Pickett springs to QB lead
Seattle Times staff reporter
What Cody Pickett has been loath to admit, others are now acknowledging for him.
"No question," said Taylor Barton, the Washington junior-college transfer, "Cody is the No. 1 quarterback."
"I would say Cody is ahead right now," said UW Coach Rick Neuheisel, "and unless something drastic happens, he'll probably get the first shot."
College football is rife with surprises - see Oklahoma, national title, 2000 - and Washington's spring practices served up their own little upset. Although he didn't have a superlative day in the Huskies' intrasquad game won by his Purple team over the Whites, 28-10, the 6-foot-4 Pickett is clearly the man to beat when the Huskies open fall camp Aug. 18 in Olympia.
"Cody had a marvelous spring," said quarterback coach Steve Axman. "In all honesty, he exceeded my expectations."
Pickett completed 15 of 23 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns yesterday. He wasn't unerring, once underthrowing Paul Arnold on a potential deep touchdown play, but his numbers gave him a composite 31 of 45 in the three major spring scrimmages and he was not intercepted.
"I don't think Cody had his best day," said offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson. "He threw some balls he shouldn't have thrown. But I think both quarterbacks can play."
While Pickett had the distinct advantage of safety-valve tight end Jerramy Stevens, Barton was 7 of 14 for 72 yards and intercepted twice, both by backup cornerback Lenny Haynes.
Neuheisel isn't ruling out playing two quarterbacks early in the season. It's not an illogical course of action, given that (a) he has said the ultimate focus will be on the conference race, even as Michigan and Miami loom in the first two games; and (b) Washington will be a young team that could be a lot better late in the season than early.
"Last year, I was worried about things like getting the snap," said the unassuming Pickett. "It's a confidence thing, because I have an extra year. Every scrimmage, I felt more confident. It gets better every week."
Said Barton, "I'm going to have more confidence and be more comfortable going into fall camp. Cody's going to continue to work hard in the summer, too. I don't see any reason he wouldn't be No. 1, and there's no time I'm just going to settle for being No. 2. I want to continue to push him throughout the whole year."
The real star of the day was true-freshman cornerback Roc Alexander, who scored two touchdowns, one for each team. Alexander, who might be the fastest Husky, showed blistering speed in grabbing a field goal attempt blocked by Zach Tuiasosopo and taking it 65 yards down the sideline, and later outrunning 11 would-be tacklers on a 92-yard kickoff return.
"A lot of guys had angles on him," said Neuheisel, referring to the kickoff return. "He flat outran them."
Alexander, a state sprint champion, startled himself and Neuheisel on the Huskies' pro timing day in March, running a pair of 40-yard dashes in 4.20 and 4.26 seconds.
Neuheisel called it a successful spring, and it seemed more than lip service to the routine. Barton says Gilbertson told offensive players in a meeting before the intrasquad game "this was the most strides he's seen an offense make with inexperienced guys, and putting in as much playbook as we did."
There are some hedges, one the offensive line. It developed in a hurry in the spring, but must continue to come together in August.
"As an offense, we'll go as far and as fast as our offensive line can take us," Gilbertson said. "We can throw the deep ball. The question is, can we get the pass off?"
The schedule is among the other disclaimers. Last year, the Huskies knew they were getting ready to open with Idaho, salty but overmatched. This summer, they look forward to the diabolical duo of Michigan and Miami.