The first day of the 2010 season is in the books, and it left the Huskies feeling upbeat.
“It feels a lot different,” said tailback Chris Polk when asked to assess this year’s first practice with last season’s. “A year ago today I couldn’t tell you I knew all my assignments, so I’m out here playing a lot faster than I was last year being that I was in here a year and know all my assignments and have a feel for the game and know what to expect and play faster and not second guess myself.”
A minute or so later, asked to name his goals for the season, Polk (pictured at right in a game last season in an Otto Greule Jr. photo) showed that the Huskies are aiming high.
“I don’t have any individual goals,” he said. “The only goal I have is the Rose Bowl. That’s what we’re focusing on. We’ve just got to keep pushing and go out there and make each other better. If we do our job, then it should be pretty realistic. The only people that can stop us is us, so we’ve got to stay focused and not become complacent.”
There was nothing apparent to upset the apple cart on Monday — everyone who was expected to be in uniform was, and there were no significant injuries. As noted earlier, the only guys who sat out with anything new were CBs Quinton Richardson (back spasms) and Vonzell McDowell Jr. (turf toe). Neither appears serious.
As for a few of my own notes and impressions:
— I had UW QB Jake Locker 8-9 passing during the 11-on-11 session that capped the practice. Hard to tell the yardage as they are down when touched and the ball immediately returned to the prior line of scrimmage. The best pass was about an 80-yard TD down the sideline that hit Jermaine Kearse in stride after he got behind Desmond Trufant. The only misfire was a pass broken up by Richardson.
— I had Keith Price at 2-5 and Nick Montana at 2-3 during those sessions.
— It looked pretty mistake-free with the only turnover a fumble by Deontae Cooper.
— The starting D-line in the 11-on-11 session was Talia Crichton and Cameron Elisara at ends and Alameda Ta’amu and Semisi Tokolahi at tackles. But there will be lots of mixing and matching there as it progresses. The starting LBs were Foster-Dennison-Aiyewa, safeties Williams and Shamburger, and CBs Richardson and Trufant.
— The starting O was as had been advertised earlier. Of the true frosh, Erik Kohler ran with the No. 2 OL at left tackle and as I wrote earlier, five others made up the No. 3 line — Ben Riva was with the No. 3’s at right tackle, James Atoe at right guard, Colin Porter at center, Colin Tanigawa at left guard and Micah Hatchie at left tackle. Mike Criste was also there and I think he may have rotated in, but that’s how it started.
Now, here are quotes from Sarkisian:
Quick overview of practice: “I thought that all in all, it was a good first day. It’s easy to say it was a much better practice this year than last year, if we had to compare. But I thought our kids played fast. We were competitive. By no means were we perfect, but I just liked the energy they brought. For not having pads on it was relatively physical, which was good. And I thought it was an efficient practice.”
Are the players starting to get what you’re asking them to do: “Yeah they are, and it’s coming a lot from the senior leadership. It’s the Cort Dennisons, the Mason Fosters, the Nate Williams…obviously the Jake Lockers…the Senio Kelemetes, the Jermaine Kearses – those guys are really setting the tone for what we really want out of practice. It’s kind of falling in line with the younger guys, and they were obviously swimming today, some of our freshmen kids, but we kept putting them out there and making them play and they got better as the practice went along.”
On Chris Polk and improvement from year one to year two : “I think one, the continued feel for running the ball. Chris is a big contact guy; he doesn’t mind the contact. But if we can eliminate some of the contact at the line of scrimmage and then eliminate some of the contact in the secondary moves…Chris was excellent around the line of scrimmage last year. But I think when he watches the film and we watch it together and evaluate it, there were opportunities for some really big plays last year with a secondary cut, a secondary move, a secondary break tackle on a free safety that could have created some big plays. I think we’ll get that out of him one…just from a true efficiency of running the ball and understanding the runs, and two, maybe taking a little of the load off of him with Coop or Fogerson or Callier, one of those guys that can reduce his carries, but yet create more big plays for him.”
On how much time they need to spend getting the new guys lined up right: “I was proud of our veterans to get our new guys ready, because we weren’t able to be with them all summer long. For our veterans to give them an idea of what practice is like and where to go was something I thought that, one was good, and two we really tried to go through practice in the AM meetings this morning to address exactly where we were going and what we’re trying to get done. They kind of followed in line. They weren’t perfect, but all in all I was very impressed with this group. From the skill guys to the big guys, I thought they competed extremely well. They made plays. They made mistakes, but I think before I look at the film, I think they learned from them. They understood what we were trying to do and it’s a very athletic-looking group. All in all, if I can make one quick assessment after this practice – if they can’t help us on offense and defense, they surely are going to help us on special teams. These guys are an athletic group of kids.”
On the new players that stood out: “Kevin Smith, I thought, did some really nice things. Sean Parker had some nice breaks on the ball. Shirley, Jamora…those are off the top of my head of just some guys that stood out. All those young linemen…they all played and they all played a bunch today.”
On Senio Kelemete and being a natural left tackle: “No doubt. I thought it in the spring. He’s an all-Pac-10 left tackle. Fortunately, he’s a junior. He’s still a little bit raw; it’s a new position for him out there. But athletically and physically, and then from the mentality standpoint, he believes he’s dominant. And that’s half the battle for that position. I think he’ll only continue to grow, especially once we get in pads. His comfort level is only going to continue to grow after that.”
On the O-line being a strength: “I view it as that. We have seven guys back that started games for us on the offensive line last year. And whether or not they were great last year, that experience is invaluable. To play in a hostile environment, against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, is only going to help those guys mentally prepare. And heading into the offseason, they knew what they needed to get done to prepare for this fall. I think the group has really done well under Danny’s (Cozzetto) leadership. I love what they’ve done. We haven’t, in two springs and a fall and this is the second fall camp, this is the first time we’ve gone ones, twos and a three because we’re that deep on the offensive line.”
On Seione Potoa’e: “He’s an explosive kid. He’s probably the most explosive defensive linemen we’ve maybe had around here compared to Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. He’s got the snap, the explosion, the hands, the power. Now, he’s got a long way to go to learn the system and understand how to play. But just from a natural explosiveness standpoint, I’m impressed.”
On Quinton Richardson limping off: “Yeah, he had some back spasms. And Vonzell McDowell was a turf toe.”
On Nick Montana’s day: I was impressed. I thought Keith and Nick both had nice days today. They improved in the spring, and that’s the goal. They kept working and kept practicing. They’re much more efficient, they took less sacks, we threw the balls to the right guys. Now, we missed some throws here and there, but we were throwing it to the right guys and throwing it on time.”
On Chris Izbicki: “I thought he did a nice job. Chris has been impressive. Since January of this year, he’s been impressive – not only on the field but off the field. He’s changed in every way possible. And I think he’s assuming almost a leadership role on this team, which is a tribute to him. That tight end position is intriguing to me because we’ve got some young kids that are physically capable of doing some things. We’re a football team that can be creative with our groupings and put other kids in that spot to do those things. That’s the beauty of this system: we have enough flexibility; we don’t have to always have a tight end or two tight ends in there. We can be multiple in our personnel groupings and still be effective.”
On the fullback spot: “We’ve got Austin Sylvester there, and he’s doing a real nice job. Again, had a great offseason. I like what Dorson Boyce has done, at the fullback and tight end spot, to become interchangeable there. I’m anxious to see young Fogerson run around. He’s an athletic kid and looks good in our underwear so far. So we’ve got to see him with pads on.”
On whether he felt any awe recruiting Nick Montana and calling up Joe: “Yeah I kind of thought that. I never really told him that I had his poster up on my wall when I was a kid but I think for initially but once you get into it and once we got to know the family and not only Joe but Jennifer and the other siblings they are a normal family. They are good people. Those are the type of people you like to recruit and be around because that’s the type of program we are trying to foster here. So I thought once you get over the first phone call to Joe Montana or Joe Montana calling you it was a pretty normal process.”
On Nick being Joe’s son: “I mean, we don’t even bring it up just let the kid play and be himself. We don’t joke about it, the other players don’t joke about it, he just plays ball. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s here. I think he felt that in the environment here that he could be himself and enjoy the process of being a college athlete and a student and living in the dorm and doing all the things that freshmen do.”
On Justin Glenn doing more than he thought he might for the first day: “I think so, I don’t exactly know, I’ll have to look at the film to see how he moved around but he was definitely out there playing.”
Any coaches jump out at you today: “I liked Danny Cozzetto today. When you’ve got seven true freshmen out there you’ve got to bust your hump to make that happen and I thought those guys performed. These days could potentially be a disaster of just defensive linemen running through free and fumbled snaps and different things but I thought the offensive line performed pretty well.”
On the third LB spot and not needing to rush it: “I think so, we are not going to rush it. We’ve got a lot of young talented kids that could go in there and play and some returners that could play that spot as well, so we don’t need to rush that decision. We’re going to go in and play guys and roll them through and see what the right combination is and make it work.”
On Kalani Aldrich and Everrette Thompson: “We’re not going to rush them and keep them fresh the goal is when we go play BYU they are fresh, healthy active football players.”
On Desmond Trufant’s groin injury (he had sports hernia surgery last winter before spring ball) being more serious than thought: “You never really know. but I’ve come to find out, especially in this day and age, they are so prevalent now, you are seeing these sports hernias things pop up more and more and more any time a groin injury creeps in that’s one of those things in your mind is ‘geez I hope it’s not that.’ A lot of the times when you first diagnose it that’s not what it is but what it becomes. I’m always fearful of that and when it was Desmond, Devin Aguilar had to go through the same thing, Vonzell McDowell same thing, you try to get them fixed as quickly as you can because a lot of the times you get them fixed they are much more healthy explosive players once they get back.”