CHRISTIAN CAPLE

UW Huskies Spring Practice: Observations after big scrimmage day

Apr 20, 2024, 8:22 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2024, 1:35 pm

UW Huskies...

A UW Huskies helmet is shown during a game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — The first eight spring practices for the UW Huskies required a heavy jacket, such were the weather conditions near the water. Saturday, then, was a welcome change, as a cloudless sky and 70-degree temperatures greeted the Huskies for their first big scrimmage day at Husky Stadium.

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They ran 104 plays in all, coach Jedd Fisch said afterward, split between traditional 11-on-11, red-zone work and 7-on-7. There was live tackling, which Fisch said was particularly important. A handful of players didn’t participate due to injury, but Fisch said the Huskies made it through the scrimmage healthy.

“We got a lot of work done, which was good,” Fisch said. “We were able to see a lot of players.”

Here are 19 things to know about Saturday’s practice.

1. Will Rogers and Demond Williams Jr. continue to make a handful of pretty impressive passes per practice, when given time to throw (though Rogers continues to take the bulk of the reps with the No. 1 offense). Rogers’ highlight on Saturday was a 31-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline and into the west end zone to Denzel Boston, who beat Thaddeus Dixon in coverage to haul in the pass before Makell Esteen made it over from his safety position. We also saw what I believe was Boston’s first drop of the spring, on a long pass from Rogers up the right sideline that simply flew through Boston’s hands.

2. Williams led the first scoring drive of the day, finding Keith Reynolds with a perfectly thrown, 25-yard touchdown pass against Jordan Shaw in coverage. Williams also did a nice job of buying time with his legs during a red-zone period, throwing short touchdowns to Rashid Williams, Jeremiah Hunter and freshman tight end Decker DeGraaf, who is getting a lot of reps with Quentin Moore and Ryan Otton both limited (though both players suited up for practice).

3. Practice ended with Williams’ 15-yard touchdown pass to Hunter, on an 11-on-11 possession with no tackling, and with the ball advancing 10 yards per rep, regardless of play outcome. That period has been a staple of Fisch’s practices so far.

4. Another nice throw from Rogers — a back-shoulder strike to Giles Jackson for a 20-yard touchdown. Jackson ran a nice route to shake Dyson McCutcheon in coverage. That was during a modified red-zone period in which only a couple of defensive linemen rushed the quarterback on each play.

5. Dermaricus Davis got some reps, too, and fired a 23-yard strike to walk-on receiver Luke Luchini, just behind safety Vincent Holmes in coverage. While Williams is clearly Rogers’ primary competition for the starting job, Davis has a long, athletic frame and some nice tools.

6. The running game has been a work in progress — unsurprising, considering the current state of the o-line — but Jonah Coleman ripped off maybe the longest run by a tailback I’ve seen this spring, bouncing outside for a 31-yard gain on the opening possession.

7. This was a good day for linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala, who met Coleman at the line of scrimmage to stuff him during a fourth-and-goal period from the 2-yard line, and also dropped Coleman for a one-yard loss earlier in practice. There hasn’t been a ton of room when the Huskies have tried to run between the tackles.

8. The defense notched a pair of touch-sacks on blitzes from the nickel position — first from Shaw, then from McCutcheon. The defensive front also continues to apply regular pressure on UW’s quarterbacks. I saw Russell Davis II pick up a touch-sack, as did freshman linebacker Khmori House.

9. Shaw also claimed the day’s only interception, on a red-zone throw that Williams tried to complete to Reynolds. The pass was deflected straight into Shaw’s arms.

10. Grady Gross continues to do what he does. The junior kicker knocked through field goals of 35, 35 and 23 yards. The Huskies also did some punt-team work, with Boston and Hunter taking turns fielding, but with no tackling on the returns.

11. I asked Fisch about Holmes changing his mind and withdrawing from the transfer portal. This was his analysis of the player’s thinking: “He came and saw me when I got the job here. He said if he could come back, he wanted to come back as an offensive player. I said ‘sure, it doesn’t matter to me right now. I don’t care if you’re an offensive player, defensive player, you’re just a football player.’ Throughout spring, he decided he wanted to go play defense, and I think that was kind of his transition about should he go in the portal or not. Then he met with Coach (Vinnie) Sunseri and he met with Coach (Steve) Belichick, and he took his name out of the portal.”

Holmes is back on the roster and practicing at safety.

12. Speaking of the portal: Fisch said he expects to have a complete sense of Washington’s roster by the middle of May. The Huskies have about 10 open scholarships at present, and are obviously recruiting multiple o-line transfers, among other needs. And of course UW could always lose more of its own players to the portal.

“I do know that a lot of players want to be on this football team and be a part of this football program,” Fisch said. “So getting players is not the problem. It’s getting the right players that fit our culture, and getting the right players that fit our roster, which is really the key to this whole thing.”

13. As for portal priorities? Fisch says the Huskies are “targeting every position, and we’re continuing to try to bring great talent here. As we’ve said before, rising tides lift all ships. So if we can go get a great player at a position, then I believe that’ll make the players we have here just play better. It’s kind of what the expectation is. I’ve told the guys this every meeting — our job is to try to find people that can replace you, and your job is to be irreplaceable.”

A very NFL mentality, no?

14. One player you won’t see again this spring: edge rusher Zach Durfee, who had surgery this week to repair an elbow injury sustained at last Saturday’s practice. Fisch said Durfee will be out for “about two months,” but is expected back in plenty of time for preseason camp.

He wasn’t the only edge rusher who didn’t appear in Saturday’s scrimmage, as Isaiah Ward and Maurice Heims are also still limited. That left Voi Tunuufi, Lance Holtzclaw, Russell Davis II, Jacob Lane and walk-on Milton Hopkins to take most of the reps.

15. Asked to name some spring standouts off the top of his head, Fisch mentioned the following players, in order: linebacker Carson Bruener, offensive tackle Drew Azzopardi, running back Adam Mohammed, cornerback Jordan Shaw, cornerback Thaddeus Dixon.

“But there’s so many guys that have stood out in different spots, that have been exciting to see their development,” Fisch said.

16. One of the more impressive hits of the day came courtesy of walk-on linebacker Griffin Miller, who popped walk-on running back Ryder Bumgarner for a 3-yard loss.

17. Paki Finau was back out there taking some reps after being limited the past couple practices. Kahlee Tafai remains sidelined.

18. Aside from Bumgarner’s appearance with the third unit, the tailback repetitions are all going to Coleman, Mohammed and Daniyel Ngata, with Sam Adams II apparently still limited by injury. Obviously, the Huskies can plan on having Cam Davis back for preseason practices, but this spring has supported the idea that UW could use another tailback from the portal.

19. Something sort of cool I’ve noticed at the past few practices: a large video board on the sideline, displaying all-22 video of each rep on a slight delay, so that players and coaches can get an immediate look at what happened on every play. I saw quite a few players glancing at the screen throughout practice.

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the home for Christian Caple’s full UW Huskies football coverage. Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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