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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

March 28, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Sarkisian previews spring football

As noted earlier, UW coach Steve Sarkisian spoke for roughly 40 minutes at his press conference today previewing spring football.

That included a lengthy opening statement in which he touched on almost every key point of program, such as injuries, roster moves and goals for the spring, helpfully answering most of the key questions anyone would have about the Huskies as they start drills.

So here it is in all its uncut glory:

“Can’t believe football is in the air again. Here we go. We are obviously every excited as a staff and as a team as we embark on the 2011 edition of the Washington Husky football program. It’s been an off-season which I think has been extremely productive from a weight-room perspective. I thought our kids got stronger more powerful, which was a real goal of ours with Ivan Lewis and his crew down there in the weight room. I thought our guys did an excellent job in the classroom, exceeding our highest team GPA ever this past quarter, so we are doing it in a lot of phases and the next phase is football, and away we go starting tomorrow.

“I know we’ve got an excited group of players that are eager to get out there and get going and there are quite a few question marks for us to answer and to figure out as we go through this thing, so I’m going to hit on some things here before we even get into questions that hopefully can lend itself to what we are thinking about and where we are headed.

“A few things from a roster perspective. The first is that Jarett Finau will not be here this spring. He had a couple classes he still has to finish up so we’ll get him here this summer. As you probably already know just to reiterate, Kalani Aldrich and Mykenna Ikehara are no longer able to perform physically so they are still on scholarship and still on pace to earn their degree but aren’t able to play football anymore. And we still have a couple of outstanding issues from off the field incidents regarding Jordan Polk and Johri Fogerson that we are dealing with and I think we are taken that head-on, which is the right way to do it (and to clarify, Polk is not on the roster and not with the team).

“And then from an injury perspective of what is going on with our team, we do have a few guys that are out this spring and will be completely out. The first is Nick Wood, offensive line, who had hip surgery, so he will be out the entire spring. The second is Adam Long, who injured his knee in an off-season throwing session, he will be having knee surgery here on Wednesday. Hopefully we get him back by the fall, at some point in the season. And Semisi Tokolahi, who is still just nursing the broken ankle from the Apple Cup. So those are the three guys that will be out.

“We also have some limited, some with no contact, some with movement drills until they work their way up. We had four guys with shoulder surgeries just after the season who will be limited. They will be in drills but cannot have contact this spring, the first of which is Greg Ducre at cornerback, then Taz Stevenson at safety, and linebackers Princeton Fuimaono and Cooper Pelluer. And then we had a couple guys who are coming off of surgery late in the season there, Talia Crichton and Chris Robinson, both with knees that we are going to monitor closely and get them back into football shape before we get them going. Sean Parker will be limited in a sense because we want to monitor that stinger thing in the shoulder and don’t want to re-aggravate that. So I don’t know how much hitting he will do but he does need the reps, he does need to be out there. And then Senio Kelemete will be limited in a sense. He tore the plantar fascia on the bottom of his foot there which is a painful injury. He is working back fine, I just don’t want it to longer, so he will be limited some.

“Obviously Deontae Cooper will be limited some coming off of the knee injury there last fall camp but he will progressively grow as spring ball moves forward and we get him out there. I don’t foresee him ever being full contact but I do want to get him in some team drills in different settings to get the game speed for him going. And then Will Mahan, we are just going to monitor him closely with his knee injury as well. So from an injury front, that’s where we are at. It’s not ideal but you’ve got to have the surgeries and you need to do them as soon as the season is done so we can have them back for fall camp, which is the most important thing.

“I would say this, some goals for us this spring as we move forward, first of which is the physicality that we play with. I thought we ended the year in 2010 as being a very physical football team. We ran the ball extremely well. We played a physical brand of defense. And that’s something we want to piggyback on and continue down that road, so hopefully with the format again of having a day off in between every practice and going Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday we can have some real physical practices and practice in that manner so we can continue to grow that way.

“The second is that we have played a lot of young football players the last two years, a lot of true freshmen have gotten opportunities to play. And that’s great, we’ve gotten some experience. But we need to raise our football I.Q., our football awareness needs to get better. Understanding of the special situations within the game. So that will be a big focus for us of our young players that have played a lot, to raise their level of awareness of what’s really going on on the field and not just running the play but what is happening around them and how they can really excel even more.

“And then to find out what is happening with a lot of key position battles, most notably quarterback, with Keith (Price) and Nick (Montana). I think it will be a great battle, the key for both of those two guys is to focus on their job and their role and not worry about the other guy, which is always challenging to do. But their real goal should be competing against themselves to give our team the best opportunity to be successful when they are on the field.

“The tight end position with Marlion Barnett, Mike Hartvigson and then the addition of Austin Seferian-Jenkins to get that position back going for us. At linebacker with the loss of Victor Aiyewa and Mason Foster, obviously the glue to this whole thing is Cort Dennison but to have a couple of other guys step up and see how are they can go at linebacker is big. And then on the offensive line, we are really returning two great leaders in Senio Kelemete and Drew Schaefer. But there are a lot of young guys in this mix who are talented. We signed seven of them a year ago, two played as true freshmen, Colin Porter and Erik Kohler, and I love what I am seeing out of those two guys as well. But the Colin Tanigawa’s, the Mike Criste’s, the James Atoe’s, the Ben Riva’s, to see how far they have come. So the offensive line is going to be an area I am going to watch very closely.

“Some areas where I think we need to improve this spring, the first is the ball. Our turnover ratio is not where we need to be to be an elite team in this conference or in this country, so our emphasis on taking care of the ball offensively, especially with two new quarterbacks, and our ability to create turnovers defensively, has got to be better. We have got to create more turnovers. And you see the value in that when you look at the Holiday Bowl and you look at the first series, our defense creates the fumble, our offense goes on the field and scores and boom it is 7-0 first series of the game because of the great field position, that’s an area where I think we can improve.

“Another area where we really want to improve is our pass rush, our ability to rush the passer, not just on third down but on first and second down opportunities to see how far Hau’oli Jamora has come, to see what Josh Shirley looks like out there rushing the passer. To see what Alameda Ta’amu has been able to rushing the passer from the inside, we need to continually get better there, which really goes hand-in-hand that we need to improve offensively in our dropback pass game. It’s been poor, at best, and we pride ourselves on being able to drop back and throw the football, especially on first and second down, so that will be a point of emphasis for us.

“And then the fourth real key for us this spring is the return game and special teams, our ability to create more returns on punt and kickoff returns and then to continue down the road, I thought we got better as the year went on in covering kicks but it’s got to be a real point of emphasis for us. So those will be some key areas for us as we head into tomorrow, and away we go.”

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