Transfer quarterback Patrick O'Brien stood in the pocket until he found wide receiver Taj Davis in the back of the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass during Wednesday's spring football practice. The siren went off. Offensive players began to celebrate.
Yet the play wasn't over, not by any means. Things were just getting started in Husky Stadium during workout No. 13.
Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Jordan Lolohea, back from a church mission for 15 months now, and senior center Cory Luciano, playing yet another new position, went from harmless shoves to violent roundhouse swings.
Tuli Letuligasenoa got involved in this fracas unannounced. Like a lion protecting his cub, the 6-foot-2, 320-pound starting defensive tackle came running up and crashed hard into Luciano from behind, knocking him to the ground.
With spring drills coming to a close this weekend for the University of Washington, this much is clear for this veteran team: the Husky defense — even while losing outside linebackers Laiatu Latu and Zion Tupuola-Fetui to career- and season-ending injuries — exudes outward toughness and moves with a definitive swagger.
While the offense has had its moments this spring, the defense is relentless in telling everyone where it's coming from at all times.
White-shirted players storm the field after each big defensive play. They run the length of the field to celebrate a teammate's turnover. They actually threaten the guys in purple during contact drills.
In the midst of this mental makeover is Letuligasenoa. He was the first to object to running back Jay'Veon Sunday's high-stepping runs earlier this spring. He's often the first to greet a teammate with head butts and hand slaps following a heroic effort. He's not unlike John Belushi's Bluto character in the Animal House film, seemingly always ready to lead everyone out the door screaming.
"He's very, very passionate and obviously a very good football player," Husky coach Jimmy Lake said of Tuli. "He brings a lot of emotion to the defense and now he's actually even better at keeping his poise. He was probably one of the main ones I had to hold back a few times during training camp last year. But I love those guys who bring the energy and the juice."
While that little exchange was the most eye-opening on Wednesday, there were other defensive snapshots worth noting, some intrusive, others lighthearted.
Backup defensive tackle Jacob Bandes, a 6-foot-2, 305-pound sophomore who plays behind Letuligasenoa on the depth chart, matched him for ferocity in a contact drill. He wound up and gave senior center Luke Wattenberg an overly physical shove, with Wattenberg seemingly left speechless by the other guy's actions as he lost his balance and tumbled.
In another drill, Edefuan Ulofoshio and Jackson Sirmon, starting junior inside linebackers and one-time freshman roommates, were seen side by side, dancing to the rap music blaring overhead while awaiting their turn.
Although unavailable for the next several months after having surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles, Tupuola-Fetui remains a practice presence. He hangs out with his position group. You can't miss him riding his scooter 60 yards up the sideline almost as fast as some of the Husky wide receivers cover that distance on foot.
Offensively, freshman Sam Huard looked poised while he threw short touchdown passes to Texas Tech transfer Ja'Lynn Polk and Davis, but the defensive was quickly celebrating again when Oklahoma transfer Bookie Radley-Hiles and Jacobe Covington picked off consecutive passes from Camden Sirmon.
Resorting to trickery, sophomore quarterback Dylan Morris took part in a double pass that drew a loud reaction. He turned to his right and fired one to senior wide receiver Terrell Bynum, who straightened up and found redshirt freshman Rome Odunze for a score with his own delivery.
It was preceded by a pair of interceptions by junior cornerback Kyler Gordon and Radley Hiles, with the latter turning his runback into a bit of theater.
Radley-Hiles decided to run nearly the length of the field with his pass theft while the aforementioned Luciano, a well-used offensive lineman, decided to try and prevent this from happening. Luciano tried to punch the ball free from the nickel back at midfield and chased him all the way to the goal line.
The defensive back was surrounded in the end zone by teammates, among them junior safety Cameron Williams and Ulofoshio.
He clearly was in agony after this adventure. Against Letuligasenoa earlier, he got off easy. This time, the senior from Danville, California, pulled off his helmet on the far sideline and bent over for several minutes as if he was about to lose his lunch. He then spent several more uncomfortable minutes with his back against a wall and his face looking skyward before rejoining the action.
It's less stressful being a UW defensive player these days.
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