The coaches and players have departed the Fox Studios, where today’s Pac-12 Media Day was held — coaches headed east for the rest of the conference’s media blitz, players headed back home.
Which also means it’s time to clear out the notebook with a few more notes and quotes from UW coach Steve Sarkisian as he addressed a number of different issues concerning the 2011 Huskies:
— Sarkisian said he was just fine with the Huskies being picked to finish third in the Pac-12 North. “I didn’t think we’d be any higher,” he said. “To think that Stanford and Oregon are two top five teams in America, where we are at, the simple answer is that we are getting some respect from the media not just in our area but around the conference. But the reality of it is it doesn’t mean a whole lot — we have to go play the games so I don’t think for us the outside predictions are going to affect our expectations within, so we’ll just try to grow and continue to get better.”
— The one real piece of news today from the UW camp is that backup center Daniel Kancugowski will be ineligible for the season, which Sarkisian said “is unfortunate because he kind of had earned his way. Outside of that, we are waiting on one young man to enroll, Antavius Sims. But the rest of our young kids are here and looking good.”
Sarkisian said he remains hopeful Sims will make it in, but that it’s not a done deal. “He’s on track but as we well know with JC players it usually comes down to that last day so we will wait until the very end and hopefully he is part of our football team.”
Asked how the team will handle losing its backup center, Sarkisian said: “Really, halfway through spring we put Colin Porter there to have him ready. The reality is you travel and go to games and you could have as little as eight offensive linemen, so one of your five needs to play it anyway, so Porter is the logical guy that would be doing that.”
And he said he’s not too worried about the depth on the offensive line. “I don’t think so. The reality of it is we’ve got a lot of young players that have really emerged up front and have grown. It’s great to have Senio (Kelemete) back healthy with his leadership, and so the question is the fitting of (Erik) Kohler and Porter, where does (Ben) Riva fit, (Colin) Tanigawa, (Mike) Criste, those types of guys. But I love (Drew) Schaefer, I love Kelemete and what they’ve done. It’s just a matter of some of these young guys stepping up.”
For now, Sarkisian said he sees Kohler settling in at tackle — he was listed at both right tackle and left guard exiting the spring.
“I would imagine him being at tackle and that’s where we will start him in fall camp, but we’ll see,” Sarkisian said.
— Sarkisian talked at more length about the team’s running back situation, which took a hit in depth over the off-season with the loss of Zach Fogerson for his career to concussion issues and Deontae Cooper for the season due to a knee injury.
Sarkisian said he doesn’t think the team needs to move anyone to add depth there.
“I thought coming out of spring that Jonathan Amosa had an excellent spring so we feel good about what he’s doing,” he said. “The addition of Dezden Petty is going to help solidify some things there. And now with the ability to go to some more two-tight end sets with Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Michael Hartvigson, Evan Hudson, Marlion Barnett, I feel good about utilizing that there, as well. That’s kind of the beauty of this system is based on the personnel we can make this thing fit.”
Cooper’s loss will put a little more of an onus on Jesse Callier to serve as a complement and backup to Chris Polk. And that will mean a little pressure on Callier to play well all season.
Sarkisian said he thought Callier had a “good” spring but that “when I assessed his season, he really came on the first three quarters of the season and almost had a little bit of, he had a nice run against UCLA but the last three games weren’t his best games of the year, and that’s challenging on a true freshman. You are playing and playing and playing and you can wear down a little mentally and physically at the end of the year. And so hopefully with this off-season and the conditioning program we can count on him for 13 games to be that complement to Chris and in the return game and the fly sweeps and catching the ball out of the backfield because he is a very valuable player to what we do.”
He said he thinks Callier could see more time at tailback this year, but also continue to get on the field in other ways. “We need to expand his other stuff as well because he’s so good at it. He’s a unique talent,” he said. “The opening kickoff he’ll probably be the guy who runs down and makes the tackle, too, because he’s that kind of a football player.”
— Asked about the quarterback position, Sarkisian said that Keith Price “is our starter” but that competition will be ongoing throughout camp. “Keith is our starter and he will go into training camp as our starter,” he said. “But I’m going to give Nick Montana opportunities to battle and compete, and we need him to. If things go accordingly to plan, Keith should be pushed daily by Nick and that should make Keith a better player which in turn should make us a better team. The reality of it all is that we are probably going to need both of those guys before the end of the season, so we will give Nick opportunities with the ones throughout training camp and if Keith doesn’t respond, sure Nick could easily beat him out.”
As for the depth behind that, UW will have incoming frosh Derrick Brown with Sims able to play some there as well, if needed. “Antavius could easily fit in there in specific roles,” Sarkisian said. “But the reality of it is if we are playing more than three quarterbacks we are probably not going to be very good.”
— As was obvious exiting spring, the linebacking spots sandwiching Cort Dennison remain wide open. But Sarkisian said that getting Cooper Pelluer and Princeton Fuimaono back on the field after missing the contact portion of spring with shoulder injuries will help settle matters.
“It clears a lot of things,” he said. “We need to get Princeton reps to see what it looks like. He played well for us last year. It will be interesting to see Johnny Timu now that he has come out of spring ball and what he feels like at backer and how he has grown, and then Garret Gilliland and Jordan Wallace — we’ve got a lot of bodies there and we’ve got to sort through it to make sure we are getting consistency at the position.”
— He said UW will continue to experiment with the the five-man fronts with Josh Shirley as a rush end opposite Hau’oli Jamora that worked so well at times during the spring. I like when those two guys are out there — it feels good to us. But it’s got to fit schematically all the time. We are going to see it, no doubt about it. But how much is going to be the question and how Josh can evolve at that spot. But we’ve definitely recruited that way to become that kind of a team. We’ve got a lot of long, rangy guys that can play that way coming off the edge.”
— Sarkisian said safety Sean Parker should be ready for the start of fall camp after sitting out the contact portion of spring drills with a stinger. “He’s in the same boat as all of those guys with the shoulder from last year. Greg Ducre, Taz Stevenson, Princeton Fuimaono, Cooper Pelluer — those guys are going to wait until right before the start of camp. But he’ll be cleared and he should be ready to go. He looks great, all the reports I’m getting. They should all be ready to go from day one.”
— Here’s what he said about the sprained knee of DT Sione Potoa’e, that could have him limited when camp starts. “He’ll be fine but we just have to let the swelling go down. Just want to monitor him at the beginning of camp so he is fresh and ready when we are rolling.”
— He said that the school is attempting to get a sixth year of eligibility for PK Erik Folk, who missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons with injuries. If Folk gets it, then UW can delay for another year signing another kicker. “We’re trying to (get it),” Sarkisian said. “No, I think it’s a process that takes time so you’d like to know sooner rather than later but it’s a little bit out of our hands.”
He said the school is also “hopeful” of getting a medical redshirt year for RB Johri Fogerson after he missed all but the opener last season. “We’re hopeful of that,” he said. “I think he’s got to get to playing this fall before he can go down that road is the way that works.”
— Sarkisian said morning practices during fall camp will be closed this year — they had been open his first two seasons. “There’s some things I want to work on intimately,” he said. “It’s the same as our walkthroughs that are closed, it will be the same way.” All other fall camp practices will be open, he said.
— He also said the team will work out more on the East practice field, which recently got new turf. UW will have to use that field almost exclusively to practice in 2012 (along with Dempsey Indoor) due to the renovation of Husky Stadium. “We’ll be on the East field a little bit more (this fall),” he said. “That has a new turf on it so there will be more team settings on the east field instead of always being in the stadium. That will be the only real change.”
— Finally, he noted that he’ll have to spend a little time working with his players in camp on the new celebration rules (explained here). He said he’s “not the biggest fan of the rule. It’s a hard one. Not sure how you call it. It could have such a big impact in a ball game. I can’t worry about that (too much), there are so many other factors of the game that are concerning. We’re going to coach it and show examples and at the end of the game, man, a guy slows down because there’s nobody around they throw a flag? … It’s going to be fascinating. I hope we’re not the brunt of it. Maybe one of our opponents. Tell LaMichael James to highstep or something, I don’t know.”