What we learned from the first day of Washington training camp
Washington opened fall camp at Husky Stadium on Monday morning. Here’s a look at where the Huskies sit after Day 1.
Three things we learned:
Hard work is being used to cut down on the learning process.
First-year Huskies coach Chris Petersen spent a good portion of his pre-training camp press conference Sunday explaining how new his coaching style is to the Washington players and how long it will take before the team can feel like it’s not playing catch-up with the rest of the conference. That was on display in Monday’s morning practice, which was no-nonsense, to the point that it was completely devoid of music. Even just the feeling of practice was new, according to junior defensive back Marcus Peters.
“Totally different (from Day 1 of training camp in 2013),” he said. “It was so much work. We’re working.”
Defense is in the driver’s seat.
Turnovers are hard to miss during Petersen’s practices, as he sounds off an airhorn every time there’s a takeaway. In Monday morning’s two-hour session the horn went off three times, including a slick pick-6 by senior corner Travell Dixon off of redshirt freshman Troy Williams.
It’s normal for the defense to be ahead of the offense early on in camp, but Washington also has the benefit of having a some key players back from a team that was tied for 29th in the nation last year in points-allowed per game (22.8).
“I think we have a lot of older guys that have been great leaders,” senior linebacker John Timu said Monday.
There’s still no separation in the quarterback competition.
All eyes will be affixed on Williams, sophomore Jeff Lindquist and sophomore Cyler Miles throughout camp, as the trio are all in the mix to earn the starting QB job. After Day 1, though, there wasn’t much to glean as far as one player sticking out.
Williams and Lindquist each had positive and negative moments, continuing the neck-and-neck pace they set with each other in the spring. As for Miles, who was held out for the entirety of spring ball and is suspended for the season opener vs. Hawaii because of an incident in February, he’ll be with the newcomers in separate practices for the first few days as he familiarizes himself with the Petersen playbook.
Considering Miles had moderate success in eight games in 2013, including one start, it’s not unreasonable to expect he still has the edge, but he’s starting behind the 8-ball and has a lot to prove to Petersen after his rocky offseason.
Two things we’re still trying to figure out:
Will depth trump a feature running back?
The race to replace Bishop Sankey as Washington’s featured back is on, with sophomore Dwayne Washington, senior Jesse Callier, senior Deontae Cooper and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman all in the conversation. Those four tailbacks give the Huskies a good amount of depth, however, as does linebacker Shaq Thompson, who is penciled in to be a two-way player in 2014. Because of that, there may be another way to handle things in the backfield.
“There is some competition there, but there is not a position that takes more pounding and can change in the snap of your fingers,” Petersen said. “I don’t think you can have too many guys, and I look at our depth chart, and that’s where Shaq factors into that depending on how the depth holds up.”
How will the secondary shape up?
One of the Huskies’ main strengths last season was at defensive back, but it was also a spot that took a huge hit in experience. Only Peters has started regularly before, and a cast of youngsters will have to fill in the gaps around him. Wide receiver John Ross will add some excitement by getting some time in the secondary, but he’ll likely be used more as a change of pace.
Despite the influx of inexperience around him, Peters is confident in the young DBs.
“To me, it’s no drop-off. It’s next guy up, and it’s always been that mentality here,” he said.