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Spring Game Preview: What and Who to Watch

Bring out your rain jackets and head on down to Husky Stadium tonight!  The Huskies will be holding their annual spring game tonight at 6:30 and, despite the cool temperatures, it is sure to be a hoppin’ time!  3/4 of the Good Guys will be at the game and bringing you a recap afterwards.  After watching almost all of the spring practices I have a few recommendations on who to watch tonight.  Bob Condotta also filed a “Who To Watch” list that you can find here.  As usual, he does a fantastic job.  Here’s a few players (and a few other things) that I’ll be watching tonight (The obvious guys won’t be on this list very much.  Of course we’ll all be watching Jake Locker, Devin Aguilar, and Mason Foster.  They are awesome and there’s no disputing this.):

  • Deontae Cooper.  Cooper is one of the two freshman running backs who came in for spring practices.  Sadly, Jesse Callier won’t be participating; he had been very impressive too.  Deontae Cooper was my favorite part of the spring.  He has been absolutely fantastic. I can only remember one practice in which he didn’t break off a long touchdown run.  If he’s on top of his game today Husky fans will be in for a treat and you all will stop wondering why I keep writing about this guy.
  • Cort Dennison.  Before this spring the linebacker position was one to worry about.  I’ll write more on this later but, this is the spot where the most questions were answered for me.  As we saw last year, Cort is a pretty good player.  If he was a baseball player I would have rated him as a league-average player.  After watching him this spring I would say he’s above average.  He’s moved to the middle linebacker spot for this season and will be a steady stream of energy and toughness there.  Cort is a fun Husky to watch; I would say that you should do at least a little bit of that tonight.
  • The free safety position.  Nick Holt said in an interview yesterday that with the emergence of Will Shamburger and Nate Fellner, Sean Parker should be able to stay at his natural position of strong safety.  This means that the coaches have been very impressed by these two players.  They both show a few different things: Shamburger is good in coverage and Fellner brings the lumber.  Right now Shamburger is the starter but Fellner is right in the mix too.  Both of these guys will play a role next year.
  • The offense in short yardage situations.  The Huskies had trouble with this last year and Sark put an emphasis on getting more physical heading into spring.  Of course they will be going up against a depleted defensive line tonight but it will still be interesting to watch.
  • Alvin Logan.  Logan has had a good spring and is in the hunt for the 3rd linebacker position.  He’s very quick rushing off the edge and definitely looks the part.  I’m predicting at least one sack for him tonight.
  • Anthony Boyles.  A.B. started this spring with a bang but has since fallen off a little bit.  I think he’ll be ready to get out and play in a game format.  At times he looks like UW’s best corner, other times he seems to be lost.  He should get tested often tonight, I’m excited to see how he responds.
  • William Chandler.  I don’t know who William Chandler is, I don’t know where he came from and I don’t know if he’ll play much next year but this guy continues to make catch after catch in practice.  I imagine he’ll pull down a few tonight and people will ask who it was.

The teams will be the starting offense with the second team defense vs. the second team offense and the starting defense.  Basically, the one vs. the ones and the twos vs. the twos. 

The starting offense will be close to this: 

QB:  Jake Locker.  Keith Price will come in once Montlake Jake is done for the day.

RB:  Johri Fogerson/Deontae Cooper

FB:  Austin Sylvester/Dorson Boyce

TE:  Chris Izbicki/Kavario Middleton

WR:  Devin Aguilar/James Johnson/Cody Bruns

LT:  Senio Kelemente

LG:  Ryan Tolar

C:  Drew Schaefer

RG:  Mykenna Ikehara

RT:  Daniel Kanczugowski

The defense should look something like this:

DE’s:  Cameron Elisara and Talia Critchon.  De’Shon Matthews might be with the starters, I’m not sure.

DT’s:  Alameda Ta’amu/Chris Robinson/Tyrone Duncan

LB’s:  Alvin Logan/Cort Dennison/Mason Foster.  Expect Matt Houston to rotate in here too.

CB’s:  Vonzell McDowell/Quinton Richardson.  Adam Long may rotate in with the starters but I expect him to be with the 2nd team.

FS:  Will Shamburger

SS:  Nate Williams

Those might be a little off but they’re pretty close.  Enjoy and I’ll hopefully see you tonight!

Andrew

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Huskies Practice Report – 4/6/2010

I learned my lesson after the first two days of practice that I attended, dress warm.  So today I made my way over to the U District, put my North Face on over my long sleeve shirt, put my jacket on over my north face, put my beanie and gloves on and then began my trek over to the stadium.  To my surprise, it was a little warmer today than it was last week.  The wind wasn’t blowing as hard and the sun even poked through once or twice.  It was easily the most enjoyable practice of the year so far.

I arrived about 45 minutes late because of a guitar lesson but I think I only missed some stretching and position drills.  On my way to my usual spot on the sideline I noticed De’Shon Matthews in the trainers tent with ice on his calf muscle.  He didn’t participate in the rest of practice but the injury doesn’t look extremely serious.  Needless to say, the Huskies don’t need another defensive end hurt.  Hopefully, Matthews will be back soon.  Jordan Polk and Cody Bruns also did not participate in practice.  Polk is nursing a minor hamstring injury and no one seems to know why Bruns sat out.

Today was the teams first day in full pads.  This made for a chippy practice where the offensive and defensive guys really got after each other.  When a team gets to start tackling it’s pretty normal to see shoving matches start.  All of these were stopped right away but it showed a little fire from a team that was so lifeless a few years ago. 

A lot of the day was devoted to 11 on 11 scrimmaging.  Most of the day saw the defense dominate the running game and the offense dominate the passing game. 

There were a few changes in the lineup.  Anthony Boyles and Quinton Richardson were the cornerbacks for the starting unit.  Adam Long ran with the second team.  This is somewhat surprising from an outsider’s perspective but after watching 3 of the first 4 practices it seems pretty clear that Boyles and Richardson are playing at the highest level right now.  Vonzell McDowell also played as a nickel back with the first team defense at times.  Desmond Trufant is not participating in contact drills this spring.

Victor Aiyewa (who’s not allowed in too much contact either) and Alvin Logan are rotating at the strong-side linebacker spot.  I think either of these guys will be just fine at this position.  Logan appears to be very quick around the edge on defense and seems to blitz quite a bit.  I don’t think this position will be decided until just before the season starts.

The defensive line did quite a bit of rotating today.  It was hard to get a read on who the starters are but it looks as if Tyrone Duncan has worked his way into some playing time.  They also tried Cameron Elisara out at defensive end a few times today.

I don’t know if it means everything but Deontae Cooper was always the first person to get a carry in the 11 on 11 sessions.  All the running backs rotated almost every play so I wouldn’t look too much into this.  Cooper did look like the best out of the four running backs (Cooper, Callier, Fogerson, and Bronson) today.

Nick Montana looked like the best option as backup quarterback today.  This was easily his best day of practice.  Even if you weren’t watching it’s easy to tell when Montana throws a nice pass because the couple hundred  people watching generally get very excited.  Montana had a couple of those throws today, he was pretty impressive.

The play of the day goes to Jake.  A rush came from Jake’s right and he scrambled hard to his left.  Aguilar broke free from coverage and Locker threw a 50 yard completion that would’ve gone for a touchdown if they let it play out.  What was impressive is that Jake threw this 50 yard pass across his body while on the run.  I was standing by a reporter who said, “I don’t know if any other quarterback in the nation could do that.”  I have to agree.  I’ve seen Jake do some amazing things but that one might have topped the list.

My players of the day after the jump! Continue reading

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Huskies Practice Report – 4/1/10

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the practice report sooner because I drove home to Yakima right after practice concluded.  It was another chilly day at Montlake today but the place was hoppin’!  There were softball and baseball games going on, those combined with the open practice made for a fun environment of about 3,000 people.  The team practiced without pads again today so it’s a little hard to get a read on who had a good day and who had a bad day.  They will get into pads and start tackling next week.

Sark seemed a little more animated today than he did on Tuesday (not that he wasn’t animated on Tuesday, just more so today).  He was getting after players when mistakes happened and shouting praise after good plays.  This coaching staff is extremely fun to watch; they’re almost as entertaining as watching the players sometimes.  If the team is lacking energy the coaching staff brings it.  I spent quite a bit of time watching the secondary coach, Demetrice Martin, and the running back coach, Joel Thomas.  These are two guys who move around as much as their players do.  Martin sticks up for his defensive backs and it’s easy to see that the players really enjoy him.

One of the stories of spring practice is the backup quarterback position battle.  The backup probably won’t be decided until Fall but it’d be nice if one or both of these guys had an amazing spring.  They both struggled at times today.  Montana threw some very good passes in the scrimmage session but during drills he threw 3 interceptions in a row.  Price is inconsistent and I don’t know if his arm will ever be something we can count on.  If the season started tomorrow I’d be worried.  Fortunately, it doesn’t and we have two of the best quarterback coaches in the country (Sark and Nuss) and one of the best quarterbacks in the country for these guys to learn from.  They are both trying to learn at every point; they are interacting with Locker in every opportunity they can and I saw both of them talking to Tui many times.  (Speaking of Tui, the quarterbacks were going through the routes and progressions with Nussmeier early in the practice and throwing the passes to Marques.  It was pretty cool to see.)

As if Locker wasn’t already a great leader, it’s obvious that he’s making even more of an effort this year.  It’s hard to explain just how much he interacts with the guys while trying to make himself better but it’s impressive to see.  I’m going to devote one of these practices to just watching him and will do a post on that. 

So, who had a good day today?  As I already mentioned it’s somewhat hard to tell without full contact but here are a few guys I came away impressed with:

  • Anthony Boyles.  Again.  I’m trying to not get too excited about him but it’s already getting difficult.  There were several times where I thought, “Wow, I need to text the fellow good guys to tell them how great Boyles looks.”  I’m not the only one who’s noticing either.  Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, and Jake Locker seem to be taking notice.  Boyles enjoys a little friendly trash talking after he or his fellow cornerbacks make a play.  Kearse doesn’t seem to enjoy that too much so after Boyles dominated for a while Kearse decided he would only go against A.B.  (that’s what the players call him, I figure the Good Guys might as well too.)  Kearse had his way a few times but Boyles held his own.  By my count, between drills and little scrimmages, Boyles had 3 pass breakups and an interception.  He got beat once by Kearse and heard about that from Locker and Kearse.  When he has those two talking trash to him about a completion I think that shows that he’s becoming a playmaker in the secondary.  (If you make it to a practice watch Boyles and Vonzell McDowell, they’re hilarious when they get going and extremely entertaining.)
  • Semisi Tokolahi.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pronounce this guys name.  Tokolahi is a defensive tackle and it’s really hard to judge lineman when they aren’t blocking with all their effort.  Despite this Tokolahi has impressed the coaches enough to rotate with the other 1st defensive tackles (Alameda Ta’amu and Cameron Elisara).  Today he had a pass deflection and got in the backfield a few times.  He’s a big strong guy who could do a good job plugging up the middle of the defense.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tokolahi play himself into some playing time.
  • Jermaine Kearse.  Just get used to seeing his name on these lists.
  • Jake Locker.  Same as Kearse.
  • The entire secondary.  I already singled out Boyles for his good play but this entire secondary was pretty impressive today.  Especially during drills.  I really think we’ll see a lot more man-to-man defense this year.
  • Jesse Callier.  I forgot to mention him on Tuesday.  Him and Cooper are the two new freshmen running backs and both look like they could be Polk’s backup. 

Nothing really anything bad to report.  Sure there were some inconsistencies in the backup quarterbacks, a few dropped passes, a fumble or two, and some mixed up assignments but it’s the second day of spring practice and those problems are normal.

Cody Bruns appears to be the holder for the team.  The kicking was pretty bad today but I’m going to blame that on the wind and some bad holds.  I don’t think we need to worry about Erik Folk.

The punt-returners today were Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier, Devin Aguilar, Jordan Polk and Johri Fogerson (I may have missed someone here).  My early money is on Cooper but I think any of these guys would be just fine returning kicks and/or punts.

One last practice note is that 2011 recruit WR Kasen Williams and 2012 recruit OL Zach Banner were at practice today.  Banner was standing on the field most of the day and is huge.  He was bigger than some of the Husky offensive lineman.  Williams was a little harder to find and wasn’t as involved in watching the practice as Banner was.  Williams is considered one of the best receiver recruits in the country and Banner is a lineman that the Huskies would love to get.

Well, that’s about it for today.  I write more words than I think I will on these.  As Dan noted earlier, this is our 100th post!  It’s a little bit of a shame that the 100th post is this lame but I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading.  This blog has been so much fun for me and I’m fairly sure the other Good Guys agree.  We look forward to keep writing to whatever audience is out there and we’re honored that you choose to read posts that we write.  As our friends over on Montlake Madness say, thanks for coming!

Andrew

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Huskies Practice Report – 3/30/10

The first spring practice of the year was held at Husky Stadium today on a windy, cold spring day.   It was fun walking up to the stadium; the baseball team was starting a game, the softball team was practicing (I only hope Danielle Lawrie saw me and fell in love at first sight) and there were a couple hundred people watching practice.  There was a good amount of energy in the air and the players seemed happy to be on the field.  The team wasn’t in pads yet and won’t be until next week.

I remember coming to the first spring practice last year and being blown away by the amount of energy the coaches brought.  Today was no different.  On numerous occasions I watched coaches sprint 20 or 30 yards to a player to either tell them what they did wrong or to give them praise for a good play.  I was also impressed by the amount of time the staff puts into one-on-one  coaching.  From Jake Locker to Clarence Trent, the coaches give a good amount of effort to get their point across to each player in one way or another.

I was watching the quarterbacks for a good share of the time today and it was about what I expected.  Jake Locker looked good, Keith Price and Nick Montana had some good moments but also had some shaky moments.  The wind gusts blowing off the lake often affected their deep passes.  My first impression of Nick Montana is that he has a good arm but is very skinny.  He threw some very good balls and will improve as he becomes more comfortable with the speed of practice.  Keith Price is an amazing athlete and if he ever develops into a good passer he could become quite the threat at quarterback.  Right now he reminds me of Dennis Dixon in his first few years at Oregon.

Alvin Logan was the starting strongside linebacker, as expected.  He rushed off the edge many times and looked very quick doing it.   The news of the day was Clarence Trent (UW basketball player) walking on to the football team as a defensive end.  Nick Holt coached him up numerous times and although Trent looked lost at times, he seems to have some raw talent.  For whatever it’s worth, he’s the tallest player on the defense and probably the team.

Greg Christine appears to be the backup center behind Drew Shaeffer.  I thought this was interesting at first because he was a starting guard last year but the more I think about it the more it makes sense.  Who else do the Huskies have to put there?  Christine seems like the best option as a backup and it’s good to have him understand both spots. 

A few more notes after the jump on players who had a good day.  Continue reading

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Huskies Position Overview – Cornerbacks

We get to move away from the weakness of the defense, the front seven, to the strength, the secondary.  It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that the Huskies secondary should be pretty good, but that changes this.  Here’s my starters and backups:

Starters:

  • Desmond Trufant, 6-0, 180, SO.
  • Adam Long, 5-10, 170, RS SO.

Desmond Trufant has the potential to be one of the best cornerbacks UW has ever had.  He has started his first game on campus and was a pleasure to watch mature throughout last season.  He was a little scary to watch in the first few games but then became the Huskies best corner by mid-season.  It only makes sense that Trufant will get better with experience.  It will be fun to watch Desmond this spring to see how a year in the weight program has affected him.  He should be a lockdown corner for the Dawgs for the next three years.

Adam Long red-shirted his first year here and then took the starting job from Quinton Richardson halfway through last season.  He was recruited because of his speed and is one of the fastest players on the team.  Long had exceptional games against WSU and Cal to end the year.  During those last two games he was UW’s best cornerback.  He will have to compete this spring in order to hold off Richardson.  Long does lack weight and hopefully he gained some muscle this offseason while keeping his speed.  I really like Adam (not just because we have the same last name) and think he has just as much potential as Trufant.  If he continues to progress, Long may turn into an NFL caliber corner.

Backups:

  • Quinton Richardson, 6-0, 203, JR.
  • Vonzell McDowell, 5-8, 180, SR. 
  • Anthony Boyles, 6-3, 200, RS SO.
  • Anthony Gobern, 5-11, 185, SO.

At the start of last year, Richardson was U-Dub’s best cornerback.  He got burned on a couple of plays, suffered a few injuries, and lost confidence.  The combination of that and the progression of Trufant and Long  moved Richardson to backup.  Quinton is a big physical corner who was moved from his original position at safety.  He can tackle pretty well and is decent in one-on-one coverage.  I hope Richardson has an excellent spring and challenges for a starting job.  He is a good corner and will be a very valuable backup if the depth chart stays the way it does.

Someday I might devote a full post to Vonzell McDowell because the truth is, I feel sorry for him.  To put a long story short, Vonzell was a starter as true freshman and was solid his first two games in wins against Syracuse and Boise State.  He even had a game-clinching against the Broncos.  The next game was against Ohio State and in a close first half McDowell was burnt for a touchdown against a good Buckeye receiving group.  After that play, Tyrone Willingham (I threw up in my mouth after I typed that name) benched McDowell for the rest of the game and most of the season.  Why you would bench a freshman after one mistake is beyond me, but a lot of things Tyrone did were beyond me.  Predictabl,y McDowell lost a ton of confidence because of this benching and he hasn’t been the same since that fateful play.  I’m not suggesting that McDowell was going to have an amazing career, Trufant and Long possess more talent than Vonzell did as a freshman, but now we can only wonder what could have been.  As it sits now, Vonzell is a decent backup but nothing more.  I’m sorry that Tyrone was your coach Vonzell.

Boyles is an interesting case.  He came in as a highly touted wide receiver but didn’t grasp on to the offense and suffered from inconsistency.  No one questioned his talent but he just couldn’t pull it all together.  The coaches moved him to cornerback at mid-season last year so he wouldn’t have to think so much.  They like his raw ability and he had a couple of good practices.  Boyles really needs to have a great spring to crack this rotation because the guys in front of him have more experience and have quite a bit of talent.  Anthony Gobern hasn’t seen the field too much but was supposedly a solid scout team player last year.  He may progress into a good corner.  Like Boyles, Gobern needs to have a really good spring in order to crack the rotation.

Overall Position:  This is more depth and talent at cornerback than the Huskies have had in years.  Trufant, Long, and Richardson could all be starters on most pac-10 teams and they have room to grow.  The rest of the backups have a good amount of upside (especially Boyles).  If these guys are able to really grow and become dependable in man-to-man coverage the linebackers will get to bring pressure more.  This is what happened against Cal and WSU.  This is probably the best position on this defense.

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