The event at Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon was titled the Spring Preview and Fan Fest.
But the smattering of University of Washington football fans might have been composed mostly of relatives and roommates, and the preview was fairly limited, too.
Last season’s starting quarterback, Jake Browning, attempted a mere seven passes, and the leading rusher, Myles Gaskin, had no carries.
So kudos to coach Chris Petersen for calling it what it was: a practice in April.
Peterson cited the lack of depth as the reason for not conducting a more traditional spring game, and added that his team probably could have benefited more from another practice rather than devoting time to a scrimmage as they did Saturday.
A straight-talking realist, when asked where his Husky team stood at the end of spring practices, Petersen said: “We’re a long way away.”
Spring games are a zero-sum endeavor anyway. If somebody on offense looks good, maybe it’s because the defense wasn’t sharp.
So the Huskies resembled other mostly young college teams in the spring — a lot of guys still finding their way.
The “fest” part of the afternoon was supplied by the band and the cheer squad, and both groups seemed in midseason form. The percussion section, particularly, was strong on “Louie, Louie.” Perhaps many veterans return.
They were pretty much the highlight of the first hour, as the Huskies did a lot of work by hitting blocking dummies, and running around bags and garbage barrels.
At one point, they engaged in form-tackling drills without helmets. The exercise focused on safety issues and concussion prevention.
Unlike the days when tacklers were taught to bury their noses in the ball carrier’s sternum, the Huskies are learning rugby-style shoulder tackles.
When the scrimmaging started, a few players became conspicuous. Cornerback Kevin King, at 6-3, 190, looks ready to be a star in the Pac-12.
On the defensive line, a couple of sophomores looked beastly, especially 6-5, 330-pound tackle Vita Vea, although Jaylen Johnson added three sacks.
As for Browning, heading into his sophomore season, he seemed a little quick to break from the pocket and scramble on occasion.
But, as Petersen noted, the Husky defense has had a good spring, and looked more game-ready.
Because so many players get reps during the spring, it’s hard for coaches to see significant progress by any particular unit. So, the focus is on evaluating the progress of individuals.
“I think certain guys took the next step with their games,” Petersen said. “A guy here and a guy there.”
Much of what this team becomes, Petersen said, will depend on improving the depth and consistency of the offensive line. It’s not there, now.
With a split team and heavy substitutions, little could be gleaned from the scrimmage. There weren’t many times when somebody jumped out with an amazing effort. But there were only a few times when somebody blew a play or block or coverage.
Yes, receiver John Ross is still very fast, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a threat.
Kicker Cameron Van Winkle mgith have had the most impressive effort with a 51-yard field goal.
When a long field goal is one of the best plays, that tells you something about the day.
Petersen was honest about it when he was asked whether he felt good about where the Huskies are right now. He likes the team, he said, and sees potential.
But he’s seen what it takes to reach the elite level, and that’s a ways off.
“I think we made progress,” he said. “I think we’re pointed in the right direction. I know how much work has to be done and know how good we have to be as a team in this conference to do what we want to do.”
“Winning” spring ball was not the goal, he said. It was to improve every day.
And when Petersen finally tells you they have succeeded, you can trust he’s telling you the truth.