The last official practice of the season for the Washington Huskies is over — all that’s left is a walk-through tomorrow and Saturday’s game against Cal.
It was a short one, lasting about 70 minutes or so, typical of most of the Thursday workouts, and as is also usual on this day, no pads or contact.
But the last practice of the year also meant the last practice ever for the team’s 15 seniors.
And in what looks like a new tradition under first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, the seniors were honored afterward. First, they huddled together talking for a minute or so at midfield while the rest of the players formed two lines leading to the tunnel with the band flanking them, playing the fight song. The seniors then broke the huddle and ran through the two lines of players, who appeared to somewhat jokingly punch and pat them. One senior who evaded it all was Donald Butler, who ran around the line of players and then into the tunnel.
“That’s just ours,” Sarkisian said of the senior salute. “I just want to recognize those guys. It’s their last practice, and they deserve it. It’s a chance for our guys, in a fun way, to acknowledge them.”
All the expected seniors participated except E.J. Savannah, who was ill and not at practice (and no, Jake Locker was not among the group of seniors).
The big personnel news is that center Ryan Tolar is definitely out for the Cal game nursing a head injury suffered in the Apple Cup.
“We just don’t want to take any chances,” Sarkisian said.
Redshirt freshman Mykenna Ikehara will get the start in his place.
“I want to see him compete,” Sarkisian said. “I want to see him do things right. He’s a very athletic young man, he’s very bright, and it’s a great opportunity for him.. … He’s a redshirt freshman. He’s come a long way in a short amount of time, and this is a great opportunity for him to go play the last game of the year to get himself ready for spring ball and next year.”
DT Cameron Elisara, nursing a shoulder injury, also didn’t practice but Sarkisian said there’s a chance he will play Saturday. That will be a gametme decision.
Sarkisian said everyone else should be able to play.
Asked about the importance of the Cal game, Sarkisian said it’s not so much about building momentum into the off-season but just simply ending the season right.
“I think its just big for us this year,” he said. “It’s not about next year. It’s about this year and about closing this thing out the way we are capable of. I said this earlier, our first 6 a.m. run in January, when we are all together and it’s cold and snowing and guys are exhausted, no one is going to remember on this team if we won or lost this game. That motivational factor of it I don’t think plays as big of a part as maybe some people think. This is about us finishing the way we want to finish and playing the way we are capable of playing and to measure to see where we are at with one of the better teams in our conference.”
Once the game is over, the Huskies will enter the off-season.
Sarkisian said the coaches will hit the road recruiting almost immediately. He said he’ll recruit in-state Monday and Tuesday, returning home for the team banquet Wednesday, and then hitting Oregon on Thursday and Friday and then to southern California the following week. The Huskies will have the maximum seven coaches on the road throughout, he said.
The team will essentially be off the rest of the month following a team meeting on Monday. Sarkisian said voluntary lifting will be available but the official off-season conditioning program won’t begin until after finals and winter brreak on Jan. 4.