In advance of tomorrow’s press conference with the general media, UW coach Steve Sarkisian did an interview with Dave “Softy” Mahler today on the school’s flagship radio station, KJR-AM.
You can listen here.
It’s a lengthy interview — roughly 23 minutes or so — so I won’t be able to repeat everything in this space (the typing skills aren’t in mid-season form yet).
But I’ll try to hit on some of the highlights:
— Sarkisian was asked about position changes and mentioned three specifically — safeties Evan Zeger and Taz Stevenson to OLB type roles, and JC transfer Antavius Sims, thought likely to start out at cornerback, to a running back/slotback role. The moves of Zeger and Stevenson come with UW likely to do more 3-4 stuff on defense — Sarkisian reiterated that they won’t make a wholesale shift to any one specific defense. Sims’ shift comes as the Huskies look to replace the production of Chris Polk in the backfield and with lingering questions about the health of Deontae Cooper — Sarkisian said Cooper will be “very limited” this spring and said he couldn’t say for sure that Cooper will ever return to the field (he’s suffered knee injuries each of the past two years).
— In something that could have more longer-reaching implications, Sarkisian indicated he has a lot more concern about the health of the offensive line than maybe has been realized.
Specifically, he said Colin Tanigawa (knee injury dating to Oregon State game) and Colin Porter (shoulder surgery) are out for the spring, and he said they have to work on “getting Erik Kohler through some of his health issues and getting healthy through the spring.”
Tanigawa’s injury situation seems pretty clear — he has an ACL that will take nine months or so, so he could be back for the season.
Porter’s is less clear — we were told in January he would have surgery, and now comes word that he’s still out. He didn’t elaborate on Kohler so it’s hard to know what the situation is there. But that’s three projected starters that sounds like either won’t be available, or will be limited, in the spring.
Sarkisian said that “we’ve got a few more issues up front than maybe meets the eye initially, so this will be a big, challenging spring for us to get guys in place to really take off come fall.”
Hopefully we’ll get more clarity on that tomorrow. Sarkisian said that Micah Hatchie would start out at left tackle and Ben Riva at right tackle — not sure if that’s along with Kohler or Kohler moving inside or Kohler not playing or what. He mentioned James Atoe and Mike Criste as guys who would get looks at guard.
We don’t have a new roster so I don’t know if there are additions on the OL. But with Kohler, but not Porter and Tanigawa, UW would have 10 OL returning from last year’s roster that would be available for the spring, which includes two walk-ons. UW signed five OLs in February, so there will be reinforcements in the fall, and presumably the return to health of the injured players. But it could be a little thin this spring.
— Sarkisian said QB Keith Price “looks great” and has been 100 percent during all of the off-season conditioning drills.
— Asked about a possible switch to a 3-4 defense, he said “I think we’ll have some principles of both (3-4 and 4-3), quite honestly.” He said they have a lot of guys who can play off the edge that make it make sense to do some 3-4 but that they won’t lose “the 4-3 aspect of it.”
— He mentioned Jarret Finau as one younger player who has had a good off-season, saying he’s up to 265 pounds (he was listed at 254 last year) and he also said Talia Crichton “is healthy again.”
— Asked who replaces Cort Dennison at MLB, he noted the usage of more 3-4 looks and said that changes the equation a little bit where instead of one true middle linebacker there’d be two ILBs. He said John Timu could slide into one of those spots.
— He said Josh Shirley could be used more in a “two-point stance” but that he’d still “get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer.”
— He also said DE Hau’oli Jamora will be out for the spring while rehabbing his knee.
— He said CB Greg Ducre “has had a tremendous off-season” and that Marcus Peters “is poised to really break out and do some special things for us at the corner spot.” He agreed that the secondary is “probably our deepest position on our team that is talented.”
— Asked if he’d be surprised if Shaq Thompson earned a starting job he said “I don’t think it would shock me. He’s doing everything in his power to prepare himself (to start).”
— He said the guy that “might be the MVP of the off-season” is tight end Michael Hartvigson, and his progress could mean using more two tight end stuff this year.
— Asked about Cooper, he said “we are not certain” he will be able to return to playing. He said the rehab process has gone well but that “we want to get him as strong as possible before we put him back out on the field.”
— He also talked about the switch to 8 a.m. practices and said it made sense to stay on the same schedule as the off-season workouts and also get the players a good breakfast to start the day off right and then have classes in the afternoon.