The Huskies concluded the first session of their two-tiered spring practice today with a roughly two-hour workout in the Dempsey Indoor.
This was practice six of 15 UW will have this spring. But in what is a different way of doing things this year, the Huskies started their spring workouts to end the winter quarter. They will now take 17 days off for the end of the quarter and spring break, and then resume practice on April 2 after the start of the spring quarter.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said the interim period will be used by coaches to evaluate how spring has worked so far.
“We’ll assess the first six practices and look at individuals, one, and how guys either progresses or regressed and then look at different sides of the ball — offense, defense, special teams — and where we are at on that aspect of it, and then where we are at as a team and what we have accomplished and what we need to improve upon the second half of spring ball and what we can continue to build upon that we are doing well,” he said. “So that’s the beauty of doing it this way, it allows us a real chance to sit back and analyze everything that we have done in every phase and where we need to improve.”
These first six practices were devoted largely to installing and beginning to run the no-huddle, up-tempo offense that figures to be a mainstay for the Huskies next season. Sarkisian has not said it would be all UW will do, but the Huskies appear to be preparing as if it could be.
While UW didn’t really scrimmage in the traditional sense Saturday, there were a number of scrimmage-like settings devoted to working on relaying the plays from sideline to field, with coaches wearing full headsets.
“I thought it went really well, I thought it was efficient,” Sarkisian said. “It took a series or so for us to get accustomed to who is speaking when. But I thought it went really well. I thought we were efficient offensively today. I thought we kept the tempo going even with using the head sets. At the end I thought the offense had one of their better practices so far this spring. I thought Keith (Price) was efficient, we caught the ball much better today than we had the last couple of practices and we ran the ball pretty good.”
The offense cut down on the turnovers from Thursday (I didn’t notice any by the No. 1 offense), and Price had at least two TDs in 11-on-11 settings — one to Kendyl Taylor and another to Jaydon Mickens.
There was no significant personnel news, and the lineups mostly looked as they had throughout the spring (I’ll review those at some point over the next few days). Worth noting, though, that Cyler Miles and Troy Williams, got the bulk of the work at quarterback that didn’t go to Price — who in case it needs to be stated is clearly the No. 1 guy. Jeff Lindquist also got some snaps but Derrick Brown didn’t appear to get any during the team session.
Asked about the QB spot aside from Price, Sarkisian said: “I thought Troy Williams had two really good practices here the last two practices for a true freshman from day one and then working his way up to practices five and six, I thought he was impressive. I thought Cyler has flashed at some times. But for all of them, like any young quarterback, is finding the consistency and doing things right consistently at a high level, and that’s where those guys get themselves in trouble so that’s what we will continue to work on.’’
As for the installation of the no-huddle, Sarkisian said “it’s been great. We got a lot of it in in two weeks time, and for it being new to us as coaches and as players I was actually very impressed with the guys and their ability to retain it and then execute it, especially in this setting when there were no scripts and they had to just get the signal and go play – I thought they did a nice job of it.”
Sarkisian said UW has been running 130 plays or so per practice, which as he said can be challenging physically. “I was just talking to the guys that they are in the best shape of their lives and it’s still hard on them,” he said. “One of the keys for the guys as they go on break is that they have to continue to work out on their own because when they come back these practices are going to be as challenging as they have been and if they are not in the great shape they can be even more difficult. But I thought they have responded. I thought we had maybe a little bit of a lull practice three, we got a little bit fatigued. But they responded great this week.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Asked which players have thrived, Sarkisian said: “I thought Kasen (Williams) has had a tremendous first six practices. He’s better than I have ever seen him. I think Sean Parker has played well. I think Shaq (Thompson) really thrives in the competitive environment. I thought Keith really has, too, I thought he had a tremendous day today. It was a really competitive drill and I thought he was at his best.’’
— And asked if any guys he was really anxious to see heading into spring have stood out. he said: “I think Dwayne Washington has been really impressive running the football — he’s been a really nice complement to Bishop (Sankey) running the football, as well as Erich Wilson. I think all three of those backs have run the ball well. I think Marcus Peters is really showing the maturity that I was hopeful I would see. He has been tremendous playing both corner and safety for us, at times, which has been good. I’ve liked the improvement out of Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor. I thought they started a little slow the first couple practices and they have come back here in the second half of the last few and have played their best football. I like what Ben Riva is bringing to the table. Been some real quality improvement on both sides of the ball.’’
— Washington took what might have been the hit of the day when he ran up the middle and was met head on by safety Will Shamburger, whose helmet flew off in the process. Washington also had a fumble on a hit by Evan Zeger with a recovery by Jamaal Kearse.
— When UW returns to spring workouts, it will go at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays with mid-morning Saturday practices. Sarkisian said the first practice back will resemble the first practice of spring. “We’ll go back to essentially what would be day one. It will be a helmeted practice and we will be back to the mechanics of things and what we want to do on offense, defense and special teams.”
— Asked if he likes the split spring, Sarkisian said: “I like it right now. I thought it was effective in really focusing on these six practices. Sometimes you go to spring practice and you look at the whole thing, 15 of them, and we were solely focused on these six practices right now and what we could accomplish and I thought we accomplished a great deal and now it gives us that chance to go back and evaluate and get ready for the next nine. I’ll probably be able to better answer that question after spring ball but so far I really like where we are at.”
— As happens often during the spring and fall camps, especially on weekends, a number of local high school players attended the practice (Bellevue’s Budda Baker among them). Also attending were 2013 signees Elijah Qualls, David Ajamu and Andrew Basham. Sarkisian said he thinks the players like the atmosphere created by a few attendees. “I think they love it,” he said. “And that’s why we had open practices before and when we get our chances to when the stadium opens back up, we will get back to opening up the majority of our practices because I think naturally as a competitor when you know eyes are on you, it just fuels your fire even more to perform. So we will continue to push that when we get our chances.’’
— Also in attendance was former UW coach Keith Gilbertson, seen talking for a while afterward with QB coach Marques Tuiasosopo. Gilberton was OC at UW when Tuiasosopo was QB in 1999 and 2000.
You can see all of Sarkisian’s post-practice session with the media below: