Just finished writing my story for the paper on today’s scrimmage (pictured at right is the scene during some of the pre-scrimmage work), and the focus is the play of true freshman running backs Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who emerged as the breakout stars of the day.
As noted in the stats posted earlier, Callier had 55 yards on eight carries including a 26-yarder. He also had about a 15-yard run in which he juked past a couple defenders and into the secondary called back due to a penalty. Cooper had a 32-yard TD run on a fourth-and-two to finish with 43 yards on five carries.
Afterward, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said that if the Huskies were to play a game on Saturday “they would play. There is no question.”
Chris Polk is entrenched as the starter at tailback heading into next season. But the backup spots are wide open, and even more open than they were when spring began with Demitrius Bronson now being tried at fullback. If he were to move there for good, that could leave only Johri Fogerson as other competiton at the spot with Brandon Yakaboski’s future in question due to injury.
“They are really good,” said quarterback Keith Price of Cooper and Callier. “They both have different styles — Jesse is more of an elusive guy, Deontae is one cut and he could take it all the way. They both have great speed. They are some really good backs.”
The scrimmage lasted only about 40 minutes and only about 45 plays or so, so none of the stats are real huge for anyone. Sarkisian said the focus was on the younger players, so Jake Locker got just two series, leading a TD drive the first time he had it, going 3-6 for 70 yards, including a 29-yard TD to Devin Aguilar. On his second drive, UW was moving before a holding penalty derailed things.
Price had three series, the first two going three-and-out and the third ending in downs after picking up two first downs.
Montana had two series, the first ending in the Cooper TD run and the second ending when a fourth down pass from the 21 was broken up.
Neither threw an interception, though both took a sack or two Sarkisian thought could have been avoided by throwing the ball away. Montana missed an open Jordan Polk for what could have been a long touchdown, with Anthony Boyles almost making an interception.
Sarkisian, though, thought each did well for a first scrimmage.
“I thought they did some nice things,” he said. “They did some things that aren’t always able to be seen from the outside eye, but their huddle presence was good, their command of the offense, decision-making when blitzes were coming was pretty good. Each of them took a couple of sacks that in time as they grow they will learn to throw the ball away. But all in all I’m really impressed with Keith and Nick.”
He also seemed pleased with the overall day.
“I thought for our first scrimmage where our guys were out there and having to play and not with a coach standing right behind them telling them what to do, I thought for the most part our guys played well,” he said. “There weren’t a bunch of fumbled snaps or guys jumping off sides. It was relatively a clean scrimmage when we got to the scrimmage aspect and relatively physical.”
— No real changes to the lineups that weren’t due to injury. The starting OL was the same as it has been all spring with Skyler Fancher and Senio Kelemete at tackles, Drew Schaefer at center and Ryan Tolar and Mykenna Ikehara at guards. UW began in two-tight end set so both Kavario Middleton and Chris Izbicki were out there at the beginning.
— The starting defense was as follows: Cameron Elisara and Talia Crichton at ends, Alameda Ta’amu and Tyrone Duncan at tackles, Cort Dennison at MLB, Mason Foster at WLB, Alvin Logan at SLB, Will Shamburger at SS (with Nate Williams out with a head injury that isn’t serious and Justin Glenn also sidelined, apparently resting his leg), Nate Fellner at FS, and Quinton Richardson and Adam Long at CB (with Desmond Trufant out with a groin injury).
— There was no special teams work during the scrimmage.
—- Logan had two sacks appearing to come in untouched on blitzes each time. Crichton had the other (or he did from what I could tell, anyway).
— Here’s Sarkisian on Montana and making a tough adjustment from high school to college: “Well he doesn’t make it look that tough so I don’t know how tough it is. It’s hard to tell, I’m trying to get a gauge. But for me, to think this is his first two weeks of school, first time he’s ever not lived at home and his first six college practices, he’s gone beyond what I think all of our expectations could be at this point.”
— Sark on the young QBs avoiding turnovers: “I would agree with that, we are not forcing footballs very much and that’s been all spring long we haven’t thrown that many interceptions. These guys are making good decisions and yet we still don’t want to take sacks when in the red zone to knock us back, so we will learn to throw the ball away.”
— Sarkisian on who stood out defensively: “Mason Foster and Cort Dennison keep making plays, Cameron Elisara keeps making plays. Nate Fellner showed up to me today. What I appreciate about nate fellner is when he knows, he goes, he plays fearless he’s not afraid to put his face on guys.”
— Indeed, Fellner seemed the most impressive from a standpoint of consistent laying hits on people.
— Foster also had a hard hit late in the scrimmage on Cooper. Said Foster: “He was running a little high, had to let him know what was going on. But besides that he had a great day. He runs hard. He’s still learning so he’s getting better each and every day.”
— On Locker’s TD to Aguilar, it was a fade route down the sideline in which Locker appeared to underthrow it a little bit and let Aguilar make the adjustment inside of Richardson and then into the end zone for the TD. Said Locker: “That’s stuff we’ve worked on the whole off-season here getting comfortable with that. It was great coverage by Q, but if you are on the same page and you are able to throw the ball where you want to and he adjusts the right way, it’s hard to stop that.”
— Sarkisian continues to be impressed by Kelemete, and his move to left tackle now appears permanent: “To slide over to left tackle has been huge for us, huge for our program to know you have a left tackle for the next two years who is a premier guy.” Asked if he’s surprised by Kelemete’s quick transition, he said not any longer: “After being with him and seeing his athleticism in the weight room, in our workout stuff and then watching him play, his passion, his knowledge for the game, I’m not surprised now. But if you had said that 15 months ago I might have said ‘I don’t know about that one.”
— Sarkisian said the team wanted to get a good look at Bronson as a fullback — he appeared to spend all his time at that spot today: “We wanted to get some extensive look at him at fullback, so we have yet to just make that decision, that declaration, so we will find out.”
All for now.