The defense went against the No. 1 offense in a brief scrimmage that concluded practice and stopped it the first two times it had the ball on three plays.
Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt says one objective in spring practice is to put his defense in difficult situations to see how the players respond.
Simply lining up each practice against quarterback Jake Locker, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, would seem hard enough for a defensive unit that has been a sore spot for the program for years.
As spring practice dives fully into its second half, however, the defense has provided plenty of evidence of renewed life. None moreso than Saturday when it went against the No. 1 offense in a brief scrimmage that concluded practice and stopped it the first two times it had the ball on three plays.
The offense rebounded to put together a scoring drive on the final possession of the scrimmage, but Holt came away liking what he saw.
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“We’re getting better,” he said. “Getting better. Today was good. Builds confidence.”
That’s not something the Huskies have had much of on defense in recent years, allowing the most points in school history in each of the last two years of the Tyrone Willingham era. Much of last year wasn’t much better. But the defense ended on a high, allowing just 10 points in the last two games — a 30-0 win over Washington State and 42-10 over Cal.
The defense, though, lost maybe its best two players to graduation — defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and middle linebacker Donald Butler, each almost certain picks in this week’s NFL draft.
And spring practice opened ominously with the news of depth issues on the defensive line with injuries to ends Everrette Thompson and Kalani Aldrich and the suspension of Andru Pulu after an assault arrest.
But the long-term news on Thompson and Aldrich appears good. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said both should be back for the fall. Thompson recently had a boot removed to protect his torn Achilles tendon and Sarkisian said Saturday “his rehab is coming along the way we were hoping.”
The Huskies have moved tackle Cameron Elisara to end for depth, and Elisara has blossomed, getting one sack on Locker (who is down when touched in the spring) and teaming with De’Shon Matthews on another Saturday. The Huskies felt confident enough to move Elisara thanks to the progress of some younger players at tackle, notably junior Alameda Ta’amu, whose weight is down to about 330 (he’s listed at 348) and is moving more quickly. He had several nice plays Saturday as well. Coaches have also been pleased with sophomore Talia Crichton at the other defensive end spot.
“We’re thin and we’re not good enough yet (up front) but we are getting better,” Holt said.
The back seven holds fewer questions. Holt can’t praise enough the play of senior linebacker Mason Foster, who is moving to weakside linebacker after playing strongside last season, junior Cort Dennison (moving to the middle to replace Butler), and the safety tandem of Nate Williams and Nate Fellner.
Stanwood OL Charles commits
Stanwood offensive lineman Dexter Charles watched practice and then gave a commitment to UW coaches, becoming the eighth commit for the Class of 2011. Official letters can’t be signed until February.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder also had offers from Arizona and Washington State, according to Dawgman.com, which quoted Charles as saying that “now I can just focus on my senior season and not worry about recruiting.” He is the second in-state commit for UW, joining DE Taniela Tupou of Archbishop Murphy High.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org