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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

August 13, 2010 at 7:52 PM

More on open practices, and Sarkisian quotes on the day

As promised, here is more from UW coach Steve Sarkisian following practice today.
However, I’ll lead off where I ended the last entry, with Sarkisian saying that there have been some things posted on the comments section of blogs (this one included) and other message boards that may threaten the open practice policy that has existed since Sarkisian took over as coach.
That’s something I know is important to many of you who read this blog regularly, so figured it was worth some discussion.
Here’s Sarkisian’s quote on the topic today from after practice:

“I love having open practices, but I want them to respect the fact that they are open and that we’re working and that we’re trying to get better, and not go on the internet and not go on blogs and talk about what we’re doing and how we’re going about our business. Because ultimately if it continues, I’m going to have to close them, and I don’t want to do that. I want to give our fans access to practice and the way we work. I love the atmosphere out here, but competitively, if it continues I’m going to have to shut it down.
“There’s just been a few issues that have popped up, that have been brought to my attention, and it’s not okay. It’s not okay competitively for us that things are getting put out there of what we’re doing specifically or the way we’re coaching things specifically — it’s not okay. Hopefully our fans respect that and come out and enjoy watching our guys compete and battle and leave it at that, and we’ll continue to leave them open.
“I think they can say it was a great practice, or the intensity was good or whatever that may be…if it was 85 degrees, it was 85 degrees (but) going into specifics of drills, plays, interactions with players or interaction between players and coaches or between coaches and coaches I don’t think is acceptable. I think the bottom line is common sense. You push the common sense button when you’re on the internet.
“(Talking about) Individual guys is OK. How they look or how they’re and so really looked good today catching deep balls. I understand that. But there’s certain things where you can cross the line on.”

Not sure I can add much to his quote that shouldn’t be obvious. But in general, what I think they don’t want out there are things you may overhear a coach say to a player or a fellow coach, specific details about drills, and obviously details of specific plays or formations.
Those of us in the media try to adhere to a general code of not reporting on things we see in practice that concern the gameplan or schemes, things of that sort. (Fans commonly ask me if I see the team try trick plays in practice, for instance, and if I seem vague, it’s because that’s the kind of detail they don’t want us to divulge).
Newspapers and other media obviously aren’t in the business of keeping secrets, and it’s generally understood by both sides that really significant news won’t be kept hidden (serious injuries, for instance, though the general rule is to wait to get the prognosis before passing it on, that sort of thing).
Obviously, we’re better off getting to see practice, even if limited in what we can report, than not seeing practice at all. So newspapers and other media decided long ago to adhere to such guidelines. All coaches since I’ve been here have let us know certain things we might have seen they’d rather not have out there, and as far as I know, there have seldom been real issues on this (though I know there was a notable incident that Don James in 1989 or so, long before I got on the beat, that got practices closed for a while).
The Pac-10 in general has pretty open policies (though as Jon Wilner reported today, Cal and Stanford are getting more restrictive). UW has usually been among the more open, the one exception occuring during the Tyrone Willingham era, when media were limited to the first 30 minutes, and the general public also pretty much barred, even during the spring and fall camp.
The advent of the Internet has obviously changed the dynamic in all of this, turning anyone who attends a practice into a potential reporter. And the anonymity of the Internet makes it that much harder to police. If I write something they don’t like, my name is right there on it and they will come to me and react accordingly.
But with anonymous Internet posts, coaches feel the only solution they have is to cut off access to everyone.
We can all debate how much it matters what gets out. Being a reporter, I’m obviously on the side that it really doesn’t matter much. I’ve covered the team since 1997 and the best year UW had in that time — in 2000, when UW went 11-1 — every practice was open and it obviously didn’t hurt the team any on the field. And in the worst year UW had in that time — the 0-12 disaster of 2008 — the program was the most closed it’s ever been and it obviously didn’t help (in his first few years, Willingham often opened up a few spring practices and a fall scrimmage or two, but in 2008, I’m pretty sure we never saw more than the first 30 minutes of any practice).
But the reality is that the only person whose opinion matters in the case of the team you care about is the head coach of that team. One of the loudest applause lines of Sarkisian’s first press conference after being hired was when he said practices would again be open. And he’s said that as much as it’s something he knows fans and media appreciate, he also thinks it helps the team in creating a little more of a constant gameday atmosphere. He thinks the players benefit from knowing they are always under the eyes of the public.
But while it’s been a popular move for Sarkisian, he made it evident today that the access comes with some clear expectations as well as some clear consequences.
Here’s Sarkisian on a few other topics after today’s practice:

On the team drills that concluded practice: “We did real sudden change things for the last probably 20 minutes of practice. It’s how we respond after getting a turnover or from the defensive standpoint what happens if the offense turns the ball over. It got pretty competitive. I thought it was a good period, we got to work different groups in there and we made some plays.”
Overall thoughts on the day: “I thought all-in-all, in practice, I thought we threw the football, this was probably our best day of throwing the ball down the field, making plays. I thought this was probably Jake’s best day. There were a couple of throws here and there that I’m sure he’d love to have back, but we made some plays and when we didn’t make some plays there were a couple of pass-interference plays that, that’s the benefit of throwing the ball down the field to create those opportunities and I thought that was a key factor in the practice as well.”
On Jesse Callier: “He had a great practice. If you want to give an MVP to somebody it was probably number 24. He had a great practice running the football and the subtleties that sometimes can get missed – I thought he pass-protected extremely well today – and did a couple of things out in space and made people miss like he can do really well.”
On Callier and Cooper and their pass blocking: “I don’t know how many guys in high school are asked to really pass protect — not just against blitzing backers or secondary guys, but understanding defenses and where people are coming from and schemes — they’ve come a long way. For them, the value of being here for spring ball was huge, so they’ve been able to take advantage of that.”
On if being here for the spring helped them: “Extremely. You think about the installation, they are getting it for the second time, where most true freshman it’s their first time. I think they are ahead from a mental point of view. They know what to expect. They understand the heat, the pressure, the intensity of practice. They aren’t awed by it.”
On Nate Williams sitting out: “He just got the day off. We gave him and Chris Polk the day off. You’re going to see that from us periodically. It’s a little bit of an NFL-style approach; our veteran-type guys are going to get a day off to keep them fresh, and that allows our young guys to play with the ones — Sean Parker played all day with the ones at safety. And it got Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper more carries with the ones than they would normally have.”
On how Parker player: “He was up and down a little bit, a little hit and miss. But you’re only going to learn playing at that speed and that tempo of making your plays. He did some good things; he had a couple sacks coming off the edge. He’s a very talented pass rusher, we’re learning that. There’s a couple coverage things that he’ll learn to get better at.”
On who is emerging as team leaders: “There’s some natural leadership that has taken place on defense. Cort Dennison and Mason Foster and Nate Williams — I think those guys have some natural leadership. Some younger guys have stepped up. Desmond Trufant has become a leader already on this team. Alameda (Ta’amu) is assuming a leadership-type role. Everrette Thompson – a great leadership guy on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, as subtly as he does it, Jake (Locker) is a tremendous leader. But what Jermaine Kearse brings, what Ryan Tolar brings, what Senio Kelemete brings, those guys provide a great deal of leadership as well.”
On who stood out today in the first day in full pads: “I thought Ryan Tolar showed his grit today. He’s kind of the cagey veteran, senior offensive lineman, a little nasty. I thought he showed his grit today. He’s the first guy that jumps out at me.”
On getting the freshmen in the mix right away: “We’ve got to get as much information on those guys as we can as fast as we can. Because the further we go along the closer we are getting to game week. We’ve got to get as much information as we can heading into game week so we know what they can do well and what they need to work on, and if the value of what they are doing well is something that can offer service and give us the best opportunity to beat BYU, or if we can make the decision to redshirt and get them ready for next spring, next fall. We throw them in there and we throw ’em in there as much as we can and we’re trying to get as much information as we can as fast as we can. And I think it’s been great. But five practices, we’ll garner much more after the next two and Monday – those will be some real key days to get some substance.”
On scrimmaging Saturday night: “Probably about a third of the practice, maybe. It’s not going to be a scrimmage, but there will be scrimmage segments. There will be a short yardage period, we’ll have a goal-line period that we’ll scrimmage and make live.”
On special teams and rule changes: “We’ve done a lot of research with the rule with what’s gone on in the NFL and studying the NFL and the teams that have great returns there. I think we have the personnel to be a very good return team on kickoff return and dealing with the wedge issue. I love our two kickers. I think Will and Erik are fantastic, and for us the real key is one I want to make sure we’re real locked in on, and that’s our punt return unit, because we have the athletes to go after punts now.”
On who is emerging as returners: “The kickoff guys – in my opinion, we’re loaded. You think about Chris Polk and Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier and then you throw in a Desmond Trufant, who is back there now and is healthy and running well, and a Kevin Smith…we’re pretty talented group that way on kickoff return. And I’m very happy with Devin (Aguilar) back there returning punts. I think now that he’s fully recovered and healthy, I think he’s got a nice feel and I think we started to see that at the end of the year in his punt return game.”



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