The Huskies are off the field following their Monday practice, and UW coach Steve Sarkisian is done with his weekly coaches show.
Some notes from each. …
— The only new player in red at practice today was running back Jesse Callier. Sarkisian said afterward he hurt his shoulder on a kickoff. But it doesn’t sound too serious.
— We asked Sarkisian about the rumors that the team might wear black jerseys for the UCLA game and he said that “there will be a black theme” leaving it at that. I think that will be all the official comment you will get on that topic but think you can read between the lines.
— The team practiced without pads and it was the usual Monday style workout following a game. While Sarkisian said a lot of regulars will rest this week with the next game not until a week from Thursday, most everyone seemed out there that you would expect.
— As for the coaches show, one of his more interesting comments came when asked about whether he would still try to find a way to play Keith Price if Jake Locker makes it back. He said that as a general rule he does not like to platoon QBs, saying he’s a big believer that rhythm is a big thing for the position, implying that the best way to get that is to stay out there for the entire game. So he said whoever is the starter would be the one to play.
— Asked about not going for it on the fourth down when UW was down 25-13 and instead kicking a field goal, he said that he “wanted to keep the momentum going” and wanted to take the sure points.
— Asked what he thought the best way to slow down Oregon would be, he said having lots of good depth up front and being able to play man in the secondary to take away some of the stuff on the edges. Specifically, he said needing eight defensive linemen and six linebackers to rotate from the beginning of the game and not just once guys get tired. He noted Oregon had eight OLs it rotated throughout the game Saturday and that helped wear down UW’s defensive front (though the Huskies played more guys up front this game than they have basically all season, with guys like Chris Robinson getting some significant time).
— That led to a discussion of depth and Sarkisian said that the key for UW is to pile together a few recruiting classes to get enough depth that you can replace a starter with a player who is just as good or better. He said he thinks the 2010 class is a step in that direction, saying that he thinks it has good “overall depth.” He said he thinks the 2011 class is beginning to go in that direction as well.
— Asked about how Oregon recruits, he said the key attraction is really what the team has done on the field. “The be recruiting tool you have is wins. Ultimately when you start to swing the pendulum we’ll get back to balance with them. They are having their run now. Like all rivalries the hardest one to get is the first one to break the streak and then hopefully we can get a string after that.”
— He also said that the Ducks did not appear to defend UW any differently since Price was QB than if Locker had been QB. “They went into the game with a plan to stop our offense rather than Keith or Jake,” he said. He said he didn’t think Oregon was anymore aggressive than usual and that he thought Price handled those blitzes well, that the bigger issues were up front.
— He said a big problem for the offense was not getting more points out of some good drives early. “We were in some pretty good situations early and we didn’t execute, we didn’t make the plays,” he said.
— He said the team has to do better than 2-16 on third downs and will work on that this week, saying that “if we want to win this next ball game got to be better on third down, got to be 50 percent.”
— Talking about the special teams issue, he reiterated what he had said earlier, that one problem may have been that some front-line guys often on the kickoff team were not on it to let them rest due to the pace of Oregon’s offense. He said regulars usually on the KO cover team who were not on Saturday included Nate Williams, Mason Foster, Victor Aiyewa and Cort Dennison. “That was going to be a challenge,” he said. “We thought we had a good plan in our kicking game and unfortunately we didn’t execute it the way we needed to.”
— Asked if Keith Price’s incompletions on a few passes were a sign of insufficient arm strength, he said “that’s not the case at all. He’s got a great arm, one of the better arms I’ve been around. But when you are making your first start you can be a little tight on some of those throws. … I thought he made some great throws.”
— He said the underthrown pass on the first play of the game was more a result of him getting hit as he threw than anything else. “Give him a half-more second and now he’s not getting hitting when he’s released it and he can go drive it.”
— He said he thought it was Aiyewa’s best game of the year and that he also thought the defense did a good job of getting lined up and understanding gap integrity. “We played hard, we tackled well, we aligned well. …for three quarters (UW) played very good fooball.”
— He said he thought the game was a step forward after the previous two weeks, games where he said “we went backwards.” He said one of the challenges now is for the coaches to figure out what buttons to push to keep the team growing and taking steps foward. “Our guys are much better when they are loose and play with a carefree approach. … we’ll continue to try to push those right buttons of where we were against Oregon and some of our other games.”