By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Chris Petersen really wants you to know that his team is a work in progress.
After the Washington Huskies’ first day back at spring football practice following a two-week break, Petersen fielded a variety of questions about what he saw from his team during their first two weeks of workouts, about who has impressed him, about how the quarterbacks have performed.
Is he pleased with where his players stand after seven practices?
“No. Absolutely not,” Petersen said. “I’m pleased with their attitude. They want to get it. We’re all working this together. Are we pleased where we are? No, because we have a long way to go. I like the guys. I like them a lot. I like coaching them. But we’ve got a long way to go.”
Has anyone surprised him so far?
“Nope. Not a guy,” Petersen said. “I’ll tell you if I see a guy, and there wasn’t one out there where I went ‘wow, that’s pretty special.’ Work in progress.”
Indeed, after two weeks off for final exams and spring break, there was much rust for the Huskies to shake off at Husky Stadium on Tuesday morning.
And if Petersen’s evaluations seem harsh, it’s mostly because, as he openly admits, the Huskies have more work to do than their opponents who aren’t adapting to a new coaching staff with new schemes and new philosophies.
“We’ve hurt our kids as coaches by being a new coaching staff,” Petersen said. “We’ve set them back and we tell them that every day — ‘because we’re new and we’re giving you new things, other people are ahead of us.’ So we’re trying to play catch up as fast as we can.”
To that end, there has been progress.
“The plays are starting to flow and it’s becoming more fluid, and I think guys on the team, on the offense, are starting to mesh together,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Jeff Lindquist, who spent his spring break in the Dominican Republic with a group from his church. “Things are becoming less robotic and more natural for us.”
The emphasis is still on technique and fundamentals, with only brief periods of 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 competition from scrimmage. Sophomore safety Brandon Beaver probably made the most noise of anybody on Tuesday, intercepting a long pass from quarterback Troy Williams before stripping Williams and recovering the fumble.
“Two weeks was a long time off,” Petersen said. “So (we are) working hard. We’ve got a lot of details to clean up. That’s what spring ball is all about, and hopefully we make progress every day.”
Each practice, strength coach Tim Socha introduces an off-the-wall competition designed to pit the offense and defense against each other in some type of test of strength or athleticism.
On Tuesday, a few offensive and defensive players were selected to compete against each other in the high-jump, with pads stacked on top of each other to simulate the bar.
The defense was eventually declared the winner after linebackers coach Bob Gregory edged offensive line coach Chris Strausser in a winner-take-all leap (a low leap). But sophomore receiver John Ross was probably the most impressive, eventually clearing a tall stack of pads that cornerback Jermaine Kelly couldn’t quite hurdle.
“I actually enjoy it. We talk bad about each other in the locker room, fun and games,” Ross said of the regular challenges. “The competition period is just a way for us to compete against each other while having fun.”
Senior linebacker John Timu, who was suspended for the first two weeks of spring practices after facing a criminal charge for vehicle prowling, was back at practice on Tuesday and worked with the No. 1 defense. Petersen said “we’ve got separate issues here. We dealt with the other issue. He’s dealt with the other issue. And now he’s back playing football.” … Petersen said there is no update on quarterback Cyler Miles or receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, both of whom have been suspended since Feb. 6 after being accused of assaulting a man on Feb. 2. Miles will not face charges in connection with the incident. The Seattle Times reported that Stringfellow will be charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and malicious mischief, though the King County Prosecutor’s Office has not issued a formal statement. … Four players were absent from Tuesday’s practice — defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha (who made an appearance midway through practice before leaving), offensive lineman Ben Riva and cornerback Marcus Peters. Petersen said the absent players had class conflicts, which is the reason Thursday practices have been moved to 7:15 p.m. … Former Tumwater defensive lineman Jaimie Bryant, who grayshirted last year and signed with the Huskies in February, has enrolled at UW and participated in practice on Tuesday.