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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

April 18, 2009 at 5:44 PM

Final scrimmage notes and quotes

Story for the paper completed and deadline mercifully met, I know have a bit more time to ruminate on today’s scrimmage.
In my story for tomorrow’s paper, I focused on the improved running game.
It wasn’t exactly Miami Dolpins circa 1972 or something, but the Huskies simply showed more of an ability to run today than they had last week, and the stats bore that out — 174 yards on 37 carries overall and 148 on 28 carries by running backs.
That compares to 88 yards on 32 carries by running backs last week.
UW QB Jake Locker agreed thatJ the running game seemed to have more oomph today, saying that was part of the plan going in.
“I think today, as a whole, there was an emphasis to run the ball a little bit and we were able to establish a pretty good running game I thought,” Locker said. “We moved the ball well running the ball, we were able to gain positive yardage on first downs especially and put ourselves in really manageable down and distance I think it really helped our offense flow today.”
All of the backs got in the act, as the stats listed in the earlier entry showed. Chris Polk might have been the most impressive, especially on the 24-yard run around the end that set up his 1-yard TD in the “overtime period.”
“It was cool,” he said. “Now we get to talk stuff to the defense since we won that drill. They’ve been beating us in that for a while so it feels good to beat them.”
The running totals might have been greater had Locker not been ruled down a few times by the touch on plays he likely would have turned into bigger gains.
“He created some things with his legs,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. “We probably blew the whistle a lot earlier than maybe it would be if it were a real game, but that’s okay.”
But the running game helped open up some passing for Locker and he had his best day of the spring hitting 10-16 for 133 yards and a 26-yard TD to Devin Aguilar on a perfect pump-and-go. He also had a least one pretty long gain negated when Chris Izbicki dropped a ball right in his hands that would have gone for at least 20 yards or so. He had one interception but that was more a mental breakdown than physical as on a fourth down, he and Aguilar seemed to misread each other and Locker threw inside where Mason Foster picked if off.
“He’s starting to understand the nuances of the position within our system,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he was much more comfortable today than he’s been the entire spring. The one pick was a miscommunication between him and (Aguilar), I thought the rest of the day he had a really good day. He felt comfortable, distributed the ball well, had great huddle presence, had good command at the line of scrimmage, I just though he handled the day well.”
Said Locker: “I felt good today. Things slowed down a bit. I saw the reads I was making and it felt great.
The drops — Anthony Boyles also had one — were an ink blot on the day and are something that has been a little bit of a problem throughout the spring. Sarkisian, though, was mostly happy with what he saw.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” he said. “I thought had a more consistent day, assignment wise. I thought we were physical on both sides of the ball and with all that I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“A couple of balls hit the ground that in the future I think we’ll make plays in the future on, but I was excited by the fact that we got after the football on defense, got a couple of turnovers and I liked the efficiency of the offense in the red zone today. We were able to score a couple of touchdowns where in the last scrimmage we were settling for field goals, but this week we were able to punch the ball into the endzone so that was exciting.”
The more efficient offense was keyed by an O-line that appears to be solidifying a bit. As mentioned earlier, there were basically six players working with the starting unit all day — Cody Habben at left tackle, Ryan Tolar at left guard and center, Ben Ossai at left guard, MyKenna Ikehara at center, Senio Kelemete at right guard and Drew Schaefer at right tackle.
When Ikehara played center, Tolar was at guard. When Tolar was at center, Ossai came in at guard.
Sarkisian said those two lines appear to be moving ahead.
“I think our offensive line play continually gets better,” Sarkisian said. “They are communicating better with one another and that’s a big challenge versus a defense like ours because there’s so much movement on the defensive front that if you don’t communicate well you can turn guys loose. I thought today we were better at communicating, taking care of our gaps and taking care of our protections it allowed us to make some plays down the field.”
I talked with Tolar a little bit afterward — some of that is in my story — and he said he thinks the line is continuing to get better, as well.
“Things were flowing a little bit better today,” he said. “Obviously we are getting a lot of good coaching and they were able to help us out in understanding the schemes a little more and now things starting to connect and today that was able to show. The backs were really hitting the holes and the rest of the guys up front were taking care of their jobs. So it’s really starting to come together.”
The caveat in today’s performance is that it’s coming against a run defense that ranked among the worst in the country last season.
But then, so did UW’s run offense, which averaged just 99.3 yards, the second-lowest in school history.
That was a particular disappointment for an O-line that had been pegged as one of the strengths of the team but instead fell victim to some injuries as well as simply often being outmanned. The new coaching staff looked at the line and decided it needed to get leaner, and just about every player lost some significant weight. Tolar said he was 320 a year ago and now is “299 to 305. But I’m going with 299.”
Tolar looked like a rising star as a starting guard in 2007, named a second-team
Freshmen All-American by Rivals.com. But symbolic of the ills of last season, he was slowed early from recovery from off-season surgery on his right shoulder, then hurt his left late in the season.
But he feels more agile with the lost weight and is healthy again, alternating between center and guard, happy to do whatever the team asks.
“My motivation for this year is to be able to get last year out of me and do something productive this year and show that this team has something in them and we can make a difference in the Pac-10,” he said.
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— As mentioned in the earlier blog, Foster might have been the defensive star of the day with the seven tackles, two sacks, pick and blocked punt. Sarkisian later said Foster and Darrion Jones have been the two most improved players over the last week or so. Of Foster he said that “he’s playing faster and we’re allowing him to rush the passer a little bit more. … the system is starting to settle in for him and his talents are starting to show up.”
Cody Bruns got a lot of work as a punt returner and Luther Leonard was also back as a kickoff returner, bringing one back about 30 yards or so early on.
— WR Alvin Logan was in for just one play, his first play in a scrimmage this spring. Sarkisian later said Logan had surgery in the off-season on his knee and is still recovering but hopes he can see a lot of time in the final week.

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