After a day in front of the fans at Husky Stadium and the first live looks of fall camp, the tempo changed a bit Sunday for the Washington football team. The pads stayed in the lockers, the helmets stayed on the shelves, and the Dawgs went back to shorts for a day that was all about the mental side of things.
“Today was a little bit more of making sure we’re really over-exaggerating techniques and posture, a lot of speed,” tight ends coach Jordan Paopao said. “We had a great couple physical days of full pads, a couple live periods, and today was really a chance to make sure we’re still mentally sharp.”
That’s not to say it was a light day — not by any stretch of the imagination. And especially not for Washington’s tight ends.
“Even though we’re taking the pads off, that doesn’t mean we can’t get good work,” Paopao said.
Head coach Chris Petersen has always stressed how tight end is one of the most challenging positions to grasp in the UW system, where they have to both run routes and catch like wideouts and execute blocking schemes like linemen. For a senior leader like Drew Sample, days like Sunday are huge.
“Coach Pete is very specific in what he’s looking for these type of days, so it’s just modeling that behavior and showing (the younger players) what this practice is supposed to look like,” Sample said.
In a room that has to deal with the loss of Will Dissly to the NFL and Hunter Bryant to injury (at least for the beginning of the season), Sample — who had seven catches in 2017 but also missed eight games — will be leading a group that will have to gain experience fast.
“Drew Sample has always been a leader, just in terms of his work ethic,” Paopao said. “There are just some qualities that some kids possess that you can’t teach… and Drew’s emulated that since his freshman year.”
Behind Sample, there are plenty of options. Jacob Kizer saw game time in his true freshman season mostly as a blocker, but also caught two passes. Cade Otton redshirted his freshman year, but now has a year of experience under his belt. And Jusstis Warren is now listed as a full-time offensive player as a tight end and an H-back after starting his career on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re really looking forward to a group effort this year,” Paopao said.