The Huskies put on the pads and went indoors for the first time this spring, though only the former was planned.
The latter was forced on the Huskies when the wind continue to blow and UW coach Steve Sarkisian made the decision about halfway through to head to the Dempsey Indoor.
Asked why, he said: “I think the biggest thing is in spring ball especially we only get 15 practices and you need to seize every opportunity that you have to be out here and maximize every opportunity that you get. I’m not concerned about being a mentally or physically tough football team. We have proven that and we will continue to grow in that area. But it’s about being efficient and getting quality reps, so that’s why we came inside. I didn’t want to just prove to the guys or I don’t know whom that we are a mentally tough team. I’m not concerned about that. And it wasn’t really about the cold but the wind and the ability to throw the football, so that’s why. Abnormally strong wind gusts.”
Also a concern was getting the film crew out of the towers (and no football coach needs reminding of what happened last year at Notre Dame).
“Yeah, I was a little concerned and I wanted to get him down first,” Sarkisian said. “And then when we moved in here I didn’t want to just practice without getting the film so we had to wait for them to come in on here. A little abnormal for us and initially kind of slowed the pace of practice down in here but once practice got going again it was fine.”
Once indoors, the Huskies were able to embark more easily on their most physical work to date, concluding with a 15-play full-contact session at the end of practice.
As noted earlier, the only apparent injury was a quad pull suffered by prized freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins that Sarkisian said didn’t appear all that bad.
“We don’t think it’s serious, and again we are just in practice four of 15 and the last thing I want to do is really pull that thing and miss three or four of them in a row and kind of fall back,” Sarkisian said. “So we just said let’s sit him down now and get him back Thursday or at the latest Saturday.”
Both Keith Price and Nick Montana took turns running the offense during the 11-on-11 session at the end of practice. In the entire full-team session that included practice (not just the last 15) unofficial stats showed Price at 8-10 for 152 yards and a touchdown and Montana at 8-11 for 83 yards. Price’s total included a 78-yard TD pass to sophomore receiver Kevin Smith, who continues to have a good spring.
Montana also had a nice play where he scrambled away from pressure and hit Devin Aguilar while Price once got out of a heavy rush from the outside for a lengthy gain up the middle. But the defense also had its moments, including a sack of Price by John Timu.
Asked what he thought of what he saw, Sarkisian said: “That we’ve got to get used to playing football again. We will tackle better as we continue to go. A couple of times our backs in the open field, it is different when you are running and just getting tagged off, all the sudden you are getting tackled by safeties and corners. So those secondary cuts and moves to create long plays I think will come with it. But I like the edge and the speed rush stuff that we saw out of Josh Shirley today. I thought he really showed up and showed some nice things. I thought we did some pretty good things in the run game offensively. And all in all I think our interior tackling will get better but I was encouraged by our secondary in the open field making some nice tackles.”
Sarkisian said the team will also have a physical practice on Saturday when it will do more scrimmaging.
“We turned them loose for the last 15 plays today,” he said. “We’ll have days…a little different format even for this weekend when we scrimmage. It won’t be a full-blown, 80-play scrimmage. We’ll have segments and different things. I want it to be more controlled than what we have been when we’ve just been letting them go. As much as we want to be physical, we’re trying to raise our football IQ as well. So there’s a lot of teaching going on; I’ve been real proud of the coaches and our players. There’s a lot of teaching on the nuances of the game that are going on right now. I think our kids are responding extremely well. Today was a huge emphasis on third down and understanding the distances within third down and what we’re trying to get accomplished in those distance. Our guys handled the period really well, so we’ll have another one of those this Saturday as we keep moving forward.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— The team has added four walk-ons, the most interesting of which may be K.C. Herren, a safety from Auburn High. Herren’s story is similar to that of former Husky Tripper Johnson as he was a second-pick of the Rangers in 2004, getting a bonus of $675,000 when he signed, spent six years in minor league baseball before giving it up and deciding to return to school. He is a true freshman. Here are Herren’s minor league stats. He is listed at 6-foot, 207.
— The other new walk-ons are Sampson Fletcher, a cornerback from Lincoln; Reade Lobdill, a receiver from Arroyo Grande, Calif.; and Nate Ryals, a kicker from Mountlake Terrace.
— As noted earlier, OLs Ben Riva and Colin Porter sat out with the flu: “They were just sick,” Sarkisian said. “They’ve got flu-like symptoms and we just don’t want it to be spread. I think they will be fine by Thursday.”
— The players received their Holiday Bowl rings afterward.
— Former Seahawk Shaun Alexander watched practice and spoke briefly to the running backs afterward.
— As Sarkisian noted, Shirley was a presence throughout. At one point, he drew the ire of the OLs when he got past Erik Kohler and then gave him an added push into the QB dummy during a pass-rush drill. Daniel Kanczugowski didn’t appear to like that and pushed Shirley, who took off his helmet and swung it at Kanczugowski. A few others rushed in and restored order quickly.
— As noted earlier, Talia Crichton is taking part in everything after it was thought he might be limited with the knee injury he suffered last year. Said Sarkisian: “Definitely a lot more work, which is extremely encouraging. I think what has been a good job by our coaches and trainers is that a lot of our guys that have been non-contact guys is that they are still getting quality reps. So unfortunately they aren’t able to go at the scrimmage settings when we go at the end of practice but they are getting so much of this other work that we are getting better because of it.”
— And Senio Kelemete is also doing almost everything after it was thought he would be limited with a foot injury. “Yeah he is,” Sarkisian said. “He really came back from that thing well. It’s not 100 percent but he’s a tough guy and he’s getting through it. He’s fine.”
— Sarkisian said the team continues to try to continue the physical nature he thought carried the team past Nebraska. “I think so. I think our guys have adopted that mentality that this is who they want to be. We still have a ways to go to actually get to that point but they have adopted that mentality and now it’s that fine line of playing really hard, tough, physical football but understanding that these are our teammates and they practicing to get better and I thought they’ve done a nice job so far but I think we can be even more physical at the point of attack so we will continue to work at it.”
— He said that’s a little easier to sell after the way the Holiday Bowl went: “I think it’s a little easier to sell, but ultimately it’s not just about being physical. The best way to be physical is to know what to do and know what your assignment is, so you can play really fast and physical. And the challenge is, if you don’t know that has a tendency to slow you down…or, you play too reckless, and you’re assignment-blown. So the challenge is to teach really, really well so we know what we’re doing, and then we can play fast, physical football. That’s been the task for us, especially early on this spring.”
— Finally, asked if there is yet any difference between Price and Montana, he said: “I’ve seen some things. I’ve seen some areas where we’re doing some things pretty well. I still see some hesitation in our game where we need to improve. The beauty of what I like about it is that we’re improving and we’re not continually making the same mistakes. And that’s a sign of guys wanting to learn and understanding the teachings of what’s going on. And they’ve both shown that now in their time that they’ve been here; the challenge is can they do it in this short amount of time in spring football. And so far, so good.”