Saturday marked the first two-a-day of fall camp for the Huskies, with a helmets-only workout in the morning and full pads in the afternoon.
And as is becoming more common than UW coach Steve Sarkisian would like, the day was not without its injuries. Potentially most significant today was a sprained knee suffered by linebacker Thomas Tutogi, though Sarkisian said it may not be all that bad.
“First look, it doesn’t appear to be overly serious,” he said. “But again we will wait until we can get all the tests done properly, but from the outside looking in it doesn’t appear to be serious, but it remains to be seen.”
UW can obviously ill afford to lose another linebacker — the Huskies began the day with eight following some of the other injuries and defections of the past few weeks (most notably, starter Nate Fellner is out four weeks or so with a broken bone in his foot and another starter, Princeton Fuimaono, was again out with a hamstring. Also still out is Taz Stevenson with migraines).
That had UW often going with a starting linebacker grouping of John Timu, Jamaal Kearse (at Fuimaono’s weakside spot) and either Evan Zeger or Scott Laywer (at Fellner’s spot).
Sarkisian said he likes what he’s seen out of some of the younger players who are forced to step in.
“I thought Jamaal has gotten better,” he said. “It’s like anything, the more you do something usually the better you get. One of the keys for Jamaal, again a guy who in high school was a safety/wide receiver, was understand the physicality of the linebacker position. He’s a very good athlete, but it’s the consistent physicality to bring and I think he is getting better and more comfortable doing that type of stuff. Zeger as well. Evan Zeger same way.”
Also out today with injuries were WR Jaydon Mickens and S James Sample, each out with minor groin injuries.
“Not serious,” Sarkisian said. “Kind of being proactive about it that we don’t want it to flare up worse. We know we are off tomorrow so we kind of figured shut them down, give them all day tomorrow off and they should be back Monday.”
True freshman OL Shane Brostek also had a cast on his right hand, though he continued to play (it’s unclear the exact nature of that injury).
Sarkisian said again that while the injuries are unfortunate, he feels UW is better equipped to handle them now than in past years.
“”We would have been in dire straits (in the past) and I think that’s the value of recruiting and having depth,” he said. “That’s also the value of our ability to raise the intensity level of practice and practice at an even higher level and more physical level than we ever have. And I think part of that is the personality of these guys. These guys are competitive guys, they are hungry, when they get in they want to make plays. That’s what I was hoping for four years ago that we could create an environment like this and that’s where we are at. I’m not happy that guys are getting nicked up but we have the depth in place to make up for it, and not just depth but pretty good players that are stepping in and making plays.”
As for today’s practices, Sarkisian said he was pleased.
“I thought the first two-a-day went well,” he said. “We go just helmets in the morning and work a lot of situational work — big emphasis on two-minute drills this morning. Came back and had a really nice physical practice this afternoon with some emphasis on the short yardage, goal line and then got some red zone work and 7-on-7 and some blitz drill and then some first and 10 work and then finished with some third-down work. So it was a really good situational practice, very competitive and I thought physical.”
The practice also again featured what the team calls the “‘Pride Drill,” which are one-on-one full-contact matchups, such as a receiver trying to get past a defensive back, in the middle of a circle made up of the rest of the team.
“I think it’s about setting a tone,” Sarkisian said of the drill. “We film the whole thing, we watch it as a team at night when we go to meetings and guys know they are on film and they know everybody is watching. It’s pride on the line, is the way we look at it, and it’s great watching the guys compete and battle and go back and forth and watch a guy get beat and want to jump right back in and go again and try to win the next one. So they have been great for us the last couple of days and we will continue to do them periodically throughout camp.”
Today marked the end of the first week of camp. UW will take tomorrow off (in terms of on-field practice, anyway) before returning with two more workouts Monday.
“I think we are on schedule,” Sarkisian said. “We will do a real analysis tomorrow as a staff and looking at our personnel, our schemes, what we are doing, are our schemes fitting our personnel, or can we fit personnel differently to fit our schemes even better. We’ll look at our depth across the board at every position and there might be the potential of some guys moving around a little bit. Like we touched on before maybe some guys doing some double-duty work on both sides of the ball so they might be switching over a little bit here next week. So all of that stuff will get diagnosed and then decided tomorrow and into thee next day.”
— Travis Coons went 3-5 in handling all of the live field goals, including hitting from 55. Said Sarkisian: “He just keeps getting better to me, a little more consistent each day. He appears to be more comfortable each day just with his approach, his body language and I thought Korey (Durkee) is starting to strike the ball a little more consistently in the punting game, as well.”
— Sarkisian, though, noted the tests for the kickers will get tougher in coming days. ” The first week was trying to get them in a comfort zone and as we move forward we are going to try to rattle them a little bit now and put them in some more difficult situations with maybe conditioning on the line, things like that, where the guys are rooting for them or trying to rag them a little bit to rattle them, so that’s what it’s all about — the buildup – and so far, so good.”
— After practice, the team attended the Seahawks game. Said Sarkisian: “It’s something we had tied in with the Seahawks and Pete (Carroll) and those guys have been great and gracious in allowing us to get over there with them as a coaching staff and then to bring the team to the game tonight. And obviously to see Jake (Locker) play and Devin (Aguilar) play and Jermaine (Kearse) play, should be a lot of fun. It’s a great team bonding activity that we usually try to do every year. Last year we went to the Mariners game and so this year we get to go to the Seahawks game.”
— USC often did something similar during Sarkisian’s time there. “I think part of it is a little bit of a reward,” he said. “These guys are working their tails off. It’s been a physical week of work and these guys have been grinding away and the meetings and the studying of the stuff — we got a lot of football in in one week. For me it’s a way I can hopefully reward them for their hard work and give them something fun to do so they continually enjoy the experience of being here. For a bunch of these guys it’s the first time they will ever have been to an NFL football game, so hopefully we are giving them things to do that maybe they haven’t done before along with doing it with their teammates and their buddies and having a great time.”
— Tre Watson got a lot of work with the starting unit at cornerback, along with Desmond Trufant. Otherwise, there didn’t appear to be any real lineup changes other than those necessitated by injury.
— There was some juggling of the second-unit offensive line, though, with Mike Criste and Dexter Charles getting time at tackle and Siosifa Tufunga at center, with Shane Brostek and Jake Eldrenkamp at guards. Charles spent more time with the second unit with Colin Tanigawa seeing increasing time on the field and back working with the starting OL. (Ross Dolbec sat out much of practice with an injury).
— James Johnson remained out, so getting some significant work with the starting WRs were DiAndre Campbell and Kendyl Taylor along with regulars Kasen Williams and Cody Bruns.
— Alec Kimble also sat out much of practice with an undisclosed injury.
— Williams might have had the play of the day when he caught about a 50-yard pass from Keith Price in a team session.
You can watch Sarkisian’s post-practice meeting with the media below:
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