UW’s last full practice before its Pac-12 opener Saturday against Cal is complete.
And participating fully was quarterback Keith Price, who is battling two sore knees but appears to be getting better in the eyes of UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
“Yeah, it’s been a really good week for him, I thought,”’ Sarkisian said. “From where he was last week and injuring his other knee, to coming back this week – I actually think he looked better Wednesday than he did a Wednesday ago, and again Thursday compared to last Thursday. He almost looks better. Part of that is the comfort level as his body’s adjusting and he’s getting used to being a little banged up…I just think his body is healing a little quicker.”
Sarkisian said the switch in leg braces from right to leg may actually be helping.
“I think that’s what’s making him even stronger is that the original injury was on his right leg, which is his plant leg at the top of his drop, and then driving to throw,” Sarkisian said. “So now with it being on his left leg, I actually think it’s making it better for him. The strengthening of his right knee is getting back to normal, and so the left knee…we’re dealing with that, so from an outright strength standpoint, he’s getting a lot better because of that.”
Price won’t be limited in any way, Sarkisian said.
“Yeah, there’s nothing we didn’t put in because we didn’t think he could do it,” Sarkisian said. “So we feel good about it. … I’m sure he’ll still be limited some still. He knows his body and he knows what he’s capable of and not capable of. He’s going to run and he’s going to have some scrambles, and he’s going to get us a couple of first downs with his feet…I don’t know if we’re going to have an 80-yard touchdown out of him, but the reality of it is – he’s healthy enough to go, he’ll be OK.”
In other personnel news, Sarkisian said Nate Fellner “really made a lot of progress” and will likely be available on Saturday, however Taz Stevenson will likely not be.
Justin Glenn, however, will likely again get the start at free safety.
“I think Justin would start, just because of the amount of reps he’s gotten, but I wouldn’t rule out Nate playing, especially if it’s warm like it’s planning on being Saturday, and being able to rotate a few more guys at a lot of spots,” Sarkisian said.
And Jesse Callier has responded well and will be good to go Saturday.
“He looks good,” Sarkisian said. “I thought Jesse looked great today, and not just in the return game but in a lot of facets of the game. We’re counting on him in a lot of different spots. When he’s not in there, it takes its toll on us – not just on offense and returns, but he’s tremendous on kickoff coverage and he’s good on punt coverage stuff and different things. So it hurts when he’s not there, so it’s good to have him back.”
You can watch some of Sarkisian’s meeting with the media in the video below, with some more notes following:
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IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Sarkisian said Kasen Williams will be one of the starting kickoff returners this week along with Kevin Smith.
— Asked to assess Cal’s defense, he said: “Physical. Physical, man. Geez. When you look at our conference, I’d say them and USC are probably the most physically dominant-looking teams on film up front, their front seven. They are long, they come off the football with good pad level, they use their hands extremely well, and there are a lot of them. It’s not just a couple of guys – they are deep.”
— Cort Dennison has been limited in practice this week but Sarkisian said that was by design: “What we did was limit some of his stuff this week in practice. We held him out of our inside run drills to try and take some of the pounding off of him, and some of our team setting stuff. He feels good; his body comes back. It’s just the grind of a football season playing middle linebacker. You’re going to be sore, and you learn to play sore. And you learn to love playing sore. That’s why we play the game.” He said on Saturday that Dennison will “cut it loose and go.”
— Asked about Desmond Trufant and Greg Ducre being the gunners on the punt team, he said: “I think the first thing is you’ve got to find guys that can release. So much of being a gunner is can you get off jam and bump-and-run coverage and receivers are the ones that practice that most of the time and not corners, so when we started preaching it and practicing at it Des and Greg were excellent at it. And then the second thing you have to have is speed, if you can’t really run it’s hard to get down there. And then you’ve got to have the want to do to that job. You’ve got to want to get down there and be willing to go down there and make a play and run. It’s a 40-yard dash and those two guys are obviously are two fastest kids on the team and they are willing and they are tough and they have made for a lot of exciting plays this year, that’s for sure. And not always on our end as we learned last week, but the first three games they have been active and they’ve caused turnovers and they’ve had a real impact on the ball games.”
— Asked which one of those two is faster he said: “Oh man, I don’t know. I’d like to see them race, actually, that would be a pretty good one.”
— The weather is supposed to be nice again Saturday and Sarkisian said: “I’ll take it. I wouldn’t mind a little wind, it kind of plays into our favor a little bit in this stadium when the wind picks up and we are so accustomed to it. But we’ll take it. It’s great for our fans, Saturday afternoon, sunshine, can’t ask for much more than being in Husky Stadium and barking.”
— He said an announcement of which walk-ons have been put on scholarship for this year will be made next week.
— He also said all true freshmen that have yet to play are now almost certain to redshirt, adding that: “I think we are pretty clear. And now those guys who have played some are on the come, I think. I think Bishop Sankey, I think this was his best week of practice maybe since training camp, which is a good thing, and Danny Shelton, same thing. It’s unfortunate James Sample is still hindered by his shoulder injury that hasn’t allowed him to get out there as much so those guys that have been going have been playing and have been productive. Oddly enough you see some kids you were planning on redshirting and they have really grown and done some nice things these past two weeks now that they are accustomed to doing it and you have to hold back the urge to play them because we can benefit down the road from it, but our young freshmen kids have really improved and they are getting going.”
— Asked who some of the true freshmen who have impressed of late are, he said: “The biggest one that jumps out at me is Travis Feeney. I think he is just a fantastic prospect for us and has done a lot of nice things. Jamaal Jones I think has done a lot of nice things for us and is starting to mature for us that way of what it takes to play at this level. Jarett Finau, Tani Tupou — I’ve been very encouraged by this group.”
— He also confirmed that Nick Holt (the player, not the coach) has moved back to linebacker: “Yeah, what we did is when we switched Timmy Tucker over to fullback we left (Holt) over at linebacker.”
— Asked about the prospects for the defense this week, he said: “I feel good. Historically we have played well against this group, we played pretty well last year down at this place, played really well two years ago here at this place, so I feel good about our knowledge of what they like to do and how we can fit up against that.”
— Asked how the team has responded this week to a few more challenges from the coaches, he said they’d responded the way he hoped: “Sure, sure. And that’s one of the most redeeming qualities of this group. Everything we have ever challenged them with or anything we have ever asked them to do, they have been extremely willing, and I’m so thankful for that because I don’t think it’s that way everywhere around the country. We’ve got a great group of kids that have been willing to do whatever we have asked them to do and on every front, wherever we have challenged them, they have responded, so I would expect them to respond to this one as well.”
— Finally, the school says it has distributed 57,800 tickets for the Cal game.