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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

April 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Sarkisian post-game press conference notes

Here are UW coach Steve Sarkisian’s comments following today’s spring game:

General Comments: “Just to recap today, I thought it went the way we were hoping to. We got some game-like atmosphere. It was difficult to follow with the jerseys and the special teams situations. All in all it was a good day, I saw some positives in both ways. But some of the things you’re looking for in a game like this – lack of penalties, which there was today, there weren’t a lot of flags. The ability to take care of the football offensively…there was the one turnover today, and it was really a great play by Quinton Richardson getting the strip from Michael Hartvigson.

“All in all, up front defensively I thought Alameda Ta’amu had a terrific game today. He really disrupted the offense for the Huskies. I thought what Keith Price brought today was really effective…not only throwing the football but running the ball.

“With all of that, I thought it was a good day. The two guys that were injured there late in the ball game – (Alec) Kimble and (Erik) Kohler, not serious. Both of which appear to be MCL sprains, which could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks, but not season-threatening by any means – which is always good. You’re always concerned about the injury factor when you play ball games like this.

“In general, from our 15 practices, I think our guys got better as a football team. That’s something we were really trying to focus on – becoming a team. So that when we head into off-season conditioning programs and summer conditioning programs, when we can’t be there as coaches they are so cohesive and we’re so tight that they go do this thing together and form that bond that ultimately puts you in a position to compete for a championship in November and December.

“I thought we did that by changing some things – obviously the way we practice, but if you also notice we voted for captains here yesterday as a team. It was a different formula than we’ve used in the past. We had voted right before the season started, a week before the first ball game. We changed that this year to get our leaders in place, so that we’re getting the proper leadership in the summer conditioning programs and the workouts and whatnot. What’s really cool about that is that it’s voted on by their teammates, their peers. To have the leadership from an Alameda Ta’amu, a Cort Dennison, a Senio Kelemete and a Jermaine Kearse is going to be huge for us in the summer as we move forward, because we are so much of a young football team.

“Although we have quite a bit of experience – guys have played a lot, 16 true freshmen last year – we’re still very young. We’re still learning what it takes – not only on the field, but off the field – to be a championship-caliber football team. And I think those four guys are perfect from a leadership standpoint of showing these guys the way.

“So through it all, I thought it was an extremely productive spring. I thought we got better. There’s a lot of position battles where one guy getting better meant another guy had to get better to continue to compete…and a lot of those battles will rage on as we head in to fall camp. Obviously the one everyone wants to talk about is the quarterback position, but I thought at wide receiver, at linebacker…on the offensive line we have some great battles going. And then we’ll make some decisions here. We’ll be able to go back and really sit back and assess not just today, but the entire body of work over 15 practices, and put some of the pieces to the puzzle in place as we head in to fall camp, and then ultimately put the final, final pieces together when we’re here in August, late August getting ready for Eastern Washington.

On if Keith Price is ahead of the QB battle right now: “I would think so. I thought he played well today. Today wasn’t going to define who is going to be our starting quarterback. It’s a body of work, and it’ll give myself and our offensive staff and coach Nussmeier a chance to really evaluate the entire body of work of 15 practices – where we performed well and where we struggled and what that means and where we’re headed as a program…if it fits the personality of what this football team has. We’ll assess it all, and when the time is right, I’ll make a decision. Until then, I think it’s a great battle, to watch these guys continually compete – and not just against each other, but with themselves…to deal with not just their own play at the moment, but the adversity that can come with it. Maybe they struggle for a day, maybe the other guy has a good day. Maybe they have a couple drops, things of that nature…maybe it’s the weather – whatever that may be. But they have both improved at a high level, and to think that we’ve got a redshirt freshman and a redshirt sophomore competing for this job, and they are playing the way they are – is very encouraging to me.”

On how much Price has improved in five weeks: “Today he was a lot better; yesterday I may not have had the same answer after yesterday’s practice. I thought he played well today, I thought he made good decisions. Both of those guys…after 15 practices, and I think we’ve only thrown six interceptions combined in 15 practices – it’s concerning on the defensive end, but from an offensive perspective, for two young quarterbacks making those kinds of decisions for us right now, that’s going to carry us a long, long ways in the fall as we continue to take care of the football. In a lot of areas we’ve improved; not just this spring, but now for Keith for the past two years, and for Nick an entire year that he’s been here now. There’s a lot of positives there, and there’s things we need to continually get better at if we’re going to be that championship-caliber team at that position.”

On when may make a public decision: “I don’t know. I’ve got some meetings next week, some Pac-10 meetings down in Arizona. Generally when I make decisions like that, I like to get away and step away from it. You can have your own thoughts, and figure out what you want. And then they’ll be conversations when I get back into town. My wife wants me to decide so she doesn’t have to keep getting asked about it, either. We’ll see.”

On Price’s demeanor: “He’s very engaged. Keith’s a very bright young guy. I think he’s a 3.3, 3.4 GPA kid on campus. He’s an engaging kid. He’s very competitive. Bright-eyed, lot of energy – and he loves the game of football – which is what you want.”

On Price looking to put weight on during the summer : “I want him to keep running fast too. We’ll be smart with it, and Ivan will be smart with both those kids. As they mature, both Nick and Keith are naturally going to put on weight. That stuff comes, and I don’t want to force it on them. It’ll naturally come for those guys, but they are both faster than you might think. They showed that today. When they get out of the pocket they can escape and make plays with their legs. I don’t think that’s your first thought when you think about Nick Montana or Keith Price that they can do those things that they do – but they really can. It puts a lot of pressure on a defense when they do that coming out of the pocket.”

On Price ending spring on a strong note: “It always feels good when spring ball ends that way. But that wasn’t going to define our spring either. These games…when you get into a spring game and you’re pretty vanilla on both sides of the ball, and you try not to show everything and do too much, and allow guys to have fun and play with one another – you’d like it to go well, but if it hadn’t gone well, I wouldn’t have felt like the spring was a disappointment. I thought we had a very effective spring. We accomplished a lot of the things we set out to accomplish that hopefully can springboard us through the summer into fall camp.”

On if there are any concerns heading into fall camp: “I think the linebacker thing just because we’ve had so many young guys there right now and a couple even of just absolutely new kids right now with Johnny Timu and Thomas Tutogi, and then without having Princeton Fuimaono and Cooper Pelluer fulltime, that one is a little concerning just because I haven’t seen the whole product and I haven’t seen these guys play to the best of their ability yet. There is still quite a bit of thinking going on. So we’ve got some alternatives obviously with Shirley playing some stuff at outside backer, and then getting to nickel a little quicker than we have in the past. So there are some alternatives there. But hopefully we can solidify that group as we head into fall camp.”

On if he’s worried about the offensive line:Senio (Kelemete) if we are playing a real football game today, he’s playing. That starts the process of it getting cleaned up, and then we’ve just got to finalize a couple of things at left guard and right tackle, but that will come. We’ve got some pretty good options to choose from and with the young group, all of this experience they got, it was almost in a weird way, it was almost a good thing we didn’t have Senio because they got these reps and they weren’t having to sit back and watch and wait and watch these other guys go. They were getting quality reps. So many times you are watching the film and you are watching somebody else. And yeah, we can keep coaching it, but when it is actually you up there on the film taking those reps, you can really learn from it even more. So for an Erik Kohler, a Skyler Fancher, a Micah Hatchie, Ben Riva the first half of the spring before he got injured. They got some real quality reps.”

On Josh Shirley becoming an every down defensive player: “I want him to sack the quarterback, first. He’s really good at that. I want him to be an every down player, of course I do. And I think he is showing that. He is really effective when he’s in that hybrid, standup outside backer, rush end type position. He’s overly effective. He’s dominant when he gets there. But obviously as the game goes on like today, we did some different things, we took Alameda out of the game and had to move some defensive lineman around to where he had to play some actual defensive end for us and he did a nice job. But I know when he’s standing up playing the hybrid outside linebacker spot he’s a tough guy to block in the pass game but he’s also tough in the run game because he’s got so much quickness and strength in the upper body to get off blockers off of him, he makes a lot of plays.”

On his run-stopping ability: “Oh, he can play. I’m not concerned about that.”

On a few guys that jumped out today: “I thought that to start with, I thought Alameda, when the game was going there in the first half, he might have been the most valuable player. He disrupts us so much offensively in the early going, it’s a factor there. When Cort was playing, he had a nice ball game on the defensive side of the ball, and I thought Nate Fellner did some really god things, and that’s the beauty of having two corners like Quinton (Richardson) and Tru (Desmond Trufant) going you look down the middle of our defense, our nose tackle, middle linebacker and free safety, I thought all three of those guys with the ball getting funneled to them made a lot of plays. On the offensive side of the ball I thought Keith had a nice day again today and this is two scrimmages in a row he’s done a nice job. Obviously Cody Bruns, that was a fantastic catch and run there at the end for him. Hard to give a name on the offensive line without looking at the tape but hopefully a guy like Micah Hatchie who it felt like played well, we’ll see.”

On James Johnson having a nice day: “Yeah, he did. A nice touchdown catch there in the corner of the end zone. There are some things, especially with some of our young guys. A guy I’ve been impressed with since the beginning of spring is Kevin Smith. He’s gotten better and better and better at the wide receiver spot. I know statistically it might not have been his best day today but I think throughout the body of work of spring practice he has come on. The key at that position with our young guys is the consistency factor of consistently wanting to dominate at the line of scrimmage. And they get challenged by our guys every day. It’s bump and run, you’ve got to try to get off. So that challenge for a Kevin Smith, a James Johnson, DiAndre Campbell, that’s their challenge to take their game to the next level.”

On Fogerson being motivated by everything that’s happened: “I’d like to think so. I think that is natural. Unfortunately, if you watch him now, he’s still not 100 percent. You can see when he gets into the open field he still doesn’t have that outright burst, and so the Quad it’s been a bit of a nagging injury here still. So that factor of it I think is kind of holding him back some. But I’d like to think he has been motivated. He’s had an opportunity to try to earn his way back on this football team and he’s taking advantage of it.”

On health issues entering fall camp: “We’re really concerned about Chris Robinson, that he reinjured that knee, not kind of getting twisted or turned but fell on it a day in practice about a week and a half ago now and the doctors are concerned and we will have to make a decision here where he is at with his career. I’m hopeful that we get Semisi (Tokolahi) back. All signs are pointing to that we get him back for fall camp. And then Nick Wood is the other one where he is at coming off the surgery to get back. The rest of the guys — Riva, Senio — all of our shoulder guys — Ducre, Taz Stevenson, Princeton, Cooper Pelluer — those guys are all on track to be back for fall camp.”

Sean Parker a concern?: “No, he’s not a concern. Again, we are trying to get 100 percent healthy and not have them bang on that thing and now we are heading into fall camp at 85 percent. Let’s get him to 100 so he can play at 100 percent.”

On who his wife wants to be the quarterback: “She doesn’t tell me. She just wants me to hurry up and make a decision. I think that’s the talk of coffee shop now where she goes in to get her non-fat Vanilla latte, whatever she has.”

On the goal to improve the football IQ in the spring: “I thought it went well. You can gauge some of that in these settings when you get there. We are able to do a little bit more as far as checking things as a football team, whether it’s on offense or defense, and giving them a little more autonomy on the field to make decisions and change calls, to audible out of plays or to audible out of defenses when we’ve got pressures on, or to audible to defenses, understanding the situation. And I think we did a nice job of that. We did a ton of it today and I thought the quarterbacks handled it well and the communication was done really well up front and to the receivers and the backs. So hopefully we can continue down that road. And also understanding the situations of the game, the nuances of the situations of the game and what is happening and where we are at and when trick plays might occur and deep balls and things of that nature. We are continually talking to it and it has been impressive to watch because as coaches we are teachers first and I thought our staff has done a nice job of teaching our guys the nuances of the game of football which will hopefully pay dividends in the end. I don’t know if it’s going to be the difference in our season but hopefully it’s the difference in a game or two because we are playing really smart football.”

On wanting to continue the physicality from the Holiday Bowl: “I thought it went well. There was a big emphasis on it. For those who saw us practice every day, we really put an emphasis on a lot of team settings, there weren’t as many broken up settings, a lot of team run and team pass and brought everybody together and preached the physicality of the way we play and the downfield blocking by receivers and the point of attack by backers taking on fullbacks and tight ends and all of those things and using our hands much better than we ever have in all of those situations including kickoff and kickoff return. All of those things can be even more physical and then that becomes you and it’s a mindset and it becomes you and I think we are on the right path.”

On ex-players being there for the reunion: “Yeah, really cool. So cool to see Mark Brunell back, Dave Hoffmann. I’m going to leave guys out here, but Nigel Burton is coming up from Portland to be here. I just think it sends a great message to our team, the support they have from all the great players and coaches that have been there before them. I think it sends a great message to our fans that the players who built this place our behind what we are doing and like what we are doing, and it’s a way for myself to say thank you to those guys for supporting and building this thing and then supporting us. So all in all it’s been great. We’ve had fantastic turnouts every year and it doesn’t hurt when we get days like this, they will stay out there every day.”

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