Strangely, Husky Stadium felt a little like the University of Southern California on Wednesday.
That is where new Husky coach Steve Sarkisian became quite familiar with the routine, star-observing football practices while a Trojans' assistant the past few years.
Sarkisian brought a little of that out Wednesday, inviting none other than former All-American safety Lawyer Milloy, the Lincoln High product who was recently released by the Atlanta Falcons.
Milloy has been in the NFL since 1996.
But this spring, he's apparently been waiting for a team to contact him. In the meantime, he's been hanging out at the UW, playing noon basketball and making frequent visits to the football offices.
On Wednesday, Milloy was more than a bystander. He was an active participant in the two-hour practice, barking out orders, offering the defense encouragement and getting his competitive juices going by yelling at the defensive backs to halt any receivers coming toward the goal-line.
"I'm just a competitor by nature," Milloy said. "That is what Sarkisian is about. That is what they're building toward. The reason why I'm here, because I bleed purple and gold, and I want to see him be successful.
"But you've got to crawl before you can walk."
Even Milloy knows rebuilding a defensive backfield that was one of the worst in 2008 will be a slow-progressing task. Junior Nate Williams might be the only lock as a starter – at free safety – while a host of others, including Greg Walker, Johri Fogerson, Victor Aiyewa and the injured Jason Wells, are competing for the strong safety post.
Walker mostly practiced with the first unit Wednesday.
It didn't matter if a safety was part of the action, or waiting on the sideline, Milloy found each and every one of them, and offered a little perspective.
"Oh, man, it was great. We didn't know he (was coming). I was kind of surprised to have him out here," Aiyewa said. "He's a good mentor for us."
&bull See Jordan run. See Jordan catch the ball.
Perhaps no receiver has diversified his attack, and improved more in the past three practices than sophomore Jordan Polk, out of Portland.
Polk was virtually unstoppable during red-zone drills, catching a touchdown pass from Ronnie Fouch, and scoring on an end-around – something he practiced for quite a few plays earlier in practice.
"He's playing to his speed, not thinking as much and slowing himself down," Sarkisian said. "This was a day that allowed him to get featured with some of the runs to the receivers."
Lakes High product Jermaine Kearse also hauled in a couple of difficult passes, including one for a score that was deflected.
&bull On the injury front, running back Brandon Johnson (concussion) and cornerback Matt Mosley (soreness) returned to practice Wednesday. That was the good news.
The bad news came down on backup offensive lineman Skyler Fancher. He had surgery Wednesday morning for a broken lower right leg that caused ligament damage. Sarkisian said the sophomore should be ready for fall camp.
Receiver Vince Taylor (ankle) and linebacker Cort Dennison (hand) had to leave practice Wednesday after sustaining injuries. Taylor was in a boot, and on crutches after practice.
As expected, receiver D'Andre Goodwin (hamstring) was on the sideline in shorts after aggravating his injury in practice Monday.
&bull One of the aspects about UW spring practices that is different under Sarkisian is an idea he brought with him from Southern California: Having referees monitor practice full-time.
So, a rotation of area officials have attended each spring practice.
"It's good for them. They learn to see the game, and they get their reps at it. Two, our guys get used to having penalties called on them – what's legal and what's not legal," Sarkisian said. "I think everyone learns from having them out here. It's a win-win for everybody."
&bull Cornerback Quinton Richardson got into a shoving match with Kearse after a play near the end of practice. Richardson was flagged by officials, was sent to the bench. He banged his helmet on the ground.
"We're still learning how to funnel our emotion in the right direction. Nothing good happens after the whistle. It's a waste of energy," Sarkisian said.
&bull "Dubs," the UW's new mascot, was also out at practice (on the leash, of course). He wasn't nearly as active as Milloy. He pretty much laid in the shade.
&bull Cornerback Quinton Richardson got into a shoving match with Kearse near the end of practice. Richardson was flagged by officials, was sent to the bench. He banged his helmet on the ground.