Here’s the official transcript of podium session for UW coach Steve Sarkisian and RB Chris Polk at today’s Pac-12 Media Day:
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, it’s an exciting time to be part of the Pac 12 now. Being two Southern California guys and being raised in this thing when it went from Pac 8 to Pac 10, to Pac 12, it’s just exciting. I think for us as the University of Washington and our program as we’re growing, we couldn’t be in a better conference at you a better time for the exposure needed for us and for this conference.
I think we’ve got a football team that you saw at the end of last season starting to play a brand of football that we believe in. That is one that is physical that believes in running the football and playing sound defense. We’re fortunate to have veteran leadership as we grow.
We’re still a very young football team. We’ve played 16 true freshmen last fall. And we’ve got veteran leaders, Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse, Senio Kelemete. On the defensive side, Alameda Ta’amu, Cort Dennison, Quinton Richardson, and Desmond Trufant.
So we have a nice blend from a veteran standpoint to young talent coming in that we’re evolving and playing a brand of football that we’re proud of and that we believe in.
The challenge for us is to find a consistency level. If you look at us our first two years, we were kind of up and down, and we hit a lull in the middle of the year and we finished pretty strong.
So the challenge for us and for our kids is to find that consistency factor. If we do slip up and lose a ballgame to get back on the horse and play a brand of football that we’re proud of the very next week.
So that’s going to be the challenge. Obviously on the offensive side of the ball replacing Jake Locker is a big challenge for us. We’ve got a great young quarterback in Keith Price who plays a brand of football that is fun, it’s exciting. He’s a kid that comes to work with a smile on his face every day, loves what he does. His players love and respect him.
But the reality of it is we’re not going to be able to rely on that quarterback position like we were able to with Jake for two years. It’s going to be more on relying on Chris, and Jesse Callier of running the ball, then utilizing the one on one matchups on the outside with the Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Kevin Smith, and maybe the emergence of a newcomer in Kasen Williams.
I love where we’re headed. I love the fact that our community is rallying behind a football program and a style of play that they believe in and that they’ve grown up watching under Coach James, and now as we go into 2011, it’s great for the University of Washington to be part of this Pac 12 and where it’s headed.
Q. Chris, with Jake Locker being gone, are you ready to put this team on your back?
CHRIS POLK: It’s not necessarily on my back, because the game of football is not based off individual performances. So if our O line’s not working and the running game’s not working and the passing game’s not working.
So the good thing about having Jake Locker on our team is we know what it takes to be a Top 10 pick, NFL draft pick.
For him, he was a father figure to us on and off the field. So after seeing us model ourselves after him, like we know what’s needed, and we have more leaders now.
So it’s not necessarily just me. It’s all of us. We have more young people step up in key situations.
Q. In terms of injuries is there anybody that when you start on August 8 that won’t be there?
COACH SARKISIAN: No, we’ll have a few guys that might be limited early on. Semisi Tokolahi, Sione Potoa’e might be a little bit limited there.
But for the most part we’re healthy. We look good. Our guys are transforming their bodies and look great. I think Ivan’s done a tremendous job in the summer workouts. These guys have done a great job from a leadership standpoint of preparing our guys.
So from that aspect, we look good, but you never know. As things creep up and we just try to avoid the freaky injuries here as we head into training camp.
Q. How much of the blueprint do you want to continue to follow from the final month of last year into the bowl game, relying on him and playing the defense?
COACH SARKISIAN: I love that blueprint. I think that when you’re running the football and you’re playing sound defense, you give yourself a chance in the fourth quarter to win games, and that’s all you can ask for. This conference is so talented and so well coached, that if we can just be in fourth quarters with games with a chance to win, we’ve got a pretty good horse to ride.
When you’re playing good defense, you’re giving yourself a chance. That’s all. There are going to be games where games take on different dynamics and roles and we’ll have to throw more or run more or whatever that may be, or call a fake punt, or who knows what.
The reality of it is when you’re running the football and playing defense, you have a chance. That’s something that I’ve always believed in, and we’ll continue down that road.
Q. What do you expect of the new members, Colorado and Utah, both present and future?
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, I expect them to play hard. Both coaches, coach Whittingham and Coach Embree are hard nosed guys. They’re going to play hard, they’re going to play physical football. Both of them have pretty rich football traditions, so it’s not like we’re bringing somebody that is just stepping in. You’re talking about a national champion in Colorado. You’re talking about Utah and what they’ve done.
I can go back to Ron McBride, Urban Meyer, and what Coach Whittingham has continued on doing. So two good programs, two tough places to go play. So great additions to the conference in my opinion.
Q. Can you talk a little about the stadium renovation and just the timetable for that, and how that will benefit in recruiting?
COACH SARKISIAN: Well, we’ll play the 2011 season at Husky Stadium. Then our final home game against Washington State we’ll play at CenturyLink Field where the Seahawks play this year. So following our Oregon game in early November, Husky Stadium is coming down as we know it.
Then we’ll play the entire 2012 season at CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium is being rebuilt. It’s an 18 month project that will be underway in November. It will be exciting. There will be some transition obviously involved in that.
But at the end of the day not only for our football program, but our university and our fans it will be great.
Q. How different is it now with Jake being gone?
CHRIS POLK: It’s a lot different. I can’t be the guy in the back anymore. I can’t be quiet. I’m going to have to step up and accept my leadership role, especially with these young guys coming in. I have to really show them the reigns and show them the right thing and what to do in order to become successful.
Q. Coach, one of your opponents’ coaches last season said that on offense you guys were showing more formations than any team he’s ever seen. What extent are you going to tone that down this season with a younger, more experienced quarterback?
COACH SARKISIAN: We just have really smart players like Chris so we’re able to do that fun stuff.
The reality of it is that this game is about having fun for these guys. We love to keep them interested and have fun and coach as well. There is a fine line there. So I don’t know. Week to week you never know what exactly we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it. We don’t vary out of our realm of who we are schematically. If we feel they can handle it, they handle it and we do it. If we don’t, we bag it and move on to something else.
In an odd way I take that as a compliment, and our players should take that as a compliment that we’re able to do so much.