Further proof he’s on track for the opener: Deontae Cooper (32) practices punt returning on Day 5 of preseason camp.
Steve Sarkisian issued a challenge to his veterans Friday morning.
Sensing the unaccustomed freshmen may be getting fatigued after four consecutive days of practice and the mental fatigue of playbook installation, the Huskies’ coach demanded his older players bring energy to the afternoon practice — the first this preseason in full pads.
They definitely did that.
Junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins ran through then over a linebacker in a one-on-one, “pride” drill early in practice. Bellows of “whooo!” from teammates echoed across the East Field.
The drill has a ball carrier and defender standing only a few yards apart and then taking off into each other like rams while staying within blocking pads set on the ground to form a lane maybe five yards wide. No blockers. No cuts.
Last man standing wins.
"We call it the ‘pride drill,’" a Huskies’ assistant said as the drill ended, "because that right there is all about pride."
Later when the practice moved into Husky Stadium, senior linebacker Princeton Fuimaono more than evened the score for the defense. He blitzed in and thwacked Dwayne Washington so hard inside at the line of scrimmage that the tailback’s helmet flew back into the backfield. Washington, who has been getting many of the No. 2 running-back carries behind Bishop Sankey as Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier come back from knee reconstructions, had his day end with that hit.
The play of the day, though, was made by two kids emerging on offense.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles further separated himself from the pack of backups behind Keith Price by lofting a perfect ball that hit freshman John Ross in stride 55 yards downfield on a post pattern. Ross, who had beaten his defender by three yards, coasted into the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown.
Ross has been a standout this first week. He is getting time with Price and the first-team offense in three-wide-receiver sets, along with Kasen Williams, Jaydon Mickens and sometimes DiAndre Campbell.
"The offense was able to create some big plays, especially in third-down scenarios we put them in. And I thought defensively there were some pretty big hits there, Princeton most notably had a big hit," Sarkisian said.
"All in all it was a very good, physical practice for the first day in pads, from the very beginning on."
Travis Coons boomed a pair of 50-plus-yard punts while standing at the back line of his own end zone during special-teams drills. Those were good signs the senior who handled all of UW’s punting, kickoffs and field-goal kicking for most of last season is seizing the punting duties for 2013. Sophomore Korey Durkee, who punted in games at the start of last season, is the other primary punting candidate.
Coons remains in a battle with freshman Cameron Van Winkle for field-goal duties. Both made their kicks from 28, 33, 38 and 43 yards Friday in team drills.
Honestly, the sooner Van Winkle emerges the winner from that competition the better it would be for the entire kicking game, to reduce the load on Coons so he can focus on punting.
Saturday is the first two-practice day of camp — and the first opportunity for practicing under the lights of new Huskies stadium. The evening practice will likely end after 8:30 p.m.
I caught up with Miles after practice. Look for my feature story on him up soon on GoHuskies.com.