In the rain and bluster last Saturday at the Washington spring scrimmage, it seemed for a moment like a late September afternoon at Montlake. Just beyond the half-way point of practice this spring, over 100 invited Husky alumni were gathered along with the media.
Making the rounds were some of the heart and soul of years past, including Chris Chandler, Chad Ward, and Warren Moon. While the energy level on the field was intense, the ex-players gathered on the north sideline visiting and sharing stories until the wind and rain picked up a bit later sending most of the non-combatants to the shelter of the stands.
The participants of the scrimmage lined up on the traditional visitor's side, divided wearing their purple or white jerseys, waiting for their group to get into the action.
At this stage of the new year, the coaches lead the young men through specific situations, so they will be able "to handle the game structure" said coach Tyrone Willingham at the pre-practice press meeting.
"We always like to work situations, so the guys can focus on those things, we'll do some general work for the most part, we'll have our situations scripted that we want to look at your red-zone, your backed up - those kind of things so that you get your guys accustomed to, acclimated to playing - and just your general things."
What the Huskies are learning now is the system - and the game situation. One series after another. Willingham's goal seems to be to get the players confidant in the plays, their fellow players. "I think our guys are getting closer to understanding the potential that we have now," said Willingham - who has been heard saying he "hated" that word, "potential," simply because it describes something that has not yet happened.
Just in front of us, there was a huge pile up, and the last young man to his feet was greeted by a face-full of red hot coach, making his point in no uncertain terms. Standing next to me, under a large blue and white umbrella, Brock Huard turned with a smirk, and and said "I see (coach) Randy Hart hasn't changed a bit."
It was a pleasure to see so much energy from the defense, and although we saw a similar scenario from the '05 Dawgs last spring, one would still have to be pleased with their overall performance.
Defensive end Greyson Gunheim had three sacks, Chris Hemphill, who intercepted a Johnny Durocher pass, took it about 95 yards the other way for a touchdown. Also impressive was the overall play of emerging leader Donny Mateaki, and cornerback Dashon Goldson had perhaps the biggest hit of the day - a truly bone - rattling shot on Chancellor Young after a short yardage catch near the end zone. This was a hit that no one missed, and coach Willingham referred to it later, saying "There were some good hits today, a few where you could really say, `Yeah, it's noisy out here.'
On offense, the QB competition continued as Isaiah Stanback was 5 of 12 for 33 yards, and had the most success in moving the team. He was the second-leading runner with 45 yards on seven carries. Stanback seems to see the field better now, and it served him on a few occasions, on the ground and in the air.
The offensive line had it's problems handling the Dawgs defense Saturday, so quarterbacks Johnny DuRocher (3 of 14, 12 yards and one interception), Carl Bonnell (1 of 6, minus 4 yards) struggled. Felix Sweetman had no better luck.
Freshman J.R. Hasty looked impressive, and had a team-high 78 yards on 12 carries, including one for 42 yards. Kenny James had 33 yards on seven carries, and Louis Rankin was grinding out 28 yards on 15 carries.
"I thought there were some bright spots in the running game," Willingham said. Our offensive line is opening up some holes, but it's not at a consistency that I'm happy with or satisfied with."
Moving into the final seven days of practice, coach Willingham will be looking for the team fundamentals to solidify, and execution tighten up as Saturday Purple vs White spring battle gets closer, and he is turing all the challenges into positives.
"We probably took a minor step back in some areas (Saturday), but that just leaves us plenty of room to work and improve."