It doesn’t seem as if 15 spring football practices were enough for the Washington Huskies.
Coach Chris Petersen led the team Saturday in its last spring workout, which was billed as the Huskies’ “Spring Preview.”
It was part practice and part scrimmage, with more time spent on fundamentals and drills than anything that resembled a game.
That’s by design because this team is a work in progress — with the emphasis, at this point, on “work,” with the “progress” part remaining to be seen.
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It had the trappings of a typical spring game in some ways. The cheerleaders were there, as well as the band. Where else are you going to hear “Louie, Louie,” “Tequila” and “Radar Love” on an April afternoon?
But only a small gathering of fans collected for the event.
They saw what Petersen witnessed: a team that lost six games last season, that might be even leaner on depth, with a ton of questions remaining.
Who is going to play quarterback? Who is going to fill in as new starters at almost every position on both lines? And how is the defense going to recover from the loss of soon-to-be NFL talents such as Shaq Thompson, Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters and Hau’oli Kikaha?
Petersen has been at this long enough to remind everybody that intrasquad workouts are zero-sum endeavors. When someone asked him to assess the “ball-hawking” defense that came up with several interceptions, Petersen answered: “I love when our defense is doing that … sometimes I think we may have made it a little too easy on them.”
Jeff Lindquist appears in the lead for the quarterback job, with a couple nice throws on touchdowns, but he also had some misfires.
When evaluating the quarterback candidates, Petersen said they all showed flashes, but “it’s going to take more than flashes.”
That holds for every position. It’s hard to look at the team as a whole and see the physical talents equal to the standout players who were lost.
Still, Lindquist threw a few deep balls that would be completions against anybody. Tight end David Ajamu made a leaping, one-handed reception that any of the great UW tight ends would be happy with. And nose tackle Elijah Qualls seemed unblockable at times.
Flashes. And those can be a start.
So, Coach Petersen, if you had to list a few things that are key to improving between now and the first game in the fall (at Boise State, Sept. 4), what would you identify?
“Whew, we don’t have time here,” he said.
Given time to think about it, and narrow down the possibilities, he came up with an answer that says a lot about where the Huskies are.
“We’ve got to get assignment sound, at least,” he said. “We see a brand new guy in there and he doesn’t do his assignment, and it’s a 5-yard loss. We’ve got to get all 11 guys assignment sound, at least.”
A coach of a veteran team might point out that there are a few remaining position battles to sort out, or a degree of refining and polishing would be necessary.
But when a coach, in essence, says “we need to learn the plays,” it’s a sure sign he’s got a very raw group that has a long way to go.
“Our coaches do a nice job on the fundamental aspect,” Petersen said “We spend half the practice trying to grind these fundamentals on them.”
At least some additional manpower will be on the ground when fall camp opens.
“We’ll have 30 new guys in the fall,” Petersen said. “We’re going to build that depth.”
But all those guys are going to have to go through the steps, too, learning their assignments and techniques, and showing flashes before becoming consistently competitive in the Pac-12 Conference.
That’s a lot of grinding left to do.