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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

April 12, 2011 at 7:45 PM

Tuesday practice notes — A day for the defense

UW coach Steve Sarkisian wanted the offense to score at least once during a practice-ending overtime session Tuesday.

But after four possessions netted nary a first down and barely a yard — and were all capped by missed field goals — he resorted to desperate measures.

After the fourth miss, he grabbed linebacker John Timu — who did some kicking in high school, placed the ball at the 10, and held. Timu then kicked the ball through the goal posts, finally ending the seventh of 15 practices this spring.

Asked why he did that, Sarkisian said “I wanted practice to be over. … We were in overtime and we couldn’t move the ball and we couldn’t make a field goal so we let a defensive player kick it and he made it.”

In fact, three of the misses were by backup kicker Eric Guttorp as Erik Folk hadn’t been properly warmed up (though one of Guttorp’s misses appeared to be blocked). Folk then missed the last one, just wide right. All were from 42 yards or beyond as the offense couldn’t move — the ones getting two chances against the one defense, and the twos getting two chances against the two defense.

“I’m glad he made it,” Sarkisian said. “If he missed, I would have called on someone else. Maybe I would have kicked it next. We had our field goal session earlier, and I wanted Erik Folk to get warmed up, and he wasn’t warm yet. And they weren’t easy field goals; we kind of kept going backwards in that period.”

The OT session was indicative of the way the defense appeared to dominate all day, however.

The defense also prevented the offense from moving much during a session that preceded the OT period, a situational drill in which the ball was placed at the offense’s own 2-yard-line. The offense didn’t move past its own 47 in four tries, the No. 1 offense gaining just one first down in its two shots.

The No. 1 OL is obviously a little short-handed right now with Senio Kelemete likely out the rest of the spring with his plantar fascia injury. Erik Kohler again played left tackle in an alignment that has four starters from the OL Class of 2010 — Colin Porter and Colin Tanigawa at guard and Ben Riva at RT, with the only real veteran being Drew Schaefer at center.

So it makes some sense that the defense might have the edge there, especially up front.

Sarkisian said he wasn’t concerned by the play of the offense, saying: “Those days are going to come. I thought our defense played well. I don’t know if they did anything overly special. They just didn’t make mistakes. They played sound, they had good gap integrity, they didn’t give up the deep ball. They had their hands on a lot of other passes. The offense kind of kept shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and different things, and I thought the defense did a really nice job at the line of scrimmage in the run game, and pressured the quarterback in third-down situations. All in all, they had a nice day.”

In unofficial stats in those two full-contact sessions, Keith Price was 1-6 for five yards and Nick Montana 5-10 for 33 yards. (And I should add Price worked with the ones throughout, Montana the twos). UW had 53 yards rushing on 16 carries led by Johri Fogerson with 25 on six (he got a lot of work with Jesse Callier out with a minor sprained ankle and Chris Polk getting limited action). There were also two first-down penalties on the offense that helped stall drives. (James Johnson was the leading receiver with three catches for 20 yards.)

Sarkisian said he thought the defensive line “had probably their best day. And it starts with Alameda (Ta’amu) in the middle, but then it’s really about Everrette (Thompson). Everrette provides a great deal of leadership for those guys, especially our younger players Hau’oli (Jamora), Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson, Lawrence (Lagafuaina)…so those two big guys in the middle can really kind of anchor things down. It creates a tough matchup for anybody, and especially for our offense today.”

He threw out specific praise for Ta’amu saying: “This was far and away Alameda’s best practice. He was really disruptive. He hurt us in the run game, and what he’s able to do in the pass game, he collapses the pocket to the point where the quarterback has a difficult time stepping up, and it flattens out. Now our edge speed guys, the Shirleys, Jamoras and Hudsons of the world can really come off the edge and be effective.”

As for the offensive line, Sarkisian said: “I’d like to think we’ve got a little bit more physical, a little bit more nastiness to us. It didn’t quite play out that way today. But we’ll be OK, we’ll bounce back. I’d like to think that we have enough mass, but also enough athleticism – and then a real aggressive nature about us. These guys have that offensive mentality that you like to have, and they are really jelling and coming together that way.”

Sarkisian said the OL would probably look better right now if Kelemete were healthy. But he said a silver lining is that a lot of the younger guys are getting some good experience.

“Senio has played a lot of football,” Sarkisian said. “In a perfect world I would love to have him every practice. But the reality of it is we have a lot of young offensive linemen who need these valuable reps of running our offense. They got some good reps in bowl preparation and now they are getting some more of really running our offense and not reading stuff off of a card. So through it all these reps are going to be valuable for us, not only now but when fall camp rolls around because they will get another installment of running out stuff. So I’m okay with that. Senio, it’s not serious to me so I’m okay with him not being there.”

He said having to shuffle the OL now is good preparation for dealing with what could happen during the season.

“We’d all like just to have five guys play the whole time and that’s it,” he said. “But the reality is you have to contingency plan and that’s part of it. I think Erik Kohler’s got a bright future and could be a potential starting left tackle in this conference and we are finding out his strengths right now and some of the things he needs to work on at that left tackle spot because I don’t know, the first play of the year Senio could get hurt and we are going to need a left tackle so Senio is getting that work now.”

And obviously, this is also a UW team attempting to find a new leader after the departure of Jake Locker. Sarkisian said the personality of the offense remains a work in progress.

“I’d like to see a little bit more leadership start to emerge on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “I think we’re talented, I think we have a really cohesive group, a group that’s together. I’d like to see a couple of our veteran guys emerge and instill their will on the group a little more. That’s something that hopefully we can manufacture some as we move a little further into spring now that we’re at the half-way point.”

Asked who could emerge as offensive leaders, he said: “I’d like to think our veteran guys. Obviously it’s not great not having Senio out there, because he provides some of that. But I’d like to think the Drew Schaefers, the Jermaine Kearses, the Devin Aguilars, the Chris Polks of the world who have played quite a bit of football for us, could be those guys. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be them. Natural leadership will come when we decide on a quarterback, and that quarterback can provide that. And some of our younger players I think have some real leadership qualities about them, and that will come with time. As coaches, we want things to happen sooner rather than later.”

IN OTHER NEWS. …

Zach Fogerson also sat out the end of the team session after a bump to the head. Sarkisian said it didn’t appear serious and it was precautionary to hold him out.

— As for the play of the QBs today, he said: “We have to understand the difference between 7-on-7’s and team period, where we’re at with field position, and all the things that come with it. It’ll come, and they’ll learn it. Those two kids have come a long, long way. I’m not as concerned with the long haul of that; as any coach would be, I want to fix it. That’s part of coaching, so we have to continue to battle to fix it.”

Chris Robinson got a lot of work at DT with the No. 1 defense, rotating with Sione Potoa’e. Michael Hartvigson appeared to get most of the reps with the No. 1 TEs during the team session.

— Timu again seemed to get the lion’s share of the work with the ones at SLB with Garret Gilliland at WLB and Cort Dennison in the middle.

— Safety Sean Parker worked without a red jersey early but had one on later. Sarkisian said Parker is getting more than enough work this spring: “He’s getting so many valuable reps. I want him, when we come back for fall camp, to be 100 percent so he can really go – but we’re putting him in all our team settings that aren’t live, and he’s getting great reps. He’s really practicing well, because that’s a hard thing to do. You’re in there, and the natural instincts of a football player is to want to be physical, and he’s a physical guy by nature. Credit to him for practicing the way he’s been practicing, and credit to the other guys – especially on the offense – for understanding the situation he’s in and not hitting him. I’m not as concerned. My bigger concern is to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy when we come back for fall camp and as we start heading into the season.”

— Sarkisian went on to say that Parker “looks great. He’s come a long, long way. He really has. To his credit, he did a nice job of being an understudy to Nate Williams, who was a very bright player for us, and is really working at studying the game and understanding that there’s more to it than just knocking someone out. To his credit, he’s come a long way.”

— Asked about Parker’s “brand of leadership” Sarkisian said: “I’m going to hold back on that one, because I still think we haven’t seen all of his leadership yet. I think he’s learning his way and feeling his way. I think his leadership will come. I think he’s a very confident kid, he’s very bright. He’s very accustomed to winning; he comes from an extremely successful program in Narbonne. As we move forward, we’ll see more of his leadership emerge, but at this point he’s more concerned at getting better himself and just doing his job really well.”

All for now.

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