Here are the quotes and some video of Steve Sarkisian’s press conference today to preview spring football.
Though first I’ll highlight a few quick personnel notes:
— FB Tim Tucker has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.
— RB Johri Fogerson is not currently on the roster and his status for the future is uncertain. Sarkisian said he may graduate this spring and be done with UW football, and that his injuries are also an issue. Fogerson could try to play somewhere else, as well.
— LB Cooper Pelluer will also get used some as an H-back type though he also is coming off a shoulder injury.
— Sarkisian elaborated on Colin Porter’s injuries to say that he has had surgery on both shoulders this off-season. He said it is hoped he can return for the season. Colin Tanigawa is also out with a knee injury and Erik Kohler will be limited with what Sarkisian said is “nagging off-season stuff” from the grind of last season. So the OL will be down to 10 healthy players to start out the spring, which includes two walk-ons. There’s more in the quotes below on Sarkisian’s concern about the OL and who will be the starters at the beginning of spring ball.
Here’s video of some of the press conference, with full quotes below:
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“Well, it’s good to be back to football time. Obviously a lot has transpired here in the last few months; to get back to a point now where we can get back onto the field is exciting. I’m excited for our kids. I’m excited for a lot of our young players to get their opportunities to see how far they’ve come and grown. I’m excited to work with some new coaches on our staff and to actually get on the field with them and interact with them in a coaching setting.
“All in all, I think it’s been a good off-season for us up to this point. Ivan Lewis has done a tremendous job in strength and conditioning to get our guys prepared for this moment. I wish we were, quite honestly, a little bit more healthy than we are coming into spring ball. That was part of the reason for pushing it back as far as we did; to try and maximize our rehab, to get as many players back as we could – if not at the start of spring ball but maybe in the middle of spring ball to get some guys back going.
“A lot of the youth on this football team that we’ve spoken about for the last year or so, this is a great opportunity for them for 15 practices to come out and show how far they’ve come and improved – not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and their maturity level. This team is probably athletically one of our – if not our most athletic team at a lot of our skill positions…now we have to get the discipline of being an athlete to now become a detailed football player, a physical football player and a physical football team.
“That being said, they’ll be some guys that will be out. Hau’oli Jamora is out for spring football practice still with recovering from the knee injury. I do anticipate him being there and being active, not just won’t participate the way we would like. But his rehab looks great. Semisi Tokolahi will be out. He had a surgery with his foot in the off-season that had been nagging him through all of last season. Hopefully this will be the last of those surgeries, and to get him back 100 percent by the fall would be great. Travis Feeney had shoulder surgery at the end of last season. He’ll be non-contact. You’ll see him in our typical red non-contact jersey. All of the non-contact drills and different things he’ll be part of; he just won’t be able to hit. James Sample, he’s in the same boat. He had the shoulder surgery late in the season, so those two guys will look similar out there in their red jerseys, but a chance to get out and to compete and to perform and all those things…
“Cooper Pelluer, you’ll see some on the offensive side of the ball as well as defense. Looking at him at that H-Back, Fullback spot…but he’s coming off a bit of a shoulder injury, so he’ll be limited from a contact standpoint. Hopefully we can get him back sooner, rather than later. Erik Kohler will be limited some early on with some nagging off-season stuff from the grind of playing an entire season, so he’ll be limited. Colin Porter will be out this spring, having both shoulders operated on that have been troublesome for him for the past year or so…hopefully we can get him back in time for the season. Colin Tanigawa will be out on the offensive line coming off his knee injury at the end of the year as well.
“A couple other things of note…Deontae Cooper is a guy that has been back doing some running activities. I just don’t want to push it with him to get him out there and make some unnecessary cuts…I’d rather just get him as healthy as possible for training camp, so you won’t see much of him. Johri Fogerson won’t participate in spring at all. Kevin Smith is the other one that will be out, obviously with the knee injury from the bowl game. The mission for him is to get back to fall camp as healthy as he can to be ready to go.
“A lot of guys nicked up, a lot of guys out that have experience for us; there’s always two ways of looking at that. One is that those guys aren’t getting the reps that they’d normally be getting from a spring football perspective, but it leads to great opportunities for a lot of younger guys on our roster that are deserving of that. Hopefully when fall camp rolls around, the added reps they get in spring – with the addition of these guys coming back off their injuries – should make for a very deep football team, probably the deepest football team that we’ve had. That part…I’m not excited about the injuries, but I think we can find some positives that we can grow from.
“The AM practices…it just seemed like a natural fit for us. All off-season, we train our guys in the morning. Our big guys lift and run at 6 o’clock in the morning, the next group comes at 8, the next group comes at 10. I just felt that it was natural to keep the timing for our guys the same way. For some reason I just never figured out why…we come in all off-season at 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock in the morning, and then when spring ball rolls around we make ’em practice at 4:15 in the afternoon. Studies show that’s supposed to be our sharpest in mind and body, so we’ll see how it goes. You’re always evaluating every aspect of the program, and this is one we’re looking at. A real credit to our Student-Athlete Academic Services Department in working with our class schedules to make this work and keeping guys all there for practice and then having guys go to school in the afternoon.
“We also shortened spring ball one week this year. As opposed to five weeks, we shortened it to four weeks. We were able to push spring ball back one more week, where we would have normally started last week coming right off of spring break gave our guys one more week of conditioning with Ivan and his crew. In turn, it keeps it a little more fresh with us. So we’ll go three days the first week of spring practice, and then four days the following three weeks, with the only back-to-back days being Friday-Saturday, with Friday being a little bit of a lighter workout, as opposed to Monday, Wednesday, Saturdays.
“We’ll continue with the tradition of going over to Memorial Stadium for a practice there the third Saturday of spring ball. I think it’s great for our fans to see our guys really work and compete. And then finish up with the Spring Game of what we can – we’ll see how we do it from an injury standpoint – at Century Link Field. Those will be the two open practices for our fans. Is it ideal for me to close practice? No. I think spring football is a great opportunity for fans to be part of Husky Football and to be out and have that excitement in the air. But unfortunately – fortunately, but unfortunately – we’re a little bit limited from a field-space standpoint with the renovation to Husky Stadium – which is going awesome. It’s unbelievable how much they’ve been able to get done in such a short amount of time. But when you get on the east field when we practice over there, and there’s just not a lot of room. The last thing I want to be doing is telling people to get back, stay back and not coaching our guys. So we’ll maximize the opportunities we get at Memorial and Century Link from a fan’s standpoint, and you guys just have to do a really good job of reporting what’s going on so our fans can stay involved.”
On being excited about the start of spring: “I’m pumped. I can’t wait. I wish we went today. I can’t believe I have a Saturday and Sunday, I was joking: what am I going to do with myself? My son’s got a belt test in Tae-Kwan-Do tomorrow, so hopefully he earns his belt, we’ll find out. But there’s excitement in the air, sure. I’m pumped about it. I think that this team has had a great offseason. There’s a little bit, still, of a bad taste in their mouth from the bowl game, which is not a bad thing. What they had to work on to get right, to get better. There’s a lot to prove on people’s minds right now in our building, as far as coaches, coaches to coaches, coaches to me, me to our players, our players to each other. There’s a lot of I want to go out and show who we are and what we’re about. That’s a great feeling to have. And when you have that feeling, you want to get out there sooner rather than later.”
On what he has learned about the new defensive coaches: “Good question. I have learned a lot. I think a couple things I was hoping for have come true: Tremendous communicators, not only with one another and with me but with our student-athletes as well as with recruits; very detail-oriented, very diligent in their works; I think they think of the player first, which is a great trait to have as a coach. What I mean by that is, I think — we’ll come to find out — I think this will be a very player-friendly system where they can go out and operate and play fast and play physical, and allow some of our younger players to get involved earlier in their careers. And I think they’ve got a real energetic style about them that hopefully fits what we are about. There are some things that I’ve learned, and there some things that I will learn a great deal more as we actually get on the field and I get to see them in person. I’ve gotten a little bit of a feel for how they are like around the office and things in recruiting, but everyone’s got a personality on the field. And that’s going to start to come out, and then we will get a better gauge on where to tailor our team and where we are headed.”
On who starts on the OL with the guys who are out this spring: “Well, we are going to move some guys around, which we like to do in spring ball to get some guys experience in some spots. See where our versatility may be, and not just pigeon-hole guys. A guy we might think is a tackle, is a tackle, is a tackle, we throw him in at guard and he performs really well. (Micah) Hatchie will start out at left tackle. Dexter Charles at left guard. Drew Schaefer will be at center. At right guard will be James Atoe. And at right tackle will be Ben Riva. Now there’s some real opportunities there for a Mike Criste, (Sio)sifa Tufunga — I’d be remiss if I was leaving a couple other guys out. But I know there is some real opportunity for guys to move around and do some things to show how far they’ve come. I think we’ll be OK. We’ll be, as I like to say, more ‘multiple’ on the offensive line. You’ll even see some of Schaefer out at tackle like we did a few years ago, because of the versatility he has there, as well. So, is it ideal not to have Porter and Tanigawa and a not-100-percent Erik Kohler? No. But I think this will help us, in a sense. It’s a great opportunity for Drew Schaefer to really assume a leadership role up front for him this spring. So there’s some real benefits to it, but not ideal.”
On how much more of a focus there is on fundamentals in the spring with all the new coaches: “Well, it’s completely. We are starting at ground zero on the defensive side of the ball. That goes without saying. We have to teach every aspect from it, from stance and start and alignment and assignment, then our effort and all of those things. And then eventually, execution. I think offensively, we’ve got some pieces in place already. Obviously with Keith Price and Austin (Seferian-Jenkins) and Kasen (Williams) and Schaefer. We know about Jesse (Callier), and those types of things. But we can’t only coach to those guys that are already here and not coach to the guys that are building to that point. So there’s kind of a two-way street there. We have to continue to improve the players that have a great deal of experience for us, but also make sure our fundamentals of techniques are right with guys that are just stepping into these roles and playing. So, a little bit of a balancing act for us in that way, but that’s what spring ball is about, you know. There’s a lot of things in a lot of guys’ games and holes that we want to fill to make them the best that they can be.”
On new philosophies on defense coming together: “I think it’s working together. That’s the one thing, again, that I really appreciate about the guys we have on staff, that they are great communicators. They work well with one another to ensure the fact that we aren’t doing so much offensively that they can’t get the defense taught, but yet still pushing our offensive players. Still pushing Keith Price to make him the best player that he can be. So you just have to have a balancing act. You have to work with one another and be on the same page. This isn’t about offense and defense. For us in spring ball, this is about us getting better as a football team.”
On who stood out during off-season conditioning: “Yeah, I think Michael Hartvigson had an awesome offseason. As we saw Austin going and doing his thing on the hoop team, Harvy was working at it so we’ve got a pretty good two-headed monster at that position that we’re excited about offensively that could change up philosophically some of what we become and where we go. That guy, Greg Ducre I thought had a great offseason, Marcus Peters, Jarett Finau, Josh Shirley another good offseason for him. I think Johnny Timu looks good so a lot of guys. I hate to single out one of two and I feel bad for the guys that I’m missing on but a couple guys really jumped out. I think Harvy probably the biggest, just such a change in his body. You have to remember his freshman year two years ago, he had that shoulder surgery that really limited his lifting last offseason but this offseason being healthy, I think, really helped him.”
On if it feels like this is typical of spring with all the changes: “I don’t know. There’s new stuff going on. The field, the time, the new coaches and I think there’s plenty of newness in this thing that makes it feel fresh, makes it feel alive, makes it feel, I think, there’s a bit of excitement in the air but yet, a little bit of anxiety in the air quite honestly. I think guys are anxious to get on the field and get going. They want to prove to their new coaches that they can play. Guys want to earn spots, but that’s what spring ball is about. I’m excited, shoot, I’ve got five new coaches I get to work with that I haven’t been on the field with before. For me, this is kind of refreshing in a sense that, I’ve still got to coach but yet I want to learn, I want to understand, I want to coach some of our coaches on things, the way we do things, the way I’d like things to be done so it’s a big spring on a lot of fronts that way because I want to make sure when we come back in fall camp that we’re really a well oiled machine when we hit that field come August.”
On the RB position with Chris Polk gone: “We’ll see. When I took the job a couple years ago, whenever that was – I can’t believe this is Year 4, by the way, unreal – I had been so accustomed to a two-headed monster at the running back position. And we had the luxury here for three years with Chris of having that guy who could carry the load as a feature back. But I’m not opposed, by any means, of going back to having multiple backs back there. But we have to see what these guys can really do. Can Jesse Callier carry the ball 25 times? Or is it Jesse and Bishop (Sankey)? Or can Antavius Sims really be a tailback? We have to figure a lot of things out. That’s kind of the excitement: What is this really going to look like? You have an opportunity, and you have a plan, and you think you know, but there is such a change that a kid can make, and now there’s a real opportunity. We’ll see how Jesse Callier looks without Chris Polk on the field. Can he really take a hold of this thing? What does Bishop Sankey look like now, heading into Year 2, an explosive back? What does an Antavius Sims look like when he’s seven yards back there and not catching a shotgun snap like he was at quarterback; getting a handoff, can he be the same runner? Can Deontae Cooper get healthy, healthy enough to help us in the fall? What does Dezden Petty look like now as a big back for us with the opportunity to do those things? We’ll see. The luxury we have is we’re accustomed and are able to play with multiple backs, but we also know that we can have a feature back and that guy can do it – if we have one who’s physically capable of doing it.”
On expanding the offense with Keith Price back: “Again, fine line — I loved it. I felt like we had a good rhythm to some of the stuff we were doing there late in the season with some of the no-huddle stuff, the principles of the no-huddle stuff that we were doing and Keith’s ability to operate in that setting but yet understand I’ve got some young guys — we are going to have four linemen in there the first day of spring ball that haven’t played a whole lot of football for us. So it’s just a fine line and find the personality of this team and what fits all of us to get the best out of us, and that might mean a little more two tight-end stuff, might be a little more empty. We’ll see. That’s what we have to figure out this spring. But it sure felt good late in the year the way that Keith was playing and what we were doing.”
On Price’s health and getting stronger: “I think the rehab has been big. I think (strength coach) Ivan (Lewis) and the (UW medical staff) have been great in strengthening him. And then his commitment to that has been better and understanding that this is a long season and you’ve got to take care of yourself. He looks good. His strength is up and then ultimately we have to coach him better, too. We can’t take 20-some odd sacks or whatever that was at the end of the year. You’ve got to have the ability to throw the ball, understand when pressures are coming and not take some of the unnecessary hits for the longevity, as well.”
On the backup quarterback situation: “I think the biggest guy right now is Derrick Brown, quite honestly. And he will get plenty of work. We only have two scholarship guys this spring so he will get plenty of work and probably get more reps when it’s all said and done than Keith does this spring because we’ve got to get him prepared to play, knowing that we’ve got a couple more guys coming in this all in (Jeff) Lindquist and (Cyler) Miles who are talented. We’ve got to get Derrick plenty of work this spring.”
On how much better it is for the offense to know who the quarterback is this spring: “Well I think it’s great to have a leader in the huddle at the adverse times. There will probably be a little bit of frustration early for Keith early on because he’s got new linemen and there are going to be some growing pains there. So when you’ve got a veteran guy that can handle the huddle and can keep the morale right and has to break in a couple of new receivers, it’s reassuring to me. The part that is not as reassuring is what is going on behind him, that’s why to get Derrick built up as fast as we can, but also with Keith is the rapport with (new offensive coordinator) Eric Kiesau. That’s big as well. Obviously I work quite a bit with the quarterbacks, but their rapport has got to be big, as well, and the communication process there. So a lot to be said there, but yes it is reassuring. It’s always great to have your quarterback back. It’s the most important position in sports and we are lucky to have a really good one back for us.”
On how did Austin Seferian-Jenkins handle playing basketball: “We’ll find out. I saw him this morning running with our guys — haven’t seen him a whole lot. Saw him on TV and doing some things and so we’ll see. This is a great experiment for us as a program as we grow, as we start to recruit really talented guys that can do multiple things if this is really feasible for a kid. Austin is a mature young man and if anybody can handle stuff like this and handle it well it would be him. He’s a tremendous student, he’s got great work ethic, great demeanor, he’s an excellent leader. But we have to see. I have to see how he comes out and the energy he comes out with this spring.”
On Sims being used in the backfield: “We’ve just got to get him playing. Get him playing and get him playing at this level. But he’s a competitive kid, and I think you’ll see that in his spirit. If there’s anybody, he and Marvin Hall are probably the two guys chomping at the bit to get out there, just because they had to basically sit a year to get eligible to make this happen. But those are two dynamic athletes that I’m excited to watch play.”
On Fogerson’s future: “I’m not really sure. The injury thing is still there a bit. He’s got the opportunity to earn his degree this spring. So I think there’s a big decision to be made ahead.”
On the biggest strength and the biggest concern: “I’d say the strength is the quarterback. Anytime that you have your starting quarterback returning — as I’ve said, it’s the most important position in sports and to not just have him back but to have a great player back … I mean, I don’t know, you look at the history of our conference and look at starting quarterbacks as a sophomore in our conference, I don’t know if many guys have had better seasons than Keith Price had last year, in the history of this conference alone. That feels good to me because it’s so important. You look at the history of this conference, and the teams with really good quarterbacks are the teams that traditionally do well. And we’re fortunate enough to have that. He’s a great leader. For our offseason conditioning, all that, to have Keith back is big. My biggest concern, quite honestly, is just our overall depth up front, on both sides of the ball. You try to account for injuries, but you just never know. And we’ve been hit with a pretty good bug. So from a depth standpoint, that we can have quality work, in a physical nature, on both sides of the ball, for our whole football team, is a little concerning to me because of the injury issue. So that part is a little concerning to me. and then lastly, the biggest concern for me is who’s replacing the overall production, especially in the red zone, of Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Chris Polk. Those guys have scored a lot of touchdowns for us the last three years. Now who are going to be those guys? Can Kasen take the next step? Can Austin take the next step? Can James Johnson continue his path that he’s been on to getting back to being the player that we think he can be? Is it Jamaal Jones? Is it (Josh) Perkins? Is it Marvin Hall? Is it Tay Sims? Is it Jesse Callier? Those question marks, hopefully we can get answered, because as we well know, the red zone is a critical area in the game of football. And we were very good at it last year, and hopefully we can recreate that.”
On installing the defense versus experimenting with some new looks: “I don’t think it will so much of an experiment. I think we’ve got a great plan. Justin Wilcox has a tremendous plan in place of what we want to get done especially the first half of spring football. Some of the positions maybe the experiment is who is playing where exactly. We moved some guys around. Taz Stevenson is playing an outside linebacker spot. Evan Zeger is playing an outside linebacker spot for us now. But I don’t think there is much of an experimental standpoint from a schematic outlook. We’ve got a plan of what we want to get done schematically defensively through the first half of spring. Now, there; might be some things that come out of that that we want to look at more. But there is definitely a plan in place. ”
On going to more of a 3-4: “A little bit more in principle. We are just trying to maximize the personnel that we have. And also the teams that we play against and what they do. I think the ability to let a Josh Shirley stand up more. That type of a player. A Corey Waller to stand up more. That doesn’t mean we don’t want them to the rush the passer. That’s still their strength. But to give us a little more versatility and to do things like take care of our edges better. And that was a focus of ours a couple years ago in recruiting, to recruit longer, taller athletes. And I think now we have a system in place to allow those guys to get on the field.”
On if any unsettled positions will get settled this spring: “Well we’ve got a really talented class coming in so I don’t know if everything is going to be solidified. Hatchie has a great chance. Tutogi has got an opportunity to do some things. The corner position is going to intriguing. I think Marcus Peters is a guy, who is on the come. He has a chance to be a real playmaker for us. But Greg Ducre had a great offseason. Desmond Trufant is poised for a fantastic senior season. James Sample being healthy and him getting back and playing a nickel bandit spot for us. There’s some guys that can get in there and get a hold of some positions. But again, we have some pretty good guys coming in this fall.”
On working on the special teams with the projected kickers not arriving until the fall: “We’ll work a lot on fundamentals in our special teams game. We’ll do some scheme stuff. Spring, typically for us, has been about fundamentals. When we teach them our punt protection, teaching the techniques needed in the punt and punt return game, the kickoff return stuff, all that stuff – the technique stuff is what’s critical. The scheme stuff can really come later. We’ll see how these kickers do, but we are counting on a couple guys this fall to be real contributors for us.