By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The individual highlight of Thomas Vincent’s University of Washington career wasn’t exactly the most fitting end to Saturday’s practice.
Under beautiful sunny skies, Vincent capped off the final drive of an hour-long scrimmage session with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Joshua Perkins. It marked a rare moment in the sun for the former King’s High School quarterback and also one of the few offensive highlights of a scrimmage dominated by the defense.
“This is my first time this spring getting reps with the team, so it was a blast,” said Vincent, a redshirt freshman from Seattle who came to UW as a walk-on.
Vincent’s touchdown pass turned out to be the only score of the session. A goal-line stand, a fourth-down stop and safety Sean Parker’s interception of a Keith Price pass served as the other highlights of the Saturday’s practice.
UW’s ground game didn’t really get going until the live-tackling portion of the scrimmage was called off about midway through, and both Price and backup quarterback Derrick Brown had their struggles passing the ball.
The defense’s domination was nothing new during a spring that has seen UW struggle on the offensive side of the ball. The daily offense-defense competitions have almost exclusively been won by the Huskies’ D, resulting in post-practice up-down sessions from the offensive players.
“It’s been pretty cool,” said head coach Steve Sarkisian, who added that pass coverage has been a particular area of improvement this spring. “And it’s been pretty spirited. By no means has it been manufactured — the defense is winning these plays.”
New offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, whose unit has been plagued by injuries up front and is playing with a makeshift line, said Friday that the offense has yet to play up to its potential this spring.
“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Kiesau said two days ago. “We’ve got to clean up some things as an entire group.”
The backup offensive line had some struggles with the center-to-quarterback exchange Saturday, due in part to a lack of depth created by the absence of starting center Drew Schaefer. The Huskies’ most experienced lineman has a sprained left knee and, according to Sarkisian, could miss another week.
Sophomore Mike Criste has been filling in for Schaefer, while the Huskies have had to convert other linemen to work at the position with the No. 2 offense.
“I’ve been waiting for my chance to prove myself and what I can do,” Criste said Saturday.
At quarterback, Brown has been particularly inconsistent while trying to earn a spot as Price’s primary backup. Incoming freshmen Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles are likely to push Brown for the No. 2 job this fall, so the spring is a unique opportunity for the redshirt freshman to get ahead of the competition.
“He’s still young and progressing, and we know that as an offensive staff,” Keisau said Friday of Brown. “We’re pushing to get him better.”
Vincent turned out to have the best quarterbacking moment of Saturday’s scrimmage, although the undersized redshirt freshman from Seattle doesn’t look like he has much of a chance to compete for playing time in the fall.
Sarkisian said that Vincent’s dramatic finish to the Saturday practice was “awesome” and added that the 6-foot, 197-pound quarterback could get more opportunities this spring as the Huskies rest Price’s arm.
After the transfer of backup Nick Montana, Vincent is essentially the No. 3 quarterback until the freshman class arrives in the fall.
“It’s really no different than if Nick were here,” Vincent said. “I’m still trying as hard as I was before. But it’s definitely an opportunity nonetheless.”
Vincent couldn’t have asked for a better final word to Saturday’s practice, even if it didn’t necessarily represent the offense-defense competition.
“It (stinks) ending with the offense on top,” sophomore defensive lineman Andrew Hudson said, “because the defense will feel like: ‘Man, we lost today.’”
But that simply wasn’t the case. Defense ruled the day Saturday, and that’s becoming a common theme this spring.
“Our kids are competing and playing hard,” Sarkisian said, “and at those moments of truth, (the defensive players) are making plays.”
Cornerback Greg Ducre (concussion), linebacker Scott Lawyer (strained hip) and running back Dezden Petty (back) were among the players held out of Saturday’s session. … Running back Jesse Callier returned from an ankle injury to participate in Saturday’s practice.