UW coach Steve Sarkisian, pictured to the right along with QB Jake Locker in case you’ve forgotten what he looks like, was a guest on KJR-AM with Mitch Levy. You can listen to it here. And here also are a few highlights:
— In what might have been the most noteworthy thing he said, said he thinks Locker could up his completion percentage to 65-68 this season — he completed 58.4 last season. “If anything, you should see coming into this fall if that completeion percent can go up another 10 percent.” He added that he “will not be surprised if he’s at 65 percent this year and maybe up to 68 percent because of his comfort level and some of the things we are going to do in our offense.” Said the biggest areas where that can improve is in down field throws, which he said got better during the spring, and in the improvement of the receivers in being more effective.
— Asked the three keys to the season, Sarkisian said stay healthy, eliminate big plays on defense and run the football. As for staying healthy, he said it’s particularly critical for UW since “we are still not a very deep football team. We get a few injuries here and there and it’s pretty significant.” As for running the ball, said “if you really want to win the conference, you’ve got to establish a running game.”
— Said that some of the shorter throws in the offense can be considered running plays, such as the quick hitches and bubble screens, and that the goal is to get “in third-and-medium, third-and-short (situations). That’s when your percentages go up and you can remain on the field.”
— Said the team is healthy — “I think our health is great overall, to be honest with you,” was the exact quote. He said that there were “some guys we could have pushed through spring ball” but that for the long-term good of the football team “we didn’t need to make it happen.” Said three who fell into that group were RB Chris Polk, OL Cody Habben and DE Kalanni Aldrich, all of whom he said probably could have been forced into duty if really needed. “We’ll be a healthy football team come fall camp and our goal is to be a strong, healthy, fast football team come Labor Day against BYU.”
— Talked about Chris Polk and his yards after contact last season, which coaches have estimated at roughly 700 of his 1,113 overall. Said that it wasn’t until the first game against LSU that they really realized how tough a runner he was. Said a goal for this season is to complement Polk with help from some of the other runners “to take some heat off of Chris,” and also to improve the blocking up front.
— Asked about replacing Donald Butler, said Cort Dennison “was one of our biggest surprises on the defensive side of the ball” in the spring stepping into the MLB spot where Butler played last year. “He had a fantastic spring and really stepped up as a leader along with Mason (Foster), so that was big.”
— Said that one of the biggest areas where the defense can improve is in simply making the tackle to stop short gains from turning into long runs. “It’s okay to give up a 12-yard gain, but you can’t give up a 60-yard touchdown,” he said. Cited the two TDs scored by LSU on such plays and said “if we just break down and tackle, we’d be okay.”
— Overall, said the defense was good enough last year “for us to be an 8-9 win football team, and I’ll take that every year.” Pressed on that, said that while the defense gave up yards at times said that the way the Huskies played in the red zone and in forcing turnovers was good enough to have gottenn a winning season. “UCLA, we got five turnovers and 24 points — that’s enough for us to win. Same thing with Notre Dame. We’ve got to do a better job on offense,” he said.
— Asked how the offense might look different this year, mentioned again the last two games of the season when Locker was healthy and ran more and said “we found a little rhythm there at the end of the year.”
— Asked if it will be weird to return to BYU, his alma mater, for the opener, said “I don’t think it will be weird at all. It’s been almost 15 years now (since he was there as a player). If anything will be weird will will just be coming down the 15 out of Salt Lake City pulling into Provo because I did it so many times as a student.”
SYRACUSE LOSES A LINEBACKER — Also, Syracuse has apparently lost a potential starting linebacker.