Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, who generally keeps his practices closed to the public, invited the media to take a rare peek at his football team on Saturday as it spent much of its three-hour practice conducting a situational scrimmage.
What seemed evident was that the Huskies could have the makings of a decent defensive team assuming they can keep all their defenders healthy.
In what could be a major blow, junior defensive end Greyson Gunheim suffered a right-knee injury while playing on the kickoff-coverage team and had to be helped off the field.
Willingham said the extent of the injury won't be known for a day or so but acknowledged that it could be severe. Gunheim, who had five sacks last year and has started 18 of 22 games since arriving at UW in 2004, is the team's leading pass-rush threat and has been a standout during training camp.
"He's what I consider an all-star player for us and any time he goes down it affects everything you are doing with the football team," Willingham said.
The Huskies were already without senior cornerback Dashon Goldson, who sat out the scrimmage while resting a high-ankle sprain suffered in an agility drill before camp began. Also, defensive tackle Jordan White-Frisbee was out after suffering a flare-up on his surgically repaired right foot.
Willingham said he wasn't overly concerned about Goldson, tabbed as UW's "Big Man on Campus" in Sports Illustrated's season preview issue. Willingham said Goldson should be back soon.
UW camp at a glance
What happened: The Huskies held a three-hour practice that included some lengthy scrimmage work.
Gold standard: Wearing gold jerseys for their work in practice the day before were punter Sean Douglas and defensive tackle Wilson Afoa.
Getting his kicks: Douglas, a senior, validated his gold jersey by putting on an impressive exhibition during punting drills, kicking one 75 yards into the end zone that traveled at least 65 in the air.
Knock on Wood: Not only did receiver Marlon Wood turn in the longest offensive play of the day with his 71-yard TD catch from Jake Locker, but Wood also worked as the No. 1 punt returner and handled some kickoff returns, appearing to indicate he has recovered from the broken foot suffered last year.
Injury report: Aside from Greyson Gunheim (knee), also notable was that receivers Marcel Reece (blister) and Cody Ellis (slight fracture of the clavicle) were among those sitting out.
But secondary coach J.D. Williams sounded a louder alarm about Goldson's status, while adding that players such as Roy Lewis and Matt Fountaine have stepped it up in Goldson's absence.
"He hasn't practiced and I have to continue to move on," Williams said of Goldson. "If he's there, great. If he's not, I can't sit around and wait for him. ... When Dashon does come back, he's going to have to compete, really compete, to see the field. It will be interesting."
But the defenders who were out there dominated most of the day, with Willingham agreeing that "the defense probably had the advantage."
Willingham said, however, that the format of the scrimmage didn't help the offense. Generally, each quarterback was given one chance at moving the team in a predetermined situation: red zone, two-minute drill, blitz pick-up, etc., before being removed for the next quarterback.
The scrimmage began with a hurry-up drill, and the Huskies brought in officials to enforce the new timing rules. The clock will start after a change of possession when the official gives the ready sign and not when the ball is snapped.
The offense never got past midfield on seven tries on drives that began from its own 26-yard line with 1:14 on the clock.
The offense never really looked sharp in any situation and never scored a touchdown against the No. 1 defense. There were at least a half-dozen sacks (Wilson Afoa and Caesar Rayford each had two), one fumble and one interception (by linebacker Scott White on a pass thrown by Carl Bonnell).
First-team quarterback Isaiah Stanback finally led a touchdown drive against what was primarily the No. 2 defense, concluding it with a 16-yard screen pass to Louis Rankin on third-and-four, one of three third-down conversions on the drive.
True freshman quarterback Jake Locker then followed on the next drive with a 71-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Wood on a toss that traveled at least 50 yards in the air. But that was about it for the offensive highlights, and the defense could hardly celebrate while pondering if it might have lost one of its best players.