Ready, Break!

Shaquille Thompson (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

The Washington coaching staff is currently conducting a mid-spring review of their first six practices. Players, for better or worse, will be closely evaluated for their performances and what that means going forward. Film will be watched and dropped passes and missed blocks may lead to less opportunities for some; others will be rewarded for flashes of brilliance.

So, on the heels of my article on the offensive and defensive lines, here are a few "spring break" thoughts that have been percolating inside my zany Dawg fan brain.

Huddle up! Actually, don't.

Reports out of practice allege that up to 130 plays per session are being logged. Considering the typical number last year was in the 70-80 play range, this is a pretty remarkable uptick. Over the course of the 15 spring practices, that's a total increase of 750 plays! If that jump in efficiency doesn't lead to improved mental fortitude and conditioning, I don't know what will. And it's not just helping the offense. The defense is getting used to being physically and mentally taxed while still having to perform at a high level. While it sounds like some fans don't like the migration to the spread, I think it's the natural progression as the majority of Pac-12 programs run some version of the offense. The Huskies haven't been able to stop Oregon for the better part of a decade and it's time for a paradigm shift. I'm utterly sick and tired of losing to Oregon. Adapting to surrounding changes in the conference is long overdue in my eyes.
Wanna be a Baller? Shot Signal Caller?

It sounds like quarterback Derrick Brown is on the outs. Cyler Miles, Troy Williams, and Jeff Lindquist are consistently getting looks with the 2nd and 3rd team offense ahead of Brown. Given mediocre assessments regarding his game, this doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Brown appears to be more of a big athlete than a polished quarterback. The arrival of marquee talent like Miles, Williams and Lindquist has made the quarterback from Winchester, Calif. readily dispensable.

As usual, Keith Price is having a strong spring. While it is Price's MO for this time of year, the real questions will be answered when adversity knocks in September. Running the offense without contact has never been Keith's problem. What I want to see: His legs remain explosive and an unwavering leadership mentality, for a full 12-game season. The young frosh are not going to make it easy on him, though, as all are apparently having their own moments of excellence.

Williams apparently has an absolute cannon for an arm. He was reportedly throwing blistering BB's off of receivers' facemasks on 5-yard curls. I'm glad to see he's jacked up. Reining Williams in, controlling that firepower and teaching him to play within himself may be the biggest challenges for Marques Tuiasosopo as he tutors the freshman from Narbonne High. There's no doubting Wiliams has amazing natural ability and I really think he's the future of this team (probably not a revelation there).

Cyler Miles, while a great athlete, seems to be inconsistent. He flashes potential, but true to his youth has had his fair share of struggles. Miles still should factor seriously into the equation but may take a little longer to get a handle than his competition. Lindquist, who self-admittedly struggled greatly last year, could be the leader in the clubhouse behind Price. He reportedly has a pretty decent grasp on the offense and is mostly making good decisions. He appears to be a very cerebral player who, once he masters Sark's playbook, will have a lot say about the starting gig in 2014 and beyond.

Whoever emerges - this year or next - it's certainly a great thing to have three young guns with the starting job in their sights. The future at the QB position at UW is undoubtedly very bright.
The Bishop Backup

It sounds as though running back Bishop Sankey looks better than ever and a huge year from him in 2013 seems well within reach. But after number 25, who's going to carry the mail? Erich Wilson, who saw limited action last year, looks to be making a strong push for more playing time. More of a long-strider with a knack for pushing the pile, Wilson is a decent change-of-pace runner to complement Sankey.

However, the player I'm most excited about is Dwayne Washington. Originally recruited as a receiver, the staff decided to transition him to running back once he made it to Montlake. After Washington's signing I remember being giddy watching his highlight tape. He's a big, strong athlete and I actually thought he would be a great addition to our receiving corps (shows what I know). So far in spring ball Washington has been impressing coaches. "I think Dwayne Washington has been really impressive running the football — he's been a really nice complement to Bishop (Sankey) running the football," said coach Sark during the first half of spring ball.

So, following a season in which the running back position was quite thin due to injury, it sounds like some semblance of depth has returned. And, dare I say that if Deontae Cooper is able to make a comeback, this could become one of the deeper positions on the team. A wild card here is redshirt freshman Ryan McDaniel. The Torrance, Calif. native spent last season rehabbing a high school knee injury but has been good to go so far this spring. A purported bruiser, McDaniel appears to be a running back more in the mold of Michael Turner than Darren Sproles. But I haven't heard much about him so far this spring so it's pure speculation as to how he will factor into the rotation. Ultimately, options abound at the backup running back spot. That certainly beats the alternative.
Red Sox Rancor

Like it or not, Shaquille Thompson is playing baseball this summer. Drafted out of Grant High School in Sacramento by the Boston Red Sox in the 482nd round (or somewhere around there), Thompson is currently keeping the professional baseball avenue available. Some fans are mad as hell, some don't care. For me, as long as he takes care of his football responsibilities and continues to improve at linebacker, I couldn't care less. Now, if either of those things are affected that's a completely different conversation. Do I wish that all Shaq did was eat, breathe, study, and play football 24/7? Uh, yep. But he's a kid, not a machine. And it's quotes like this from Shaq that give me solace…"Sophomore year, I'm going to leave it on the field every game. Go hard or go home." That doesn't sound like someone who isn't taking football seriously. I realize that he appears to be a far superior footballer than outfielder, but all indications are that Shaq is an even better person than athlete. So, until proven otherwise he will receive this fan's unequivocal endorsement to pursue a dream.

At the end of the day, who are we to tell 18/19-year olds what passions he should or shouldn't follow?

Go Dawgs!

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