Physical practices, emphasis on tackling is paying off for Huskies
Washington puts emphasis on physical play, tackling drills in practices. So far, the results are positive, even if it means a few more bumps and bruises.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ultimately, it might have been the six seconds of hell endured by the Washington Huskies' defensive line last week in practice that resulted in 60 minutes of misery for the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday.
Among the many contrasts in UW's 17-13 victory over Stanford and the losses against the Cardinal in previous seasons was Washington's tackling.
In those earlier games, Stanford broke tackles against UW as easily as a Kardashian breaks a marriage vow. Thursday, though, the Cardinal found the Huskies defense surprisingly impenetrable, leaving Seattle without a run of longer than seven yards and just 65 rushing yards total.
Monday, as he met the media to review that game and look ahead to Saturday's contest at No. 2 Oregon, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he thinks an increased emphasis in tackling drills in practice is paying off.
"You go back to even training camp, and we've made it a point to have really physical practices," he said. "We felt like that was something we needed to do, if we were going to be able to defend the run, to run the football ... and then tackle that way, you have to practice it. You can't just expect to show up on Saturdays and become a really good tackling team, a physical football team."
Sarkisian said UW likely would have made such a change even if it hadn't completely remade its defensive coaching staff. The new staff, though, only encouraged adding more tackling and physical drills to practices, instituting a few that were new to the players.
On Monday, defensive tackle Danny Shelton described one of those drills, "Six Seconds of Hell," in which one defensive lineman is given six seconds to fight through a line of three other defensive linemen and attempt to get to a ball lying on the ground about three yards away.
Shelton said the drill had been conducted in practices earlier in the year but was brought out last week in preparation for Stanford.
"It was pretty tough," he said. "We have players who are speedy guys and I felt that it really challenged their manhood and they had to just get down and grimy. It was pretty tough but we learned off of it."
Sarkisian acknowledged that such drills increase the risk of practice injuries, something UW has had its share of this season (though not all related to tackling drills).
"We've done it, and maybe at the expense of getting a few more bumps and bruises and a few guys getting banged up," Sarkisian said. "But the end result, I think we're better for it."
Shelton suffered one such bump and bruise last week, apparently breaking a bone in his hand in practice. But he played against Stanford with the injury, which was wrapped in a cast when he showed up at Monday's news conference.
Shelton recalls Oregon interest
Shelton will make his first trip to Oregon as a player this weekend. It's not the first time he's been to Eugene, however, as he took a visit there when he was a senior at Auburn High School, seriously considering the Ducks.
"That's in the past now, but I had thoughts of going to Oregon when I was a young high schooler," he said. "I was pretty much attracted by the jerseys and the fans and all this and all that. You grow up and you learn what's better in life."
• Sarkisian said junior defensive tackle Lawrence Lagafuaina, who did not play against Stanford, will miss the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury. He played in UW's first three games.
• The Huskies' Oct. 13 game against USC at CenturyLink Field will kick off at 4 p.m. and will be televised on FOX.
• The Oregon game will be televised on ESPN with the crew of Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen and Lewis Johnson.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.