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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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April 13, 2009 7:50 PM

Sark rallies team, Middleton rallies himself

Posted by Bob Condotta

Monday's practice marked the halfway point of spring workouts for the Washington Huskies.

And with a cold, wet Husky Stadium day greeting the team, as well as a full pads workout following a full scrimmage two days earlier, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he felt a bad vibe early on. One he decided to shoo away with some stern words.

"I wanted to wake them up,'' he said. "I think they had the big scrimmage Saturday, I think it's natural to come out on a Monday, they are back in full pads, it was raining when we first came out, they were maybe feeling a little sorry for themselves. We need to be not only a physically tough football team but a mentally tough football team and these elements of today's practice are something that we don't need to just be comfortable in them but we need to use them to our advantage. And we will, and I think they understood that and they really responded well. I thought our team period was one of the best ones we've had so far this spring. Our guys were inspired. They were into it. They were competing. We went over 40 plays there and went really hard.''

Among those going the hardest was tight end Kavario Middleton, whose play has been somewhat tepid at times this spring.

When the Huskies went to the 11-on-11 team period, Middleton caught the first two passes and had four on the first two series.

Middleton said he was bothered early on by a "real nasty cold'' and also feels he's starting to get comfortable with his role in the offense.

"I'm finally starting to get everything down,'' he said. "My confidence is coming back. They threw me the ball and I caught it.

"I've just been thinking too much, worried about everything, everything coming into the season and last year. A lot of things running through my head, putting a lot of pressure on myself instead of just coming out and playing.''

That had him falling to the No. 2 offense at times the last week or so. But Monday, he appeared to work largely with the ones feeling like he's finally getting back to his old self.

He said he weighs 256 pounds, similar to the 260 he said he played at last season. But he said he simply feels better physically now that he has shaken off that cold.

"Just looking at myself on film I can feel like my body is a lot more proportioned, like I'm moving a little quicker,'' he said. "I feel better.''

Middleton's receptions were part of what Sarkisian felt was a good day for the passing game, which seemed to get a lion's share of the work with a heavy seven-on-seven session midway through the practice and then a lot of passing in the team period.

"I thought the passing game got better,'' he said. "I think it will only continue to get better as we continue to get into the rhythm of the passing game. We need to shore up some things in protection --- obviously our defensive front has done a nice job putting pressure on the quarterback, their zone pressures have done a nice job. We've got to shore up some things up front and our quarterbacks will get even more confident standing in the pocket delivering the ball.''

Among other nice plays in the passing game today was about a 48-yard TD pass from Ronnie Fouch to Jermaine Kearse during the seven-on-seven, and a pass of about 30-yards from Fouch to Devin Aguilar during the team period.

Still, there were a couple drops and some ill-timed routes, as well, which Sarkisian attributed in part to the newness of everything.

"I think they are a little young,'' he said of the team's receivers. "Our quarterbacks are still new to the system, our young to the system. So I don't know if it's always inconsistency in the route running,but the timing from the quarterbacks as well. So it's just trying to get the two things to mesh together. But I thought we got better today.''

OTHER NOTES

--- The day ended with an overtime period, which ended with backup PK Cory Rutkowski hit a 20-yard field goal after a time out was called during which there was a lot of hooting and hollering to try to throw him off. On the previous possession, Erik Folk missed from 27 yards.

--- RB Demitrius Bronson had another strong day getting a lot of work with the ones, and had what might have been a 92-yard TD had the coaches not blown it dead. "He did it again today,'' Sarkisian said. "I think he's starting to surprise himself now. He got in the open field and made a right had turn, he might have scored a touchdown if he had ran straight. He just keeps playing hard. He's a good young kid, he's learning a lot of the game, but he knows how to run the football, that's for sure.'' Asked if he was surprised at how quickly Bronson has progressed, Sarkisian said "I am. He's essentially still a true freshman. He's now had eight practices of college football.'' I'll have more on Bronson for my story for tomorrow's paper.

--- Asked about the tailback position, Sarkisian said: "We're really evaluating just about three and a half guys right now. Curtis (Shaw) tried to go today with his knee, and got some carries. But between Willie (Griffin) and David (Freeman) --and David's got an ankle thing too--and Demitrius, they're getting a lot of reps and they're getting a lot of stuff put on film, and obviously they're evaluations is going to be a lot more thorough than the guys that aren't getting the reps.''

--- As noted earlier, redshirt freshman Justin Glenn got a lot of work with the ones at one cornerback spot today. Said Sarkisian: "He had a really nice scrimmage Saturday. I think coach (Demetrice) Martin and coach (Jeff) Mills over there are really just trying to get guys an opportunity to show what they are about when they are working with the ones. And Quinton Richardson went and worked on the left side today and I thought he did some good things, too, especially in the run game.''

--- In fact, Richardson had one of the hits of the day when he leveled Griffin early in the team period.

--- During a session where the offense was made to start from its own 1-yard-line there were two safeties --- one each by Cameron Elisara, who seem to be progressing well this spring, and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Griffin was the ball carrier each time.

--- With only two scholarship TEs, walk-on Ben Hayes, who is also a long snapper, got some work with the backup unit and had a nice diving catch of a pass from Fouch

All for now.

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