And just like that we are only a few hours away from 3 months of the offseason for Washington football. The Spring Preview is this morning and is free to attend. Coach DeBoer has already said it isn’t going to be a full scrimmage in part due to the lack of healthy bodies at running back and linebacker. However, it should still be a fun event despite the less than stellar weather forecast. Feel free to share your observations in the comments below and I’ll have my notes from being there in person after it is over.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Spring Preview Notes
Apologies for the delay in getting these up. It’s been a busy 24 hours.
If there’s one thing we can be certain about it’s that none of the quarterbacks won the job based on their performance at the Spring Preview. That was confirmed by Kalen DeBoer who afterwards said they would move into the fall without having named a starter.
Huard struggled mightily in last Saturday’s open practice but he was much better yesterday. His completion along the sideline to Junior Alexander who made a fantastic one-handed catch was probably the prettiest throw of the day and looked like the deep balls he regularly completed in high school (often to Alexander). It must be noted that Huard rarely worked with the 1’s but also rarely worked against the 1’s on defense. He had a gorgeous throw in the corner of the end zone dropped by a walk-on receiver that you would hope would’ve been caught by one of the starters. The lack of reps going against the defensive starters makes it hard to assess but hopefully this will be a major confidence booster for Huard going into the summer.
Morris had by far the worst stats but I actually thought he played well up until the moment he had to throw the ball. More than for either of the other QBs he seemed to be under siege and was adept at moving around in the pocket or escaping it to find open throwing lanes. But an example of his day was when he evaded pressure but then short-armed a 5-yard throw to his wide open running back and threw it at his feet for an incompletion. The accuracy just wasn’t there as the throws ended up close but not quite in the window they needed to be in for it to result in a catch.
Penix according to DeBoer had been great with the ball all spring but threw a pair of picks. A ball for Devin Culp was a little too high and it went off his hands and was easily intercepted by Mishael Powell. Later, Rome Odunze found a hole in the zone and Penix saw it a little too late as Alex Cook raced in front for an easy pick. Some fault might be placed on Odunze who didn’t come back for the ball but that timing and recognition needs to be there earlier for it to be a completion in a real game against Pac-12 competition or else it will again be intercepted.
The offense came back to “win” the scrimmage after Rome Odunze broke several tackles and took a short pass nearly 40 yards along the sideline but it definitely seemed like DeBoer wanted the offense to win. That last drive had the #1 offense working against a mix of the #2 and #3 defenses and it wasn’t a surprise that they scored on the final few possessions not going against the 1’s.
Perhaps the biggest “winner” of the preview was Lonyatta “Junior” Alexander who finished with ~90 receiving yards and led the team. He made the one-handed grab but with Taj Davis unavailable looked the part as the team’s 4th receiver behind Odunze, McMillan, and Polk. Giles Jackson had several throws he couldn’t quite bring in and didn’t look comfortable being targeted downfield as his size became an issue with throws that weren’t straight on target. I wasn’t sure what to make of Alexander’s inability to see the field at all at ASU last year but this was an encouraging sign that he could crack the rotation this fall.
Running Into a Wall
While there were flashes in the passing game there were almost none in the running game. Jay’veon Sunday had a couple decent runs but for the most part there were absolutely no holes to be found on the ground. In a scrimmage situation it’s always hard to know how much the defense might know about whether a running play is coming after working against the offense and these set of plays over the last month. But it didn’t appear that the shifts along the offensive line had greatly improved the run blocking. Obviously the hope is that the defensive front with Jeremiah Martin, Kuao Peihopa, and Voi Tunuufi more prominently involved has suddenly improved into a stout run defense but we won’t know that until we get to see them against new competition. For now though it looks like getting Jaxson Kirkland, Cameron Davis, and Richard Newton back would go a long way towards success.
For the most part I was focused on the offense but there were a few highlight plays by the D. Kamren Fabiculanan in the Husky spot working with the 2nd team D had a really nice tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage on Giles Jackson. Cam Williams had a punishing hit on Jalen McMillan on a throw that was a little late but Jalen had great hands to keep from dropping it. Jeremiah Martin absolutely worked Troy Fautanu for a sack that knocked the offense out of the red zone when it looked like they were on the verge of their touchdown and forced a field goal. Devon Banks looked to commit a few uncalled DPIs on the outside not getting his head turned around but I was impressed with his ability to stay with the Husky receivers on the outside. He apparently had the most INTs among the DBs this spring and hopefully it’s a sign he can be a final great scouting job by Lake, Harris, and Brown before they departed.
When I left my house to head to the spring game it was pouring rain so I wasn’t exactly surprised that attendance wasn’t spectacular. The sun mostly came out though by the time practice began and the North side had at least partial sun for most of the game. It sounds like there may have been somewhere around 1,000 fans in Club Husky which were hard to see from the regular seats. Otherwise, fans were spread out between the 20’s in the lower bowl which makes it really hard to estimate. Overall though it was maybe somewhere between 2,000-5,000 people. At this point winning is what’s going to get attendance back to where Husky fans expect it to be but Coach DeBoer has his work cut out for him.