The Huskies are off the field after their last full-scale practice of the week, one that was a normal gameweek Thursday workout in just about every area.
And that meant a lot of work on special teams, something that is a staple of the Thursday practices. After some of the mistakes of last week, however, the Huskies decided to change their kickoff return scheme, putting two returners deep instead of one.
And to get it right, UW added an extra kickoff return session on top of the regularly scheduled periods.
“We just wanted to get one more look at it,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We did it all day yesterday and looked at the film, it looked really good, and to just kind of revisit and clean a couple of things up (we) did it again today.”
Sarkisian said Chris Polk and Jesse Callier remain the likely starting kickoff returners but said to also expect to see Kevin Smith, Sean Parker and maybe even Desmond Trufant, who all took some kicks in Thursday’s practice.
Overall, Sarkisian pronounced it a good week of practice following the disappointment of the opening loss at BYU.
But in another attempt to learn from the lessons of that loss, Sarkisian indicated there will be a shrinking of the playbook early in Saturday’s game.
“I think one of the key things we’re going to do early in the game, we’re going to run the stuff on both sides of the ball we do really well, and not try too hard with different stuff,” he said. “We’re going to do things that we do well so we’re in a real comfort level with the stuff we’re trying to execute.”
There was nothing new on the injury front as the practice was non-contact. RB Johri Fogerson did not participate and is out this week.
Sarkisian said that WR James Johnson should be back this week but was less sure about Kalani Aldrich.
Interestinigly, Sarkisian said that Johnson isn’t assured his starter’s job when he returns as Cody Bruns continues to work as the No. 3 receiver in Johnson’s place after a solid game against BYU.
“To be honest with you, right now he’s still behind Cody,” Sarkisian said. “Cody is not just giving up the spot. To his credit he is working at it, he’s earning it. James is fighting like crazy too, but that’s the beauty of our program that you battle and compete and you earn your time and Cody is earning it right now.”
As for Aldrich, Sarkisian said: “I hope so. I’m going to monitor him closely on gameday. I’d like to see him get out there but I don’t know yet.”
With the end of practice, it meant the heavy lifting for this week’s game is over. Sarkisian said the team will have meetings Friday afternoon before a 4 p.m. walk-through at the stadium, and then head to a local hotel for the regular night-before-game activities.
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Sarkisian said again that Jesse Callier will pick up the slack with Fogerson out: “He’s the replacement for Johri, essentially, in that role, along with doing some other stuff at running back. It’s a natural fit. And he’s been doing that all camp long, so it’s not like he’s learning new stuff. He’s been doing it all camp.”
— Asked about trying to spread the ball around to more receivers, Sarkisian said: “We’d like to be able to spread the ball around. We’d like to be able to find completions to other guys so you can’t hone in on Jermaine (Kearse) and Devin (Aguilar). But ultimately, your playmakers need to make plays, and both those guys have proven to be playmakers for us. We’re looking for balance, but yet we want to make sure they’re getting their touches as well.”
— Sarkisian said Zach Fogerson could get some time at fullback this week but noted that Austin Sylvester was one of the unsung standouts of the BYU game. “I was impressed after looking at the film, Austin Sylvester had a solid game for us,” Sarkisian said. “I’d like to see Zach get some but I’m not in a rush to get Austin out of the game.”
— Asked about the tight end spot, Sarkisian said: “I’d like to play (Michael) Hartvigson more, I’d like to play Marlion Barnett more than we did last week.”
— Sarkisian said that both Erik Kohler and Colin Porter will play in Saturday’s game on the offensive line but that “exactly how many snaps, I don’t know. It depends how our drives are going. But they’re going to play.”
— Kohler has been moved to left guard for the time being, though it’s not necessarily a permanent switch. “Yeah, we’ve moved him inside,” Sarkisian said. “I think just from a transitional point of view and the first time you’re in a game as a true freshman, sometimes it’s a little easier to have a guy on each side of you than being on that island by yourself.”
— Porter, meanwhile, remains at right guard.
— Interestingly, Syracuse’s defensive coordinator is Scott Shafer, who held the same role at Stanford in 2007 when the Cardinal pulled off its stunning upset of USC, where Sarkisian was then offensive coordinator. Sarkisian said today that he doesn’t know Shafer but that the defense he runs is similar to that run by Stanford then. “They’re very similar,” he said. “He’s very aggressive. They’re aggressive in their base defense, in their over-cover-4 stuff. But he’s an aggressive-mentality guy, loves to pressure, loves to blitz – zone pressure stuff, loves his odd package, red zone, and he’s coming after you. That’s his nature, you know. Hopefully the outcome is a little better for us this time.”
— Asked about some Syracuse players sounding confident in newspaper stories, Sarkisian said simply: “Good luck to them.”