I’m getting this posted a little later than usual, in part because a few of us wanted to talk after practice to Jermaine Kearse (pictured at right in an Otto Greule Jr. photo).
And that meant waiting a good 15-20 minutes after practice officially ended for Kearse and few other of the receivers and defensive backs to finish some extra work catching balls.
The reason for the extra works should be obvious as drops have been a well-documented problem for the Huskies at times this season, mostly by Kearse — an unofficial media tally has UW with 12 drops this season, eight from Kearse.
It’s been a little confounding considering Kearse’s obvious talent — he was an all-conference second teamer last year, and Pac-10 Player of the Week after the Syracuse game.
But he had another three drops against Arizona State, and while everyone wants to keep it in perspective — receivers sometimes drop passes — everyone also decided maybe it was time for a little extra action on the topic.
And Kearse, who can sometimes be a little reserved in media sessions, seemed more than happy to talk about it, good-naturedly greeting reporters as he came off the field.
“Oh yeah, had a couple drops,” when we asked the obvious question of why he was putting in extra work. “I went away from the things I usually do. I’m getting back to those things. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling really good.”
Asked what “‘those things” were, he said: “Just things I was doing in the past, and I kind of got away from that, and it kind of showed. I’m just getting back to those things, getting back to who I am and how I play. . … I think just mentally, just like what I was doing — catching balls after practice. I wouldn’t normally do that after practice. I got away from that, and am getting back to the things I did, getting back to the things that made me successful.”
Said receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty of what is hoped is accomplished out of the post-practice work: “Like we talked about with the basketball playing shooting more free throws after practice…it’s hand-eye coordination, catching more balls. Which we’ve addressed and we’ve done a nice job of that…just tracking the ball a little bit better with his eyes. The confidence issue is huge. Right now I think he’s trying just a little too hard, thinking about it too much. You just want to let him work his way through it. He’s done it before and he’ll do it again.”
While Kearse has had some issus with drops all season, he admitted it came to a head last week.
“I just felt in the last game, there was just catches I normally just make,” he said. “I dropped those, and I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ I’m jJust getting back to all the things I did, and I believe it’s going to show.
“I was a little frustrated, of course. After the games, I wouldn’t even watch NFL games, wouldn’t even watch Sportscenter. You know, I’m very optimistic about it. I know who I am, I know what I can do. I’m just going to go out there with that attitude and mindset, and come back strong.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Jake Locker again sat out the team portion of practice. But he did do more work in the individual portions and UW coach Steve Sarkisian termed him as “probable” if the game were scheduled to be played today, meaning I guess he’s even more probable with three more days between now and then. Said Sarkisian: “I thought he looked a lot better today than he did yesterday and hopefully he can do more tomorrow. But I thought he did some really good things today.”
— Interestingly, sounds like it’s more his quad injury than the sickness that is limiting him right now. Sarkisian said he was hurt early in the game Saturday. With Locker being a fifth-year senior, missing some of the team period is not a big deal, and Sarkisian said wouldn’t impact his ability to play Saturday. Asked what he wants to see from Locker on Thursday, he said: “Just want to see him continue to improve. He took a lot of snaps today, especially in our service period and our skelly period. I just want to see gradual improvement. Fortunately we are not playing until 7 (p.m.) Saturday night, so it buys us some more hours, another basically whole day to get healthy, so I just want to see steady improvement.”
— In Locker’s place, Keith Price again ran the first team during the team period and Sarkisian said he continues to be impressed by Price. “He just handles himself really well. Keith has really made big strides from the day he got here to now he has made great strides. And that’s a tribute to Doug Nussmeier our QB coach. He’s really taken this kid a long, long way and we’d feel comfortable if he went in the ball game, no doubt about that.”
— Sarkisian termed WR Devin Aguilar doubtful, saying “I thought Devin did a few things for us today. He looked better. If we were playing today, Devin could not play. If we were playing today, I would put Jake at probable as the adrenaline flows on a game day, but I would say Devin would be doubtful. But we’ll see how tomorrow goes. They are making really good improvements and we still have time.”
— Erik Kohler remains out, so that has the Huskies still looking at a revamped offensive line featuring Greg Christine at center with Senio Kelemete at LT, Ryan Tolar at LG, Colin Porter at RG and Drew Schaefer at RT. The big switch there is Christine in place of Schaefer at center, and then Schaefer for Cody Habben at RT, with Habben moving to the second team, and Porter essentially replacing Kohler. Sarkisian, however, said nothing was set for Saturday. “We’re looking at shuffling some things around, just getting prepared for possibly moving guys around within the ball game,” he said.
— Asked about Christine at center, Sarkisian said: “”We’re just preparing for that. I don’ t know that’s necessarily what’s goinig to happen in the ball game. We are just preparing to shuffle guys around. Greg’s got the knowledge base like Drew that he can make the calls inside that need to be made.”
— TE Chris Izbicki hurt his back after taking a hard hit in practice— Sarkisian said that “his back is screwed up.” Asked if Izbicki can play Saturday, Sarkisian said: “I don’t know that yet.”
— Asked about the dropped passes and if there is improvement this week in practice, Sarkisian said: “I thought our guys did a nice job. They are playing hard and playing fast at wide receiver and making plays. A couple drops here and there but that’s every day. All the sudden you drop two balls I practice and you’ve got the drops, well there are drops every day. When you throw the ball that many times, percentages tell us you are going to drop a couple balls.”
— With Aguilar out, James Johnson could get more time, though Sarkisian said that “just depends on our personnel groupings.”
— Asked about the issue of agents approaching college players, which hit the forefront again this week, Sarkisian said: “You do your best to limit their access as far as obviously practice time. But at the end of the day, in my humble opinion, if an agent really wants to get to a player he will get to a player. What our responsibility is as coaches is to educate our players to the best of our abilities so when they get put in those situations and we aren’t around that they make really good decisions. That’s why we are educators first before coaches. … You’ve got to make great decisions and we need to educate them on making great decisions.”
— And since it was Wednesday, it was our first chance to ask Cody Bruns about the fake field goal against ASU, when he took off running and was tackled for no gain on a play when he could have passed the ball to tight end Marek Domanski. Said Bruns: “I just turned the corner (and) I missed Marek. I saw him late. Just came around the corner, saw white (the color of ASU’s jersies) and thought I could beat him around the edge. It just didn’t work out.” He said of the play that “We’d been practicing all week, you know I had been running in practice where I’d just take off and run. I thought, from watching film and stuff, that they’d kind of come in more. As soon as I got around, it was kind of ‘Bang, bang play.’ Right about when I made the cut, and I was like, ‘Shoot, this isn’t going to be too good.’ Hopefully we’ll get it fixed, hopefully we’ll run it again sometime.”