You can’t usually tell all that much just two days into a spring practice — especially when the pads have yet to go on.
But UW coach Steve Sarkisian says he can tell one thing — that the tight end position is already demonstrably better than a year ago.
“I don’t think it’s too early say, we’re a lot further along,” he said. “I haven’t seen this many balls go to the tight end in the first two practices in the first couple years I’ve been here.”
That occurrence was maybe the highlight of UW’s second spring practice, one in which the Huskies were again in helmets-only. No real contact also meant no real injuries and there was no real personnel news of note.
Instead, it was another day for lots of fundamentals — such as early periods breaking down special teams units in small groups — and installation of the playbook.
But when the team did go to 11-on-11 sessions, Sarkisian also said he was dialing up a few more plays with the tight end involved, a spot that has seen a drastic influx of talent with the early arrival of true freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and the return of Michael Hartvigson (pictured) after a medical redshirt season a year ago.
“We’ve got two really big-time tight ends that can work together and add a really different element to our offense that has been lacking for a couple of years,” Sarkisian said, adding he’s made it a point in the first two days to see what the duo can do. “There are some things we are calling for them to try to assess who they are and what they are about and what we are about as an offense, and it’s showing up for us.”
Hartvigson played in the first four games last year before having surgery on his left shoulder. He said he had also had surgery on his right shoulder during his senior year of high school, so finally taking time to get both shoulders fixed, he said, was necessary.
“The left one it was already kind of my bad sholder already and just through camp and everything it just started bugging me,” Hartvigson said., “And then it just kept popping out and I had to get it fixed. I was a good choice though to get it fixed and I get my year back.”
Sarkisian said he’d “like to think” that Hartvigson might have been able to solve the TE woes of last season had he been healthy. More important now is that Hartvigson appears fully recovered.
“He’s 100 percent, good to go,” Sarkisian said. “He’s been really impressive. … Catching and blocking, just his demeanor, his presence. He looks really good to me.”
Asked what it would mean to get more production from the tight end, Sarkisian said: “It’s huge, to operate in the middle of the football field, and not only in the middle of the football field but they are massive targets — their wingspan is huge — and so those are the completions you like to get. To get easy completions, especially on first and 10, to get to second and short, and first and 10’s to take care of the middle of the field so (defenses) can’t just focus on the perimeter.”
Hartvigson is well aware of UW’s tight end tradition and says he wants to return to those days.
“Obviously, as we know, we didn’t really use the tight end that much last year,” Hartvigson said. “And I’m taking it as a challenge this year to really work hard and just get a lot more out of the tight ends, that’s a big challenge for me, really have to step up and work hard.”
And he said he only welcomes the arrival of Seferian-Jenkins.
“I would say that once I heard about that it was just motivating for me, just to work harder,” he said. “And also, Austin is a good guy, he’s a really good guy to work with so it’s been fun having him in, so yeah.”
IN OTHER NEWS. ..
— Here are Sarkisian’s early thoughts on new LBs John Timu and Thomas Tutogi: “I like both of them, I think Tutogi is really a natural linebacker. He’s got the instincts, he’s on his toes, he’s a downhill guy. I don’t think he will be shy on Saturday when the time comes to hit. Timu, you see his athleticism, he’s a beautiful athlete, he’s gifted, he can change directions, he’s athletic enough. But this process is a little different for him, this is the first time ever being at this position to it may take a little longer, but we’ll see.”
— Sarkisian said the team will be in helmets and shoulder pads Saturday and then full pads for Tuesday. “I kind of like the progression part of it,” he said.
— You can circle April 9 as a scrimmage, Sarkisian said, though most days with full pads will include its share of scrimmage. “That (April 9) will be labeled a scrimmage. But as you guys know, when we go to full pads, our team periods, we get going pretty good. The whole practice won’t be a scrimmage on Tuesday or Thursday but we will get after it pretty good.”
— Sarkisian on having to alter things because of the lack of depth at cornerback: “A little bit, and we’ll continually have to monitor that. We’re doing some things, playing some safeties at corner, and when we go to nickel we’ll have a safety in that spot. We’ll monitor it closely, try and minimize their overall running in practice. If you see today, the bulk of our DB’s are gunners on punt teams, and we’re not full running those guys. We’re working on technique at the line of scrimmage, and just trying to preserve them for 15 practices, and not just worry about week one and week two.”
— Sarkisian on making sure Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson don’t get overworked: “They’ve played enough football to know how vital practice is for us. And that’s the beauty of this schedule too, the way we go. They get a minimum of a day off between every practice to recoup and get their legs back. They want to be special. They want to be the best cornerback tandem in the Pac-10, and they are working towards that. I’ve respected their approach to spring so far, and I don’t anticipate them changing.”
— Sarkisian on those two taking the mantle of leadership in the secondary: “I’m hesitant just to give that up to them completely, because I think Nate Fellner has played a lot of football for us the last two years. He’s been productive for us. All in all, we just have quite a bit of experience out of those three guys, and it’s very helpful for a Sean Parker or Taz Stevenson when they get in, knowing that they have three guys that have basically been full-time two-year starters.”
— Sarkisian on Deontae Cooper’s timetable: “Fall is definitely when he gets going. I’d like to ease him back into some things as we get going. There’s no need to rush him. I know what he is; it’s not about courage with Deontae. I want to make sure he’s healthy, but I also want to get his mind right. We’ll gradually work him back, but when we’re going in fall camp, he’ll be full-go.”
— Sarkisian on what players jumped out to him today: “Cort Dennison had a good day, for sure. Really in tune to what we’re doing defensively. He was around the football, fast to the ball. I thought Fellner had a nice day on the back end, just being right. Sometimes it’s hard, not in pads to make real breaks on the ball, but he just looked right to me. I think Senio (Kelemete) was good at left tackle, just first thought that came to me. Jermaine (Kearse) seemed to kind of spark up today; he caught five, six, seven balls. Those are the guys who jumped out at me.”
— Sarkisian on using Zach Fogerson more: “We’re hopeful that he can become that fullback guy that has a lot of versatility to his game because Zach has that. He obviously has the ability to run the ball, he has a high football IQ, he can catch the ball, he’s athletic enough to block, and he’s got the courage to do it. So ideally, he can be that. But I don’t want to neglect giving him carries, either. So we’re giving him enough carries as a runner to see what he can do there as well.”