By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – With sweat dripping off his face onto his already-wet, yellow practice jersey, Jeff Lindquist had to pause and think.
When was the last time he was on a team that ran en masse 108-yard, down-and-back sprints from sideline to sideline to end a practice?
“Uh, shoot. Senior year of high school?” the Huskies’ quarterback from Mercer Island, Wash., said following Washington’s first spring practice at the Dempsey Indoor facility – the first UW practice led by Chris Petersen and his new staff.
Lindquist and rising redshirt freshman Troy Williams ran those sprints after running an offense that went at a fast, no-huddle pace for more than two hours on Tuesday morning. That’s the same pace at which the Huskies – and Petersen’s Boise State team – played last season.
“Good. It was good tempo. Good energy,” Petersen said. “The guys were focused, worked hard, ran around. It was a good start.”
The first session stood out for those new, team-wide conditioning sprints to end practice – and for how meticulously coaches drilled players over minute details on their craft.
Lindquist and Williams worked in the latter part of practice with quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith on dropping back in a straight line along the 30-yard-line stripe. Smith critiqued each quarterback’s feet to ensure those stayed on the painted stripe -- and in line with the rest of his body on each drop step. The coach then jogged beside each passer with raised and changing fingers, asking him to call out the number of digits with his body turned and eyes on him, while keeping each drop step on that 30-yard line.
Fundamentals -- and culture -- are the overriding themes of this first spring.
“We aren’t trying to win spring practice,” is how Petersen puts it.
Yes, the Huskies are still working through getting to know their new coach and his staff — and foremost, their new standards, ones that led to a 92-12 record and two Bowl Championship Series game victories in eight seasons at Boise State.
Petersen announced Tuesday he had suspended middle linebacker John Timu for the first two weeks of spring drills.
"Timu will not be here the next two weeks. He’s been suspended. (He’ll) be back the second part of spring ball (beginning April 1),” Petersen said of the defense’s signal caller, who had 14 tackles in December’s Fight Hunger Bowl win over Brigham Young.
He did not elaborate for the reason Timu will miss the first six of 15 spring practices that end April 19.
"Don’t comment on those things. He’ll be back in two weeks," the coach said.
Asked if it was a violation of team rules — the reason the coach gave last month for suspending quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow indefinitely — Petersen said: “Don’t comment on that stuff. Just move forward.”
Timu has been a team co-captain in the middle of the Huskies’ defense in each of the last two seasons, including as a sophomore in 2012. He has been a model student off the field in that time. A year ago next month, Timu became the first UW student-athlete to win the university’s prestigious Brett E. Baldwin Memorial Scholarship for Anthropology.
“Jesse Callier has some academic things to take care of for us," Petersen said. "And we’ll see when that happens.”
With Callier (189 yards rushing, three touchdowns in 2013) away, Dwayne Washington and Deontae Cooper split time as the lead tailback. Cooper was running fluidly and without the brace he wore while rushing for 270 yards and three touchdowns last season. That was his return from three reconstructive knee surgeries in as many years.
Cooper mentioned how much he likes the conditioning, weight training and stretching emphasis of new strength coach Tim Socha (pronounced SO-ha), and how much Socha’s winter training regimen has helped his legs.
“I feel good. It feels good to be out here competing,” Cooper said. “I don’t think I took a break or a knee (to rest) today, at all.”
Socha was an influence throughout the first practice. About halfway through he gathered the offense along one hash mark with the defense facing from the other hash. In between, Socha had managers drag out a purple, weighted, discus-looking plate with handles and straps on its edges. Defense and offense then faced off in one-on-one tug-o-war matches to see which player could drag the other down the field and into teammates, who roared at the grudge match going on between those hash marks.
Cornerback Travell Dixon and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls were among those defenders in the drill as the defense won the best-of-three series of pulls. That sent the offense to the far side of the field for more sideline-to-sideline sprints, the penalty for losing.
“Competition, we will always have some sort of competition,” Petersen said. “Doesn’t matter if we are playing checkers, tiddlywinks, tug-o-war ... we want guys to compete at all times. Have a little fun with it. We’ll always do something like that.
“That’s just called our tug-of-war drill. We’ve done the rope before. I don’t know where Coach Socha got that (disk), Toys R Us or something.”
After practice, Socha stood at the Gatorade buckets demanding that exiting players jog, not walk, completely off the field.
“There’s a lot more focus on the tiny, tiny, tiny details,” is how veteran center Mike Criste put it.
Lindquist, who played at the end of three lopsided wins last season behind Miles and departed starter Keith Price, and Williams, who redshirted in 2013, split Tuesday’s snaps. Smith said the two will be roughly 50-50 with first-team snaps over the first two weeks of spring practices. The quarterbacks coach said “then if one rises up” in performance there could be a first- and a second-team passer over the final nine practices that will span April 1-19.
“I thought Day One went pretty well. I think there are a lot of things I can fix up and getting back at,” Lindquist said. “I think for competition’s sake, this just gives everyone kind of a newfound chance to get out there and get back at it.
“It’s great. All the guys are great guys. Good energy,” Lindquist said of the new coaches. “It’s all positive.
“Practice was really fun today.”
INSIDE THE DAWGS: There was music playing over the facility’s speakers during individual position drills, but none for last half or so of the practice. Just the relatively calm sound of whistles and teaching. ... LB Shaq Thompson made a twisting interception over the middle of a pass from Lindquist then deftly kept his balance for a long return during the helmets and no-pads team scrimmage. ... Dixon, a transfer from Eastern Arizona junior college, made a couple of fine pass breakups, including a diving one to knock the ball away from WR Jaydon Mickens.