The Huskies completed their third practice of the spring a little while ago. Here are some notes and observations.
--- This was the first practice in which players were allowed to wear shoulder pads, so while it was still not a full-contact session, there was a little more physical play than the last two practices.
--- In addition to the players who have been limited by injury since Day 1, TE David Ajamu and RB Dwayne Washington did not wear pads and did not participate in practice. Also, I didn't see RB Jomon Dotson in attendance, and RB Deontae Cooper is still absent. That left Lavon Coleman as the only scholarship running back available. (S Trevor Walker, LB Travis Feeney, CB Jermaine Kelly, WR John Ross III, S Kevin King, LB Keishawn Bierria and OL Coleman Shelton are all still out. DB Brandon Lewis and S Brandon Beaver are wearing yellow no-contact jerseys.)
--- Darren Gardenhire, a sophomore cornerback who has been working with the No. 1 defensive unit through the first three days of practice, had maybe the best day of any DB so far. He intercepted three passes -- one each off Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning -- and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said Gardenhire was lamenting after practice that he could have had five. That's true -- he was also in tight coverage on two other passes that could have wound up in his hands if he'd made a spectacular play.
"Today was a big day because he had three interceptions today," Lake said, "but really, the first day he showed up, (he) made a lot of plays. He’s running with the first unit right now and he’s really taking advantage. Really, his whole attitude right now has changed. He’s coming out like, ‘I’m trying to get better, every single day.’ And even after today, he thought he should have had five interceptions today. Now we’ll just see how he goes tomorrow. And if he brings that same type of effort – ‘I want to get better every single day’ – then we’re going to see a good player come around for us.”
--- On the other side of the ball, Browning had probably his best practice of the week, leading an impressive 9-play touchdown drive with the first-team offensive line on his final 11-on-11 series just before the end of practice. The highlight of that drive was a 30-or-so-yard completion to walk-on receiver Eli Evenson, which Evenson hauled in amid tight coverage up the right sideline.
That play moved the ball to the 22-yard line. On the next snap, Browning completed a touchdown pass to TE Josh Perkins, who was wide open on a corner route. A couple of quick, effective passes earlier in the possession helped move the chains. Sharp day for the freshman.
“I think he’s been pretty solid," offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. "Again, it’s only been three days. It’s going to continue to pile on. But I’ve been really happy, really, with where he’s at with that. He spent a lot of time, January, February getting ready for this point. We bumped back spring ball this year. That played to his benefit, just by starting a little later. So we’ve been pleased with where he’s at.”
--- The defense forced two other turnovers -- RB Ralph Kinne fumbled and Beaver recovered, and LB Azeem Victor intercepted a pass over the middle from Carta-Samuels despite colliding with LB Cory Littleton.
--- Greg Gaines had an impressive bull-rush of redshirt freshman OL John Turner, which resulted in a "sack" of Carta-Samuels.
--- Dante Pettis made a nice play to adjust to and catch a deep ball thrown by Lindquist, but coach Chris Petersen called the play back, insisting that LB Sean Constantine -- who came through unblocked on a blitz -- reached Lindquist in time to call a "sack."
--- The Huskies practice again tomorrow, though it is closed, so there won't be any updates in this space. Back at it on Monday, though.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple