The Huskies probably set a spring practice school record, not leaving the field until 10:25 p.m. or so Tuesday night, concluding a practice that officially began at 8:30 p.m. It was the first of four evening practices over the next few weeks.
No significant news as the team, per NCAA rules for the first few practices, was not in pads — the Huskies won’t be in full pads until next Tuesday.
What stood out the most was the emphasis on the no-huddle offense. UW coach Steve Sarkisian had said Monday that the Huskies would practice it a lot in spring with plans to do it a lot more on the field this fall. And Tuesday, UW was basically no-huddle the entire practice during anything that wasn’t individual sessions — Sarkisian later said UW ran roughly 130 plays in just a little under two hours.
“It was a fun first practice,” Sarkisian said. “I thought our guys came out enthused and ready to practice. When you make some changes like we did in the way we practiced it’s going to be a little bit of a transition. But I thought all in all it was a good first practice.”
Sarkisian said one of the keys at this point to implementing the no-huddle is simply learning how to practice it.
“It’s not about how much of an offense you have in but it’s almost more about the mechanics of operating at that tempo, for both sides,” he said. “And I think it’s kind of a double-edged sword for us, one really looking hard at if offensively and two, for us defensively to work those mechanics on a daily basis so when we get put in those situations in season when it looks like we will face eight no-huddle teams it won’t be so foreign to us. We will be comfortable in that arena. …
“Again, as much of this is getting practice organized the right way. This was new to everybody. It wasn’t just new to the players but it was new to the coaches and new to the managers spotting the ball and all of that. So I thought as we got going it got better and then we got a little bit fatigued, which is the point of it so we don’t get fatigued so we can handle playing against this type of offense in the fourth quarter of games. But I thought all in all it was a good first day to making a transition to this type of practice. We broke up our walk-throughs that we would normally do in pre-practice to three different segments within the practice so we could get our rest in the middle of practice and I thought our guys responded really well. I thought the mental toughness was there to deal with this type of practice.’’
Asked how Keith Price looked running the no-huddle, Sarkisian said: “I thought he did some good things. Again, the stuff was new to him and it was new to everybody offensively. I thought he did some good things. I was impressed. A lot of the quarterbacks had their moments doing some good stuff, I thought the running backs stepped up and had some big runs – Bishop (Sankey) had a couple of big ones there. Really felt, looked like Shaq (Thompson’s) presence on the field. Sean Parker’s. Danny Shelton did some good things in the middle of the defense. When you run over 130 plays in less than a couple of hours it’s tough to see it all. So we’ll go back to the film and see what it looks like.’’
Sarkisian said one reason UW wants to go with more no-huddle is that it worked well in limited use last season. He said UW simply wasn’t ready at that time to go to it more.
“I think it fits our personnel,” he said. “Fit the back especially in Bishop. I thought it helped the offensive line, minimize some of the pass rush by the opponents. The hard part for us is just at that time we were not built to be a no-huddle team from a terminology standpoint, from how much of an offense we really had to how much we had in the no-huddle — we were a little bit limited that way. So we took the off-season to simplify our terminology to allow ourselves to practice like this in this first day and we will do it here for the first six days so that we can put in enough offense to really feel good about it. And then we will take the two weeks after that to really assess what this offense feels like to us and what it feels like with the personnel we have and exactly where we want to go with this thing. But for day one I felt good about it. We didn’t have a fumbled exchange with the quarterback and the running back in all the zone read stuff that we did. The centers handled the snap, the new cadence we utilized. All in all I thought it was good.’’
Asked if UW will ever run any plays in a traditional under-center style this year, he said: “We’ll see. There could be some special situations. What I’ve been pleased with our offensive staff is our ability to adapt, the ability to utilize what would be our under center run game and put the back in more of a pistol set so we can keep the tempo going, and utilize our formations and our kids and their ability to study and get prepared for today so that they are getting lined up and we are doing it in a timely fashion and keeping the pressure on the defense.’’
Here are a few other notes. …
— Price talked to the media afterward and said among other things he is up to 206 pounds (he was listed at 195 last season) and feels healthier than a year ago and stronger in his legs (I’ll have more from him later).
— Austin Seferian-Jenkins also talked to the media and said he’s at 270 right now (up from a listed 258 last year but down from the 285 he weighed in spring last year after he put on weight for basketball). He also said he is done playing basketball at UW (and of course, that could be a moot point anyway with the NFL options he will have after the 2013 season).
— The first team offense featured Price, Sankey, ASJ, Kasen Williams, James Johnson and Jaydon Mickens at WR, and a line of Micah Hatchie at LT, Dexter Charles at LG, Mike Criste at C, James Atoe at RG, and Ben Riva at RT (with Erik Kohler not practicing yet in team settings).
— The first team defense featured a line of Andrew Hudson, Sione Potoa’e, Danny Shelton and Josh Shirley, with Thompson, John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono at LBs (with Travis Feeney out with injury) and Parker and Will Shamburger at safety and Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters at cornerback.
— As for backups, a lot of those spots rotated much more liberally from what I could tell. It looked like Cyler Miles and Derrick Brown were the usual No. 2 QBs, with Erich Wilson and Dwayne Washington the backup RBs (Kendyl Taylor got some work, as well). The No. 2 OL appeared to feature Nathan Dean at RT, Michael Kneip at RG, Siosifa Tufunga at center, Cory Fuavai at LG and Jake Eldrenkamp at LT (Shane Brostek also worked in at guard). The No. 2 WRs were DiAndre Campbell, Kevin Smith and Jamaal Jones.
— The No. 2 defense featured a line of Connor Cree, Drew Schultz, Josh Banks and Jarett Finau. The LBs were Cory Littleton, Thomas Tutogi and Jamaal Kearse. The safeties were Trevor Walker and Tre Watson, and the corners were Travell Dixon and Cleveland Wallace (and recall Brandon Beaver limited right now).
— I only saw two turnovers — a Peters interception of a pass he tipped and then dove and caught on a pass thrown by Miles, and a fumble by Wilson.
— Highlight plays included a 50-yard or so TD from Price to Williams.
Finally, here is some video of Sarkisian’s post-practice session with the media: