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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM

More from Sark — QBs, spring goals, and more

Here is more from UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s press conference today previewing the beginning of spring football on Tuesday:

On the QB battle and differences between Keith Price and Nick Montana: “Both of these guys have improved immensely in the short amount of time that they’ve been here. I think that the job is important to them. They are both over 3.0 students. They both work extremely hard in the weight room and both are very well-liked by their teammates. They walk around, they are bright-eyed, they are smiling. At the end of the day I think they have a lot of intangibles that you want at the quarterback position. Now how that all plays out remains to be seen. We have to continually put them in the settings where they can show off and show where they have those intangibles, and where they are deficient. Hopefully we can help them grow in those areas. I like both of them, and I’ve said this since the Holiday Bowl that we’re going to need both of these two kids. This isn’t just about Keith Price or Nick Montana. We’re going to need both of them, and we’re going to need both of them to perform at a high level. That’s going to be the goal this spring. I’m not going to rush to judgement to name a starter for the sake of naming a starter – but I also don’t plan on going into the season platooning quarterbacks either. We’re going to take our time, we’re going to allow these two kids to grow and evolve at the position, go through some ups and downs, and then when we get there, we’ll make that call.”

On Austin Seferian-Jenkins being a key contributor right away: “I’d like to hope so. He has the potential to do that, not only physically but mentally. He’s a very mature young man. But I’m not going to force the issue with him either. We’re going to allow him to grow. We will throw him in the fire from Day One; he’ll be right in there with our ones, and he’ll have to block a Hau’oli Jamora, and he’ll have to block Everrette Thompson. He’ll have to run routes against a Sean Parker or a Nate Fellner. You’ll see him do those things, and we’ll assess his strengths and we’ll try and assess his weaknesses and see how far we can take him in a short amount of time. I think it’s a great benefit for him that he’s here early for spring practice. But he’s going to have his ups and downs. For a kid who just started his first day of college classes today, and he’s got his first team meeting at four, and his first day of football practice tomorrow, it’s not going to be easy. But I think if there is the type of kid that can handle it like a Nick Montana or a Jesse Callier or Deontae Cooper, I think Austin Seferian-Jenkins is that same type of kid.”

On the goals for wide receivers: “. … Our consistency in our passing game needs to improve. And that comes from a variety of areas. And the one is the receiving group and their ability to one, we’ve got to improve getting off press coverage, jam coverage. Our precision in route-running and our ability to consistently catch the football – all of those areas are areas where we can improve. And whether it’s Jermaine (Kearse) or Devin (Aguilar) or a Kevin Smith or a James Johnson or Cody Bruns, the likes of these guys…they are all very talented. DiAndre Campbell, I’m really excited to see this spring. That cohesiveness with these two other quarterbacks they are working with…there are big challenges ahead, because we need to be better in our passing game than what we’ve been.”

On the spring being the litmus test for the QB’s, or could the battle go to September: “I could see it going into September. I hate to rush to judgement on this thing. Because they are so young and their ceiling is so high and there’s so much room to grow, I don’t want to make a decision based on a couple of practices and say, ‘this is your role, and this is your role’. I think they could ultimately improve not only through spring, but into summer and fall camp. If the timing’s right and it feels right to me, then we’ll make a decision. I hate to pencil a date like they do for National Signing Day, where you have to decide by that date. I think kids make commitments and we make decisions when it feels right, and that’s what we’re going to do here as well.”

On Price have an edge because of his playing experience: “It’s only an advantage if he uses the experience. For me, I’m going to judge them based on the body of work, and where they started from the day we started working with them to when that decision time comes. I think they’ve both come a long, long way. The battle, in a sense, is a little overhyped, to me. We’re on a football team. The natural thing is that we want to pit Keith and Nick against one another, but the reality is that they are not against each other, they are together, and they are doing this together to make us a better football team. That’s the goal. They are going to be part of an offense and part of a team where they have a role in place, and their job is to go out and execute that role. And we’ll monitor their ability to do that.”

On if he would ever platoon at the QB position: “Not the near future, but you guys know me well enough…I think change is inevitable. You’re either getting better or getting worse, and sometimes you need to change. We’ll see. But for right now we’re going to try and find our starting quarterback, and whoever isn’t the starter develop a really good backup whose going to ultimately have to win us a game or two next year.”

On filling the holes left by Jake Locker and Mason Foster: “I’m watching the Denver Nuggets now, and they traded away their star player, and now they are winning more games, for whatever reason. I don’t know exactly how that happens, but I’d like to think we can be that team. I love Jake, I love Mason…not only were they great football players, but they were great leaders in the locker room, on the field…their willingness to embrace everything we brought to this program will never be forgotten. But if we’re going to grow as a program and continue to get better, we have to one, bring in great character kids and very good players, and then improve them as they go through, so when one leaves, the next one is ready to go. I’d like to think we’re a better football team today, but that remains to be seen and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

On what Deontae Cooper can give: “He provides a real explosiveness. He’s a big-play guy. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well as run it, I think we’re all sitting around thinking what would it ever look like with Jesse, Deontae and Chris all in there together and how can we make that work? I have fun with that kind of stuff, so we’ll see. I think Deontae’s work ethic has been unparalleled. The guy, he’s a machine when it comes to working out and getting his body right, so when the time’s right for him to go 100 percent he’ll be there, but in the meantime, we’ll work him back as we need to. He provides a real big-play element to our offense.”

On the linebackers and who may be where: “It’ll look pretty fluid, from the naked eye, but you’ll see Jamaal Kearse and Johnny Timu at the same spot, you’ll see Garret Gilliland and Thomas Tutogi at the same spot as Jordan Wallace. You’ll see Tim Tucker in the middle there at the same spot as Cort Dennison, but also Victor Burnett. We’re going to move some guys around, too, give them an opportunity to show what they’re about, whether they’re an edge rusher or playing in the inside ‘backer spot.”

On where they are in experimenting with the 3-4 on defense: “We’re not going to start in it, but we’ll get to it here as spring moves on. I’m intrigued to see what a Josh Shirley and Hau’oli Jamora on the field together might look like as edge guys, and real pass-rusher type guys, and more of an NFL mentality that way. We’re not going to rush to that. We want to get our base defense in first, and then we’ll evolve to that.”

On Zach Fogerson: “I love Zach. I think Zach has got real potential to his game. He’s actually a very bruising runner and nice feet for a big man, but catches the ball extremely well. He’s got a high football IQ. I like what Zach brings, and I’m excited to watch Kimo (Makaula) this spring, as well. I think he’s a guy who’s matured. You’ve got to remember, he was a high school quarterback, and it takes some time to make that transition, so we’ll see what he brings to the table as well.”

On if any of the redshirt OLs are ahead of any others: “I’m going to hold out before I say that. I want to watch them play. They all look good in the weight room right now but until they have to block Alameda, or have to block Everette, then we’ll find out a little bit more.”

On doing more fundamentals during spring: “We’ll never neglect that. I think to some of the best coaches, whether it be football or any other sports, and you can look at the John Wooden’s of the world, or the Mike Krzyzewski’s, whatever that may be. I think when you watch their teams play, I think they’re extremely fundamentally sound. And that’s no different in football. So we’ll never lose sight of our fundamentals and our technique, but you are exactly right – the quicker we can really grasp those fundamentals and those techniques, the easier it is to move on and to talk more scheme and philosophy and things of that nature.”

On what Chris Polk is working on this spring?: “It’s his overall game. We all obviously all know his style of running is a very physical style, and so I don’t know how much I’m just going to expose him to just pound away on himself and on our defense. But we are going to work on some things here this spring that I think will round his game out and allow him to become more of a complete player, the first of which is pass protection. Really, fundamentally grasping it. The second is in his route running and his ability to really be involved in the passing game, which lends itself to our dropback pass game, as I’ve been touching on all afternoon here. There’s going to be some aspects to his game that we’re going to focus on, but I’m not going to lose sight and just not give the guy the ball. He’s going to get his carries. we look at the end of the year, we saw his big play potential, and his ability to make people miss in the secondary, which will be something that we’ll continue to work on because he does have it in him.”

On Alameda Ta’amu: “I hope he doesn’t ruin spring practice. He can really dominate when he gets going. I’m excited to watch him as well because it’s not only in the run game, it’s in the pass game he can be a force. And we saw that late in the year, the big safety, he gets the holding call in the end zone. Some of the sacks he’s created, those things. He can be an every down player, not just at our level but at the next level. I just hope he doesn’t ruin spring ball.”

On giving the young QBs training wheels in the offense: “No, I never had training wheels, and my 5-year-old doesn’t, either. ‘You go down the hill, baby.’ No, I know what you’re saying, I know where you’re coming from. Ultimately, we have to mold and shape a team based on the personnel that you have. We’ve got a system in place that has withstood the test of time. And it’s got some really cool wrinkles to it that we can do different things with different people on the field. Would I like to go out and run the football 45 to 50 times a game and average six yards a carry and hold teams to seven, eight points per game? Ideally, great. But we have to see how we evolve and where we go. Part of that is playing to the strengths of these young guys, too. These guys are different than what Jake was. They might not be the big-arm, play-action pass, throw-it-65-yards-down-the-field. They’ve got a little more feel, they like to be a little more spread out, and they like to play catch and utilize all aspects of the game. So we’re going to tailor some things to what they do well as well. And parts of our offense may have some training wheels to it. Other parts are going to have the training wheels taken off to fit what they do well.”

On what the must-have criteria for quarterbacks are: “Take care of the football, one. And part of that comes from understanding of the offense. Two, decision-making, especially at critical moments. And, three, your ability to not force the football and to throw the ball away. As a young quarterback, that’s the hardest thing to do. In their mind, they feel like they’re giving up – and they’re not giving up, they’re just giving us a chance at another snap. So the football’s one. Two, their ability to move the football. We’re taking care of it, one, but two, does the offensive football team get first downs, and then ultimately does it score points when they’re on the field. And that doesn’t necessarily always equate to if a guy was 10 of 12 that day. A guy could be 10 of 12 but have five punts in three series, whereas the one guy who was, maybe, 8 of 12 but scored 14 points in his two drives might have been the guy that has been a little more effective. So it’s not always about the numbers. It’s protecting the ball, their ability to move the football, especially in the critical moments late in games, late in two-minute drills. And then three, their effectiveness to manage the team, to be that coach on the field, to have the presence that’s needed in what is, in my opinion, the most important position in sports, which is at quarterback when you’re in the huddle and there’s 11 guys out there and you’ve got to look them all in the eye and get them to believe in the play call coming from the sidelines.”

On off-the-radar players to watch this spring: “Some guys for us to look for this spring, that I’m excited to watch to see what they might bring. One is Johnny Timu, he’ll be starting off at outside linebacker. I think he brings something that is unique from an athletic perspective. Josh Shirley, to see how he’s evolving as a pass-rusher coming off the edge. Sean Parker, and his ability to really be that physical safety that I think he has a chance to be. On the offensive side of the ball, the growth of Kevin Smith at wide receiver, and DiAndre Campbell, for that matter. And then all of those young linemen. I’m just anxious and excited to watch those young linemen because I think they’re nasty, I think they’re tough, I think they embody all the characteristics that we’re looking for in offensive line play. To watch them go out and really run our offense instead of running another team’s offense this spring is going to be exciting.”

On if the QBs may line up more behind center: “It potentially could be there for them. It could lend itself. Nick, especially, is really comfortable under center; it’s almost innate, obviously, in his blood, that ability to get under center and drop smoothly and have rhythm. Again, it’s all going to depend on where our strengths are as a team and how we evolve.”

On if he is more comfortable with QBs lining up behind center: “No, I think the more things you do well, the better you are as a football team. But there’s a fine line there because you can try to do everything and not be good at anything, either. I’m not, by any means, sitting here and saying we’re going to scrap shotgun. We’re going to be in the gun plenty. We’re still going to run zone-read stuff. We’re still going to have that dimension to our offense. We’re still going to run the fly play. But we have to figure out what is the best thing that we’re good at so that we can emphasize the things that we’re best at and still have those wrinkles to our offense that make a defense have to defend us. And so it’s just a point of emphasis, a part of our offense that I think has lacked some, probably because of coaching, and we need to do a better job of coaching it.”

On Quinton Richardson: “I think Quinton’s had a very good spring. Traditionally, in the spring, he’s had some nagging injuries. I think he’s as healthy as he’s ever been. He’s as fast as he’s ever been. I think part of that is due to the building of the confidence from the end of the year. I mean, he was really a dynamic playmaker for us. I continue to look back to his interception against UCLA as one of the season-changing moments for us. Our defense had a great game against UCLA, and that ability to create a turnover and score points just lent itself to another big game against Cal and, maybe not his best game against Washington State, but then coming back and having another nice ball game against Nebraska. I think that he provides a lot of leadership. He’s got a great deal of experience, and a guy that I think is really going to build from the end of last year.”

On the lack of depth at cornerback: “It’s concerning. We’ll monitor it closely. You’re going to see some of a Justin Glenn back at corner some. You’ll see Marquis Persley back at corner some. I don’t want to have to play Quinton and Desmond every snap of spring ball and just wear them out. We need to develop some young players, and we’ve got a couple coming here for fall camp, and we’ll monitor it closely.”

On what needs to improve with the drop-back passing game: “Our efficiency. Our efficiency’s not great. We are spotty. We make some plays here and there and then it just doesn’t feel good. It’s ugly. It’s choppy — I guess is the best word. I’m really looking to the efficiency factor of it. You know, the beauty of a drop-back passing game is the fluidness of it and the precision of it. I was just watching a show on Bill Walsh while I was on vacation. And to listen to him talk about the West Coast passing game and what it meant when that era of the San Francisco 49ers was really going, and the fluidness of that. And I thought to myself, ‘We’re lacking in that. We don’t have that efficiency right now, that precision.’ So that’s going to be the goal for us this spring. Whether that means we run less plays this spring, that remains to be seen. But our goal and our vision and our effectiveness and that precision in our drop-back pass game has got to improve.”
On what will look different this spring: “There’s a couple things. We will have a part of practice — not early on in spring ball, but as we move to the second week — of more a true no-huddle period. For a variety of reasons. One is I think as a young quarterback sometimes a no-huddle area or situation is a way to get your rythym going if you are struggling. But two is, I want to get our defense exposed to it. They see so much of it, I want to present it to our defense earlier than just in game week — with the likes of Oregon and Arizona and Washington State that do have that no-huddle aspect to their game. I’d like to expose our defense to that earlier on than just wait until in season.”
On Jake Locker’s pro prospects: “I think he’s going to be fantastic. I was sitting back thinking about this: My view of Jake Locker right now, as a true pro-style quarterback, is that he is a sophomore coming out early going into the NFL draft. He’s had two years in a pro-style offense, of learning the nuances of this thing, to the drops to the protections, to the coverages to the route recognition to the reading to the things that all have to take place, the fundamentals that it takes. So, to me, his upside is huge. Whoever gets him is going to get a player that is going to continue to develop and is going to work at it. And they are going to get somebody who is a tremendous leader, not only on the field but off the field in the community, which matters — and somebody who is going to be mature enough to step into a huddle with a 10-, 12-, 13-, 14-year NFL veteran and call the play with conviction and execute a play. Especially late in games. I think so much with Jake that got missed while he was here, for us, if you look at the way he performed in the fourth quarter, especially in final drives over the last two years, those were special plays and special drives that he had. And when you watch the NFL on Sunday, how many times (do) games come down to that final drive? And he’s got that ability to make plays on that final drive, which ultimately win games, ultimately win playoff games and ultimately win Super Bowls. I think that’s why he’s going to be special down the road.”

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