Some players remarked the first two days of the University of Washington fall camp were physical enough just wearing jerseys and using no shoulder protection.
Imagine what Wednesday was like when the Huskies laced up the shoulder pads for the first time and went to work for just over two hours.
For one, coach Steve Sarkisian was pleased.
"You could feel it, it was physical," Sarkisian said. "It's who we need to be as a football team. I was impressed with our defense. They came out with a great intensity. I thought our offense got into it … as we got moving."
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And on the east side of Husky Stadium, the running backs had their own obstacle course to run through, courtesy of their position coach, Joel Thomas.
First, to induce better pad level, the tailbacks had to run through a couple of chutes.
Then it was on to "Big Bertha."
Big Bertha was a swinging 300-pound pad – a bigger version of the heavy bag that boxers use. Except while Thomas has players such as fullback Austin Sylvester swinging the bag toward the line of running backs with all of his might, those rushers had to hit the bag head-on.
It's actually not as bad as it looks," Sylvester said. "If you bring everything, you're fine. It's when you hesitate that you're in trouble."
Freshman Demitrius Bronson got the best lick on the big bag. The 'pop' sound he created on contact even drew a small applause from a few spectators on that end.
"You want to visualize it coming at you, and hoping (defenders) are not going to be that big," Bronson said with a chuckle. "You have to hit it. You can't be afraid of it. Just like in a real game, somebody is going to come at you."
Thomas said using those types of tools is conducive to getting more work done, rather than just banging against the bodies of players.
"I want to wake them up, first thing. You get pads on, you're in such a rush to get the first day out of the way. I wanted us to get loose, and get used to them wearing pads and go from there," Thomas said. "We're going to use it as camp goes. Hopefully, we play behind our pads and use them as a weapon and not something that necessarily protects us."
Other stuff from Wednesday:
&bull Receiver James Johnson, a true freshman from Valley Center, Calif., continues to be a daily highlight reel making difficult catches. His latest one came throw in the end zone. With cornerback Adam Long draped all over him, tugging at his arm, Johnson hauled in the reception one-handed.
In all, he made four touchdown catches on the day in various scrimmage situations.
"He continues to impress us. We had high hopes for him. He was obviously a highly-recruited kid coming out, and we had to hold off a lot of the other schools in our conference to keep him," Sarkisian said. "Once we got into him, he really showed a work ethic in the classroom that he wanted to be great. It's paying off for him."
The coach said if the season were to start Saturday, Johnson would "be playing Saturday … that's for sure."
Jermaine Kearse also made a circus catch for a touchdown against the coverage of Vonzell McDowell, Jr.
&bull Tight end Kavario Middleton was excused from practice Wednesday for personal reasons. Safety Nate Williams banged his knee with another player, and was out for much of workouts. Defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (bruised quad) did not practice.
&bull For the second consecutive day, the defense won the scrimmage in the fourth quarter of practice. This time, it was an overwhelming triumph, causing turnovers, including a Jake Locker interception.
"Today was turnover Wednesday," Sarkisian said. "Obviously you saw quite a few turnovers today, so they won."
&bull Sarkisian carries something in his pocket that few coaches do – a pedometer. It is a device that counts steps, converts it to mileage and tells how many calories are burned.
"I'm generally just over 30,000 (steps)," said Sarkisian, reaching into his pocket to see what his pedometer read after practice Wednesday.
"I'm at 25,826 steps – eight miles. We have a lot of meeting time, so I'm going to sit around in a little bit."