kevin Smith, attempting to make it back from an ACL injury suffered prior to the Alamo Bowl, practiced in a purple jersey (the usual for the offense) and participated fully, so it appears he’s on track to potentially play on Saturday (he’s listed as a backup at one WR spot).
Otherwise, not a ton of real personnel news to pass along — the practice was the usual gameweek Tuesday with lots of work against the scout teams (with scout team guys wearing the numbers of SDSU players) and no live tackling.
Tuesday also means the return to the regular schedule of this being the day we get to talk to defensive coaches.
That meant a 10-minute or so session with first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who said he’s eager to see what the defense he has been working on since January will look like going against someone else.
“I think it’s time to go see what they can do — put the cards out on the table,” he said. “I think they are excited for it. I know we are too and we just need a couple of more days of good work to make sure we are as ready as we can possibly be.”
Wilcox said he will get that look at his new team from on the field rather than in the press box.
“I’ve done it both ways and it really has to do with kind of the dynamics of your staff and who is upstairs and that kind of thing,” he said. “I like being down because the communication between coaches and players is instantaneous as opposed to trying to get a guy on a head set and this and that. Plus I feel like up there it’s like watching it on TV. I don’t really like it.” (And as an FYI, former coordinator Nick Holt also worked from the sidelines, as have most of the DCs I can recall during my time covering the team, dating to 1997).
Wilcox said one of the main tasks for Saturday is the players simply remembering where to be.
“Especially with a young group sometimes people have a tendency to forget what they have been doing and make something up and that’s what you want to stay away from,” he said. “. … The guys have worked really well. We haven’t been perfect by any means and we probably aren’t going to be, to save you the suspense. I think their attitude has been great. Now we just want them to go out there and play fast and confident every snap and react to some of the adversity that is going to hit them.”
That’s something, he said, that can be impacted by the excitement of a gameday.
“You can’t really simulate that,” he said. “You guys know that – it’s hard to simulate that game atmosphere. We do the best we can do so we can get them ready so that when Saturday night gets here they feel like they’ve done something close to that before.”
As for the defense, Wilcox said he has seen constant improvement throughout the spring and summer.
“I could talk about each position group — I don’t want to single out any one guy,” he said. “But I think each group has done a nice job. Obviously the linebacker group has changed pretty significantly from spring not only due to people moving there but also new guys and some injuries that we have had. But that’s the way football goes. Our job is to get the best 11 guys on the field so we have moved a couple of guys and that’s what we are going to do.”
Wilcox said he knows there has been plenty of attention placed on the defense, and lots of curiosity about how it will look Saturday. But he said that’s something that mostly escapes the offices of the coaches.
” I know we as coaches don’t really, no offense, we don’t read it and we don’t really watch it because we are watching video and worried about gameplanning,” he said. “So for us it’s more about the day-in, day-out fixing what we need to fix, making sure the guys are prepared to play, and then it’s time to go cut them loose., So the rest of it we don’t really pay attention to and I don’t mean to downplay it in the media at all, but in our job that’s the way you have to do it.”
As for a few specific personnel questions, Wilcox said Shaq Thompson earned the right to a starting due to his play in camp.
“He’s got a lot of physical tools,” Wilcox said. “He’s got a big guy, very agile, can run and he’s got good football instincts. So he’s still a freshman, has been here a month. But some of the things he can do physically are pretty impressive. Now he’s got to continue to learn how to play the game. … It (Thompson’s ability) showed up early on, picking the ball off, batting it down, making the tackle for a loss, not always being 100 percent knowing what exactly is going on but just having football instincts. Again the guy’s got a lot to learn but he’s got really good tools.”
And of Tre Watson winning a starting spot at cornerback opposite Desmond Trufant, he said: “Very, very close competition there and all three of those guys will play. Tre was a little more consistent throughout fall camp and obviously the work he did in the spring started it and he kind of validated it in fall camp.”
Watson is listed at just 5-9 and 183, but Wilcox said he compensates for his lack of size with his ability.
“Obviously you like them all to be tall and 6-1 and fast but they don’t make a lot of those guys,” he said. “Tre makes up for it with playing a little bigger than he is and his instincts and finishing, he never gives up on a play and he’s earned it. And again Marcus (Peters) and Greg (Ducre) are going to play for us. Tre is going to get the start but the other guys are going to get on the field.”
You can watch video of some of Wilcox’s session with the media below:
[do action=”brightcove-video” videoid=”1811132697001″][/do]